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A 37-Year-Old HDB Maisonette in Hougang Gets Modern Farmhouse Revamp

A well-kept home gets new occupants and a flattering makeover.

With three kids and new permanent work-from-home arrangements, homeowner Rachel and her family were fast outgrowing their 5-room BTO in Sengkang. They began a search for a new home that led them to this 147 sqm maisonette in Hougang.

“The moment we viewed the maisonette, we fell in love with its airy space and potential – so we made the offer the very next day since it checked all our boxes for size, location and price!” shares Rachel.

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Their next move was to transform the 37-year-old maisonette into a modern ‘farmhouse’ that brings out the best of its existing features (like a round alcove!) with the help of their interior designer, Darren, from ChengYi Interior Design.

Keep reading to find out more about this home’s chic upgrade!


About the homeowners and their home

Rachel (R): Our family is pretty big – there’s my husband and me, our three daughters, our helper and our pet dog, so this maisonette was perfect for our needs.

HDB maisonette, modern farmhouse look
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The balcony and alcove, pre-renovation

R: It hadn’t been renovated at all since the first homeowners got the keys in 1986, but it was obvious that they cared very much for it. It also underwent HIP just a few months before we bought the place, so everything was in good condition.

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The balcony and alcove, post-renovation

R: I knew from the start that I wanted a modern farmhouse look, inspired by the likes of American designers like Studio McGee and Emily Henderson.

Of course, we can’t fully replicate these ideas since we have to account for practical considerations in an HDB maisonette. That’s why we really appreciate the local Instagram home renovation community for giving us tips on adapting these ideas for our own home.

For our meetings with our ID, Darren, we went armed with moodboards, requirements and a lot of questions. We also asked for a clear timeline before works began so we knew what to prepare in advance because we were on a tight schedule to move out of our previous place.


On renovating the living and dining spaces

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R: Since this is our second home, we had a better idea of our living habits and spatial needs and could better plan the renovation.

There were initially three bedrooms, so we carved out a space from the dining area and built a partition wall to create an additional small bedroom for our helper. We can also convert it into a guest room or office in future if we don’t have a helper.

Since we wanted a modern farmhouse look, you’ll find wood, neutral colours and strong black accents. We have additions like this upholstered sectional sofa and a solid teak dining table from Soul & Tables by the stairs.

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R: One of my favourite spaces here is the round alcove, which is a double-volume space connecting the balcony and the living room.

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R: It’s actually a unique architectural feature found in the HDB maisonettes built in this area in the 1980s.

When you look down from the master bedroom window, you get a full view of it.

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R: It’s admittedly an awkward area that we’ve seen neighbours converting into storage rooms, for example.

But it’s such a unique feature in the block that I wanted to keep it intact and embrace the tall ceiling. We turned it into a cosy reading nook with curved shelves that hug the wall, and a banquette seat with storage. There were extra considerations such as customising the tall windows for the round alcove since they had uncommon specifications.

We often leave the French doors to the balcony open and settle in here with a cup of coffee. While the floor area is small, the high ceiling and entryway to the balcony make it feel much larger than it actually is. We also love how the sunlight filters in through the windows.

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R: From the alcove, you can see into the outdoor balcony, which was a must-have for me to garden. I chose dreamy Spanish floor tiles and I’ve filled the space up with even more plants now, compared to what you see in the photos.

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R: Initially, we wanted tall glass casement windows to get back some living space, but for budget reasons, we installed full glass sliding doors instead.

In retrospect, it’s great to be able to open up the space for a little slice of the outdoors. It gets a lot of light, so it brightens up the entire living room.

We also set up an inflatable pool here sometimes for the kids to play, since we don’t have a bathtub anymore as we did in our previous flat.


About the overhauled kitchen

HDB maisonette, modern farmhouse look
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Pre-renovation floorplan

HDB maisonette, modern farmhouse look
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Post-renovation floorplan

R: Here’s my other favourite place in the house: the kitchen. It was also the most challenging to renovate.

It’s the workhorse of the house, so we put a lot of extra thought into its design and functionality with Darren. We started off with hacking down the kitchen wall and utility room for a larger open kitchen.

Carpentry-wise, we built tall cupboard units to accommodate the oven and microwave, and for more storage. That meant we could do without upper cabinets over the stove and sink. For the shelves and dish rack, we used IKEA’s Kungsfors systems.

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R: Darren did a great job with the shaker cabinets – the ABS trimmings are well-finished, and he helped us to select the marble-look sintered stone tops for the counters and the island. I like the grey and gold veining that adds warmth to it too. We completed the look with rattan bar stools from Taobao.

This space is really the heart of the home; we spend a lot of time here cooking and chatting… and washing clothes in the laundry corner (laughs).

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R: As for the kitchen floor, I wanted a checkered black-and-white tile pattern inspired by the Chris Loves Julia look (a home design and DIY blog). I can still remember the looks of dismay on my husband’s and Darren’s faces when I first suggested the idea. I imagine they were picturing a retro American diner.

I second-guessed myself at times about whether it would be a timeless look, but thanks to their large size (60 by 60 cm) and matte look, I think the tiles blend in well with the cabinetry and the rest of the home.

They also help to visually separate the kitchen from the rest of the house, while being hardy for cleaning.

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R: The toilet on the first floor was originally just designated as a ‘wash area’ and upgraded during the HIP. Since it’s such a compact space, we decided to move the sink out so it doubles as a laundry sink. You can’t see it in this photo, but it has depth with an internally sloping washboard design.

We used KompacPlus for the worktop for the butcher block counter look – without the maintenance.


On refreshing the stairway

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The stairway during the renovation (left) and post-renovation (right)

R: We didn’t switch out the staircase railing, choosing instead to paint it black to save on the costs and permit approvals.

The stairs were originally parquet-clad but Darren suggested extending the vinyl flooring we used in the living area up the stairs for a cohesive look, and sourced the vinyl treads from Floor Xpert.

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R: We also extended the last step to connect to the wall so it doesn’t leave an awkward gap.


About making over the master bedroom and ensuite

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R: We kept the rooms upstairs mostly intact; we even kept the checkered parquet floors from the previous owner.

But as you can see, we did switch up the neutral colour scheme for the wardrobes in the master bedroom for a forest green that still complements the flooring.

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R: One of the more major changes we did was to build a tiled shower wall with a glass shower door in the ensuite to separate the wet and dry areas.


On making the most of the common bathroom

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R: The common bathroom has a rather long and narrow shape, but we worked it out to fit a double sink for our three girls. We’re hopeful they won’t tussle over it when it’s time to get ready.

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R: The counter is made of quartz, while the sinks and gold fittings were sourced from Taobao.

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R: We also played with the tile colours, so the lower half is a soft pink while the upper section is overlaid with subtle and textured checkered tiles.


To sum up

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R: Our experience was overall smooth sailing, and I’m very thankful for that. Like I mentioned, we had a very tight timeline to keep to, so it helped that Darren was well-organised and responsive; we could make a lot of design decisions quickly because he understood our vision for the house.

We did a lot of planning, materials selection and permit approvals before we got the keys so it was a go from day one and the renovation was completed in time.

As fun as designing and building your new home is, it can be a very stressful time. If I could do it over, I’d tell myself not to lose sight of the forest for the trees and enjoy the process a little bit more!


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