What to do, what to buy, and what to think about when renovating a small home.
Unlike in bigger homes, space is a precious luxury for smaller properties like 2-room HDB flats or condominium studio apartments. And because of that, pre-renovation planning matters, perhaps seven more so if your home measures under 65 square meters (i.e. smaller than the size of a modern-day 3-room BTO flat).
Fortunately, there are various workarounds that’ll let you to make the most of your (small) home without making it feel even smaller. To help you with that, we asked Stylemyspace’s Addison to share some valuable design and renovation tips from his experience as an interior designer in Singapore.
1. “The people living in your home will decide its design.”
Space is undoubtedly an important consideration in every renovation, but what has a greater degree of influence on a small home’s design is the people who live in it. “Usually, the demographic for smaller homes are singles, couples, smaller families or even property investors,” says Addison. “So, what (renovation work) needs to be done depends on who the house is for .”
For instance, in the case of a young family, they might wish to have separate sleeping areas or storage solutions for personal privacy. However, for a couple, excess space could instead be transformed into a larger master bedroom or living area for themselves.
2. “Let natural light in wherever possible.”
Natural light can make rooms look better, feel larger, and is most importantly, free – which is why Addison highly recommends maximising this ‘feature’ in small homes. Depending on factors such as the time of the day or the number of buildings surrounding your HDB block, there could be an abundance of sunlight… or not. Still, Addison encourages homeowners “to do what they can”.
Some common ways of maximising natural light include using mirrors to bounce sunlight across a room as well as placing furniture and built-ins strategically, but another viable method would be to install doors with glass windows or panes. “This will make your rooms look brighter but still allow you to keep them partitioned,” says Addison.
3. “Maximise space with multipurpose built-ins and appliances.”
It bears mentioning that multipurpose or space-saving built-ins – like islands that double as dining tables or platform beds with storage compartments – are the keys to unlocking a more well-designed small home, but Addison suggests taking things one step further with dual-function appliances.
“With appliances like washing machines with a drying function or even an all-in-one multicooker, it’s possible to achieve a more spacious small home because you’ll need even less storage solutions,” he says. “That could make a big difference in smaller areas, like for example, a tiny kitchen that benefits from having less overhead cabinets.”
In addition, Addison notes that “having some creativity helps” as underutilised spaces, such as the back of doors or even bed headboards, can be outfitted with shelves or hooks.
4. “Give your home a minimalist look.”
Granted, the minimalist look isn’t for everyone, but don’t be too quick to knock it. If you’re renovating a small home, it could prove to be an ideal design style, both aesthetically as well as functionally.
“Minimalist homes tend to emphasise the idea of ‘less is more’, and that’s really true,” says Addison. “With fewer furniture and fixtures, a small home will naturally feel less cramped. The same goes for having more neutral colours like light grey and white as they’ll create the impression of a brighter, and thus, bigger space in the day.”
5. “Wall demolition isn’t always the right solution.”
Although hacking partition walls between rooms might seem like a good idea on paper to expand the amount of usable space in a small home, it isn’t always an ideal solution in practice. “Families with older or adult children might be in need of personal spaces, so in such cases demolishing rooms isn’t the right choice,” says Addison.
In addition to the loss of privacy, other downsides of hacking down walls are higher renovation costs and a longer renovation timeline.
“Apart from hacking costs, you’ll also need to spend extra money and time to re-install aircon pipes especially if you’re renovating a condominium property. That’s because unlike in HDB flats, the (aircon) pipes are almost always concealed in the walls,” says Addison. “A better solution would be planning an efficient layout as it’ll let you fully maximise a small home, but without the extra hassle.”
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