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A Couple’s Flat Takes Style Cues From Their Childhood Homes

To ‘recreate’ a style that’s a blast from the past!

Ask any homeowner about how they find inspiration, and they’d usually quip back with “Google, the Internet and Pinterest”. But couple Jacob and Amy had a more nuanced approach when they revamped a 20-year-old 4-room HDB flat in Toa Payoh.

Inspired by the “old Singapore style”, the couple decided to incorporate familiar elements including ventilation blocks, terrazzo accents, and vintage window grilles. “I’d say that the look that we eventually got was reminiscent of our parents’ places,” shares Jacob.

Lorong 2 Toa Payoh by Authors • Interior & Styling
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But, as first-time renovators themselves, the couple needed help to put it all together. That’s when they reached out to Authors • Interior & Styling and got in touch with their interior designer, Tayllen. More about the renovation below!

About themselves

Jacob (J): Hi, I’m Jacob, and I share this space with my wife, Amy. The both of us are healthcare professionals.

About the home

Amy (A): Around the time that we got our flat, people were into the Scandinavian look with the paler wood. Personally, we preferred a space that’s big enough to host gatherings, but cosy at the same time. That’s why we made sure to use darker wood in the home, for more of a mid-century touch.

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The home’s layout, post-renovation.

On changes made to the living room

J: Because of how the house is laid out, the entire living room is visible from the doorway. That’s when we knew we had to invest in a partition – for both privacy reasons, and to better define the entryway. We took style cues from our parents’ places, and had it fashioned out of ventilation blocks.

Lorong 2 Toa Payoh by Authors • Interior & Styling
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A: Most of our furniture are custom-made pieces from Second Charm. Not only does it look more cohesive, but it’s also more modular in a sense. Where built-ins would’ve locked us down, and not given us much flexibility, these standalones are mobile. This way, we’re free to switch things up to make room.

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Taking cues from their grandparents’ homes as well, the couple had traditional window grilles installed. “It helps that it’s stylistically cohesive too,” shares Amy.

We wanted an area where we could just sit and enjoy the view too. That made setting a bar counter against the window the next natural step. We saw a terrazzo slab that we liked at Hafary, and that worked its way into the design!

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Because the couple wanted to have a space that’s “big enough to host gatherings” (pre-COVID), they also had their extendable dining table customised to seat more people.

On changes made to the kitchen

J: The kitchen had a lot of work done. It used to be laid out in an L-shape, but the layout didn’t give us a lot of counter space. We hacked away half a wall to rework into a galley setup.

It was really, really old school – you could tell that it was left in the original condition because it came with pink tiles and cornices. And, well, we didn’t like either of the features [laughs], so we got rid of the cornices, and redid the flooring too.

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They chose to work with a terrazzo tile as an homage to Amy’s old home, and because it demarcates the areas as well.

A: Our countertops are made of quartz, but we got them with a terrazzo print. Though marble and solid colours are more popular, we didn’t fancy those. They wouldn’t have fit in with the overall scheme either [laughs].

Since the original space is quite dark, we chose a much lighter coloured tile for the backsplash to brighten things up.

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I think that shaker style cabinets are quite old-school – well, overseas anyway – that’s why we worked them in. The top-hung ones are outfitted with knobs, and the bottom ones have handles. They’re all brass to achieve a more uniform look.

On changes made to the master bedroom

J: We had quite a bit of space in the master bedroom to work with. We thought that having a settee would be great since we have quite the view. That, and additional storage compartments are always a nice to have.

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Both the dresser and bedframe are also customised pieces from Second Charm.

A: We toyed around with the idea of having a normal swing door. However, it would either get in the way of our wardrobe, or eat into the space of our compact toilet, since it requires room for clearance. So, we opted for a more practical option: A foldable door that collapses all the way.

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Tayllen showed the couple a few colour swatches, and they settled for a sage green because they found it to be both neutral and restful.

On changes made to the bathrooms

J: The bathrooms needed touch-ups too, so we hacked it all away. We’d seen photos of nice half-walls, and thought that it could be replicated. It was also far cheaper to tile up half a wall as well [laughs].

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The ensuite (right) and the common bathroom (left).

We used these black-and-white tiles on both floors. They remind me a little of my grandmother’s place, and that was the main inspiration. The ensuite has a pared-down pendant light, which we thought matched the overall vintage aesthetic. That was a lucky find from IKEA.

On working with Authors • Interior & Styling

A: We were looking at ID portfolios when we came upon Authors • Interior & Styling. They did a project with ventilation tiles which caught our eye. We emailed them, alongside three other ID firms.

J: As first-time renovators, both of us were quite daunted since it was something that we’ve never done before. Honestly, we owe a lot to Tayllen. She was the one who showed us the ropes, and imparted her knowledge of materials to us. Since she took the time to run over the pros and cons, it made us more confident in choosing the materials ourselves when she wasn’t around.

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She had a well-thought-out timetable too, and I felt that was very transparent of her. It tells us exactly when things will be done, and we really appreciated that. Of course, there were a bit of delays, but when they occurred, she’d update us promptly.

Most importantly, she was willing to listen to what we were keen on doing. And that set her apart from the other IDs that we met up with who were all pushing for their own agendas.

Though there were additional costs, we were happy to take them on because she’d taken the time to break it all down for us. I can’t really comment on the other places – some of them might have been cheaper at the start, but you really can’t tell how much the extra costs would have amounted to.

Honestly, Tayllen’s organisation is invaluable. I think we got quite fortunate, and we were able to enjoy the entire process thanks to her.

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