146 sqm Bishan Condo Goes from Dreary to Cheery After Revamp
A total makeover gave this family home the spacious layout it always needed.
As a busy frontline healthcare worker, Kevin’s idea of the perfect home is one that’s “simple, clutter-free, and relaxing”. Naturally, all these qualities are embodied by the current look of his family’s new abode in Bishan, which was purchased last year and subsequently made over by local renovation firm Fineline Design.
The kitchen entrance before (top) and during (bottom) the renovation.
View this project by Fineline Design
Apart from modernising it with brand-new fixtures and appliances, the renovation process also saw Kevin’s 4-bedder condo apartment upgraded with various open-concept spaces, transforming it from a dreary 17-year-old property to a cheery home for three.
“Essentially, we wanted the area to feel open and airy, and we also wanted to capitalise on all the space that we have,” says Kevin about his decision to demolish the walls between the kitchen and communal space, as well as existing partitions in other parts of the house.
To get an in-depth understanding of the entire renovation process from start to finish, we sat down for a chat with Kevin!
About himself and his home
Kevin (K): Both my wife and I have always wanted a home that’s near Bishan Park and the MRT, so location-wise, this is the perfect spot for us. It’s also near my mother-in-law's home, which means we can make long-term care arrangements more easily.
We bought this particular unit because most of the rooms are squarish, and there are sufficient bedrooms for everyone. Also, this gave us the option of turning one of them into a junior master [bedroom] for our daughter and another into an entertainment room.
Looks-wise, what we were aiming for was a clean, open-concept layout that’s uncluttered. To us, that meant having a really large space consisting of the kitchen and the living room. If you were to look in from the main door, you’ll get an unobstructed view of almost the entire house, including the sofa, kitchen island, and even the dining area.
The current floor plan of Kevin’s home.
On the living room’s makeover
The living room before (top) and during (bottom) the renovation.
K: The living room was a little bit claustrophobic, narrow, and somewhat dark because the previous owner’s TV wall was blocking one of the windows; that’s the impression I had after seeing it for the first time.
It’s a lot brighter now, and we also changed the orientation of the space. Our sofa, which we bought from King Living is located where the old TV wall used to be. The current layout works better for us because it gives the house a better flow, plus it lets my wife and I watch TV from the kitchen island when we're preparing meals.
For flooring, we chose to replace all the existing tiles with woodgrain ones. We chose tiles over vinyl because we feel they’re more practical and easier to maintain, especially since we have two pets, a dog and a rabbit.
About the kitchen’s new look and layout
The kitchen before (top) and during (bottom left and right) during the renovation.
K: Before the renovation, there was only a small doorway from which you could enter the kitchen, but it was demolished to make way for the island. The island is a must-have because my wife and I enjoy cooking together and it gives us extra preparation space to work with, so we don’t end up getting in each other’s way.
If you look at the photos, you’ll also see that the entire kitchen is very long, and it’s originally separated into two halves where there’s a wet kitchen in the front and a utility yard at the back. We made the conscious decision to merge both halves together because they’d look better as a single, continuous stretch of space.
When we were coming up with the new layout of the kitchen, we also tried our best to adhere to the kitchen triangle rule. The fridge, sink, hob, ovens, and island are all located close to each other so that we don’t have to stray too far from each section when preparing meals.
The kitchen bathroom, which is now a pantry, before (left) and during (right) the renovation.
It looks completely different now, but there used to be a small bathroom where the pantry is. My original plan was to build a giant water feature, but I got overruled by the rest of my family (laughs). They wanted a drink station instead, which turned out to be a good idea; I’m quite happy with the water dispenser tap there because it can be used to make cold, hot, and carbonated drinks.
We mainly use the yard for storage and indoor gardening now. So, Fineline built us a pair of tall cabinets near our washing machine, the smaller one is outfitted with pocket doors and rows of pull-out shelves that allow us to use it as a larder. I enjoy baking, so I have flour, sugar, and other ingredients stored in the larder; there’s sufficient space so we’re also able to store snacks, dried goods, and even pet food in it.
On making over the dining area
The dining area’s windows before (left) and during (right) the renovation.
K: Renovating the windows near the dining area proved to be a bit of a challenge. That's because the wall where the windows are embedded is slightly deeper than the wall on the right, which is to say it pushes more into the flat’s exterior.
The previous owners solved this issue by building wraparound storage cabinets so that both walls would look like they have the same depth from inside the flat. We adopted the same idea, but due to the limited depth of the cabinets, we can only use them to store kitchen rolls, tissue paper boxes, or other small items.
Our dining table was custom-built by Fineline, it’s 1.8 meters long and I believe it can seat about six or more people comfortably, however, we haven’t had the chance to put this theory to the test because of COVID-19 visiting restrictions. The tabletop is made of quartz and the supports are mild steel.
About creating the entertainment room
The entertainment room before (left) and during (right) the renovation.
K: Like the kitchen, the entertainment room was previously a space on its own, so it first had to be opened up before the glass folding doors could be installed.
Aside from watching movies here after work, we also use this room for our church meetings and other Zoom discussions. Essentially, it’s a semi-private space that lets us turn up the volume if we need to, but at the same time, it isn’t entirely isolated from the rest of the house.
The cabinets built into the seats and on the rear wall also allow us to use this room as a secondary storage area for items that we seldom use, such as our luggage bags. This way, we can save the wardrobe space in our bedrooms for clothes and other daily-use belongings.
About revamping the master bedroom, en suite, and guest bathroom
View this project by Fineline Design
K: Overall, the master bedroom’s layout is pretty straightforward – there’s a king-sized bed tucked against the wall, a drawer on each side, and a dresser in one of the corners.
But there’s also an interesting feature, which is the wardrobe. One of its doors actually leads into the master en suite. We wanted our wardrobe to be designed this way because we were advised it was bad Feng Shui to leave the bathroom entrance exposed in front of the bed, and also because a continuous stretch of built-ins would look better than having separate ones.
The master en suite’s entrance during the renovation.
On the inside, the master en suite is much larger than the rest of the bathrooms in this house; there even used to be a bathtub here, but we had it removed to make way for a long vanity.
We chose to do away with the tub because my wife hated the idea of having to clean it regularly and we’re also afraid of tripping over the edge when exiting it. For elder proofing reasons, we chose to have a simple partition for the shower as well, instead of an enclosure – it’s much easier for us to manoeuvrer a wheelchair in a bathroom when there aren’t any doors or ledges in the way.
The guest bathroom during (left) and after (right) the renovation.
The guest bathroom is almost identical to the en suite, except that it used to be directly connected to one of the bedrooms, but that side entrance was sealed up and a new one was opened along the walkway outside for easier access. Another notable difference is the built-in seat in the shower, which is a convenient feature that we wanted for eldercare reasons.
To sum up
K: This isn’t our first home, and neither is it the first time that we’ve renovated a house. But to be honest, not all these experiences were pleasant. In one of these cases, I even had to seek mediation at the Small Claims Tribunal. Yes, it was that bad.
But with Fineline, my family and I had a very good time working with them. My only feedback is that communication between the customer-facing and back-end teams could be improved so there would be less time spent on tweaking design ideas to accommodate structural limitations.
That said, I think my entire family agrees that the final result is great. We’re very happy with the job that Fineline did. If you want me to point out a feature or area that I’m dissatisfied with, I’d find it hard to name something!
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