‘90s One-Bedder Condo Goes Clutter-Free with Sleek New Look
If there’s a small home that doesn’t shy away from living large, it’s this one!
View this project by Habit
After seeing this 70 sqm Shelford Road one-bedroom condo in its original state for the very first time Yan Ling knew almost immediately that it would be a tough nut to crack.
“It’s already a challenge to equip a small space with everything it needs without making it look cluttered”, says the Habit interior designer who was primarily responsible for crafting the apartment’s immaculately tidy look, along with tackling its biggest quirk: a slanted wall running along the length of the en suite, master bedroom, and balcony.
The apartment’s original layout.
The living room (left) and master bedroom (right) before the renovation.
Thankfully in the face of all these obstacles, Yan Ling and her team had near total freedom to execute a gut renovation and make any necessary changes. “Our clients, Peter and Emma, were specific [about their requirements], but are also pretty fuss-free in a sense,” shares Yan Ling. “In fact, they themselves had reached to us asking for a total overhaul.”
To find out exactly how the renovation went, we sat down for a chat with Yan Ling and got her to answer all our questions about putting together this well-appointed, cosy couple’s nest.
About the house and design process
Yan Ling (YL): If I remember properly, Peter had contacted us around last September, but due to COVID, the onsite work started about two months later.
Budget-wise, the initial estimate was around $100K, it's reasonable considering there would be a total overhaul of the house, which is 24 years old, and also Peter and Emma’s preference for quality furniture and materials.
The apartment’s new layout.
Even though it’s small, we wanted this apartment to have rooms that are regular-sized, similar to the ones that you’d find in a 1,500 square foot home.
Because of that, we started off the renovation by demolishing nearly all of the internal walls. This gave us a ‘blank canvas’ to work with, along with the freedom to redefine the boundaries of different areas, specifically the kitchen, master bedroom, and balcony.
On the kitchen’s and dining area’s makeover
The kitchen and dining area, pre-renovation.
YL: Generally speaking, both the dining area and the walkway beside it were very cramped before the renovation. Now, I’d say that they’re 1.5 times bigger than before. There’s about a 1-metre clearance from the adjoining wall to the dining table, which is sufficient space to walk between them comfortably.
For the kitchen, it’s the same outcome. After demolishing the walls and reconfiguring the positions of the built-ins, the distance between the two flanks is about 50% more. Without these changes, we wouldn’t have been able to fit an island beside the fridge, much less a four-seater dining table.
About renovating the living room
YL: For projects involving a full hack, we’ll always discuss the hierarchy of spaces with our clients first before dividing the ‘blank canvas’ as this allows us to size rooms based on their importance to the homeowners.
Let’s say if the owners are big on entertainment, we’d create larger living and dining areas for them. Or if they need more storage, we’d dedicate more square footage to a storeroom. From our perspective, this step is important as it helps to build a functional home that you’d be comfortable staying in, even for long periods of time.
The living room prior to the renovation.
In the case of this project, I feel that it has a pretty balanced hierarchy; the living room isn’t much larger than other parts of the house, but it does have enough space for us to go against the typical mindset of having only compact furniture in a small home.
So, instead of a loveseat, what the living room has is a sofa that’s almost 3 metres long. And because of its size, it’s no longer just a seat within the space, but rather a feature that enhances and emphasises the sense of space.
On revamping the master bedroom and creating the study
Due to the awkwardness of the slanted wall, custom side tables had to be built for the master bedroom. “The original plan was to purchase loose pieces, but we realised that they wouldn’t look as seamless, ” says Yan Ling.
YL: The most noticeable feature that we added to the master bedroom is the set of windows behind the bed. Although their main purpose is to bring more air and natural light into the room, they’re also intended to promote human interaction.
We came up with the idea for the windows after taking into consideration the relationship of the homeowners. Peter and Emma are newlyweds, so we wanted the bedroom and study to feel connected even if they’re separate spaces. It’s all about putting ourselves in their shoes and picturing what their daily lives would be like with a layout like this.
The study was created mainly because Peter wanted a conducive workspace, but the fact is that it also maximises this part of the house. Previously, the apartment’s balcony was separated from the master bedroom by a wall, but we pushed that boundary back so there’s enough space to build the study between them.
Visually, this layout lets us achieve a more spacious look as well because it provides an almost unblocked view of the entire stretch of space, from the balcony all the way to the closet, when the internal windows are open.
About building the master bedroom’s closet
The closet’s position relative to the master bedroom’s entrance (left) and en suite (right) before the renovation.
YL: The walk-in closet used to be a storeroom adjacent to the master bedroom, but we demolished the partition wall between them to give us the room we needed to create the current walkway. In my opinion, it’s a better use of space because we were able to build two rows of storage units, one on each side of the area.
The entire setup is customised to the homeowners’ needs, so there are storage solutions for specific items like a dedicated closet for bags and accessories as well as an open compartment for daily wear.
On the en suite’s new look
YL: There’s really nothing much to say about the en suite before the renovation, though it’s worth mentioning that there used to be a bathtub where the shower now is. It had to go because we had to make space for the washing machine in the yard, which is on the other side of the wall where the shower fittings are mounted.
It was also a challenge to build the top-hung mirror cabinet, because it’s mounted on the slanted wall. The entire fixture looks straight from the front, but it’s actually angled at the back so that it’s aligned with the sink and counter.
To sum up
YL: I think the main challenge for every project, including this one, is making sure all the technical aspects work out and that our reconfigurations don’t jeopardise the home’s liveability in time to come.
It’s also why I’m of the opinion that good design is more about sensibility than creating a nice look, at least when it comes to renovations.
At Habit, we tend to kickstart our design process by considering the practical details before the aesthetics, which is something that can be taken care of if you have a good eye and quality materials. Things like structure and flow? Those can’t be changed as easily after a renovation is complete, so we put them first, especially when working on small spaces.
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