Beyond Singapore’s modern urban landscape lies beautifully preserved eclectic houses once favoured by the Peranakans. These houses can be found in the vibrant streetscapes of Blair Plain and Joo Chiat, among others. Incorporating Chinese, Malay and European elements, they display a range of architectural styles from the 1840s to 1950s. Many have facades decorated with colourful majolica tiles and intricately carved wooden swing doors known as pintu pagar.
Peranakan Tiles: A glimpse into a colourful legacy
Decorative majolica tiles were commonly used in Peranakans homes from the mid-1800s to 1950s to adorn the facades and interiors. Mostly imported from Europe and Japan, they were favoured by the Peranakans in Singapore and Malaysia and became popularly known as ‘Peranakan tiles’ in this region.
Such tiles are very colourful and often have floral motifs including Art Nouveau and Art Deco designs, and Chinese-inspired motifs with auspicious meanings. Common motifs include flowers, fruits and animals.
Uncovering History, Tile by Tile:
Where can you find them in Singapore today?
Joo Chiat / Katong
Apart from being a favourite foodie destination, Joo Chiat is recognised as Singapore’s “Peranakan Paradise”. Once filled with coconut plantations, this charming neighbourhood is lined with colourful shop houses with ornate Instagram worthy facades.
Emerald Hill / Blair Plain
You can admire more of these well-preserved houses in other areas of Singapore including Emerald Hill (off Orchard Road) and the Blair Plain conservation district around Everton Road and Spottiswoode Park.
Where to view a large collection of Peranakan Tiles?
The Peranakan Tile Gallery: Precious Old Tiles Given A New Lease of Life
Baba Victor Lim has been collecting Peranakan tiles since the 1970s. With aggressive urban redevelopment in the 1970s and 1980s, many traditional shop houses were demolished. To preserve this unique piece of Singapore heritage, he salvaged these decorative tiles and restored them to their original beauty. These tiles have become collector’s items, prized for their beauty and durability.
Special thanks to our cultural consultant: The Peranakan Association Singapore