4-Room Yishun Flat Exudes Cool ‘Arabian Nights’ Vibes with a Twist
It's elegant and cosy like a traditional Arabian house, but it also features a contemporary twist – a subtler, darker colour scheme.
If you’ve ever visited Arab countries like Morocco or the UAE, it’s hard to miss their interior design style. Prominent features like intricate patterns and lavish textiles capture your attention with its grandeur, while warm lighting softens the space, adding a cosier touch.
Such houses typically also feature bright, vibrant colours – but for homeowner Charline, she wanted her 4-room resale flat in Yishun to have a subtler colour scheme.
“My previous house had a rugged industrial look, so this time, I wanted something more elegant,” she explains. “I told Khai [my interior designer from Medina Design & Interiors] that I liked the Arabian, Moroccan kind of look, but with darker tones as it feels cosier to me.”
“Plus, the dark colours make the lighting pop. Arabian light fittings tend to have unique, intricate details like patterns and staining, and I wanted mine to stand out.” To get the full lowdown on this contemporary Arabian home, we got Charline to share more!
About the background of her home
The floorplan of Charline’s home, pre-renovation
Charline (C): We actually purchased this house without viewing it, because we already sold our previous house and urgently needed a place to stay.
After getting the keys, we found that it had never been renovated before – not even once, and it was built in 1985! There were missing doors, the fittings had never been changed, and one of the kitchen walls was hollow and was infested with cockroaches.
It was really terrible – and a bit gross, to be honest. I think if I viewed the unit beforehand, I wouldn’t have bought it (laughs). But I just told my husband that it’s okay and to tawakkul (rely on God), since we were going to do a major revamp anyway.
The floorplan of Charline’s home, post-renovation.
Renovating the living room
C: Because my house can be seen from the lift area, I didn’t like the idea of someone being able to see the interior when they’re waiting for the lift. So, that’s why I told Khai to put up a privacy screen, using a mashrabiya (carved latticework) panel that matches the Arabian-style theme.
“It was also my decision to include mashrabiya panels in the ceiling,” says Charline.
The colour scheme for the living room was designed around the doors, which were sourced by myself. I got it before the renovation even started – I liked how the marble effect creates a bold highlight in the home. If everything was plain, it’ll look very boring.
Initially, I wanted the walls to all be dark blue, but Khai said it will look too dark, even with the warm lighting. He suggested having one wall blue, and the rest in a lighter shade of grey – which I think turned out nice.
I purposely chose not to have too many built-ins because I get bored easily and like to change things around. I sourced the furnishings myself as well, and went with pieces that were more practical and low-maintenance. With three kids in the house, I know that spills and stains will be a common occurrence.
About the kitchen’s makeover
C: The kitchen is actually smaller than it was before. Because the house doesn’t have a service yard, some of the kitchen space was used to create a sort of ‘laundry room’, since we cook very often and I don’t want our clothes to smell while it’s hanging up to dry.
At Khai’s suggestion, we used a glass door and partitions to separate the areas, which prevents the fumes from reaching the clothes but also lets in light.
Colour-wise, I told Khai I wanted something bright – like a traditional Arabian home. Initially, I wanted blue, but Khai surprised me with a green colour scheme, which is really fitting since it’s the traditional colour of Islam.
I wanted those patterned blue tiles for the backsplash, but Khai said it’ll look too loud. The cabinets are already very bright, and we had a backsplash that was also very striking, the end result will just look very messy. That’s why we went with green-ish tiles that were a little subtler.
Overall, I’m happy with how the kitchen looks. It’s very different and striking – when you step into the house, it’s going to be the first thing you see!
On renovating the junior and master bedroom
C: I initially wanted a dark colour scheme for the kids’ bedrooms, but Khai suggested incorporating a bit of white to create contrast. Other than that, I didn’t do much because they’re still young – as time goes by, they’ll have different tastes, and if they want to, they will have more freedom to change things around.
Since I was still keen on blue shades, Khai painted one of the master bedroom walls royal blue. I know it looks grey in the photos, but it only appears that way because of the lighting, and because it’s a darker, subtler shade of royal blue.
Other than the wardrobe, I mostly used loose furnishings to give me the flexibility to switch things around without spending a lot of money.
About making over the common and master bathroom
C: At that point in time [of the renovation], marble was the ‘in’ thing for bathrooms, so I said I don’t want it, because it’ll look the same as other bathrooms. That’s why he created this ‘Parisian chic’ look for me, using black subway tiles on the wall and patterned geometric ones on the floor.
I know people usually have vanities under the sink, but I didn’t want one because it’ll make the space look a bit cramped. And also, in the long run, the moisture will cause the vanity to weaken. Anyway, I don’t really need a lot of storage – we had one in the previous house, but we didn’t use it much as we don’t keep a lot of things.
We left the pipes exposed for practical reasons – in case it gets choked or damaged, it’s easier to repair. And besides, it fits with the sophisticated look of the space.
The common bathroom is normally used by the kids, who prefer lighter colours. They don’t really like to use my bathroom because it’s dark, so to cater to them, we chose a lighter colour scheme with lighter shades of brown and grey.
To sum up
C: Although most of the renovation work was done by Khai, I also got independent contractors to change my windows and doors. So, I had to coordinate the schedules properly, since they couldn’t all come in at the same time because of household restrictions.
It was tough, because at one point, one of the tilers had COVID-19 and couldn’t finish the tiling work in time. But because it had to be done before the windows and doors were changed, I had to get the contractors to come down on a separate day. It delayed the timeline – by right, it was supposed to take 12 weeks, but it extended to 16 weeks.
But overall, working with Khai was very smooth-sailing – he wasn’t the first interior designer we met with, but he was the first one we had proper chemistry with. I know I can be very demanding at times – and I think I caused him a few headaches – but he was quite patient and understood my taste perfectly.
In the end, I think the house was worth the wait. If you ask me to move, I would refuse, because I really, really like this house!
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