This vividly colorful house was constructed in 1900 by a local businessman named Tan Teng Niah. At the time, the neighborhood was an industrial zone (Tan’s candy and rubber factories were located nearby) and many of Singapore’s ethnic-Chinese businessmen lived in similar villas.
Amid Singapore’s rapid economic growth and social change during the 20th century, the neighborhood evolved into what is now known as Little India. Most of the old merchant houses were razed to make way for modern commercial buildings and sleek skyscrapers. However, the Tan Teng Niah house survived, and during the 1980s, it underwent a full restoration to what people see today. Believed to be the last such house in existence, it’s now preserved under landmark status from the National Heritage Board.
Although the house’s historical background is interesting, the key to its popularity among locals and visitors is its current appearance. The exterior is painted in a rainbow riot of vivid colors, with every element—each individual slat, molding, panel, and pilaster—in a different hue than its neighbor. An array of sky blue, avocado green, traffic-cone orange, highlighter yellow, and nail-polish pink shades adorns the house. Further embellishments beyond the psychedelic color-palette include gilded Chinese calligraphy, intricate floral lunettes, and a bamboo-tiled roof.
The house is now used as a commercial space, and recent tenants have included a pharmacy and a business training school. Quite the ordinary activities, within one of the most extraordinary buildings in Singapore.
Know Before You Go
The house of Tan Teng Niah is located at 37 Kerbau Road, a block away from Little India MRT Station.