A Sleek Bachelor Pad in Queensway’s Iconic ‘Butterfly Block’
See how this 4-room flat in a heritage block was turned into a black-and-white home for one.
Rather than stylish contemporary interiors, old-school HDB blocks and their flats are typically associated with retro appeal and rich heritage, and for that, Alex’s neutral-hued home in Queensway’s iconic curved ‘butterfly block’ can be said to be an exception – though in more ways than one.
For a start, despite being spacious enough for a family, his 4-room flat is in fact a bachelor pad. “Having a large living room allows me to unwind freely, the same goes for having a kitchen of my own because I really enjoy cooking,” says Alex, who worked with Happe Design Atelier’s Kelvyn Lim and Ean Chu to bring his dream home to life.
The goal, according to Alex, was to create a space that’s fully tailored to his lifestyle. Here, he shares more details about the entire renovation as well as the various personalised home features that were created in the process.
About himself and his home
Alex (A): I chanced upon this particular unit in the ‘butterfly block’ when I was looking for a home somewhere between my workplace and my parent’s place. At that point, I had my eye on my current neighbour’s flat, but it had already been sold to them by the time I made up my mind. Thankfully, the unit next to theirs was up for sale too.
Block 168A or the ‘butterfly block’ at Queensway features a curved exterior which breaks away from the rectangular profile of most HDB blocks. (Image credit: HDB)
The current floor plan of Alex’s home.
Another reason why I decided to purchase this house is that it’s close to the 20th floor but it feels even higher that because the entire block is built on a hill. The view from the living room windows is excellent, and I’m able to see Queensway Shopping Centre as well as The Interlace Condo very clearly from all the way up here.
The entryway, living room and dining area, before the renovation.
Previously, the flat had a more conventional furniture layout and it was painted in bright yellow and green. I wanted a monochrome aesthetic so Happe had to come up with a new look for the house. However, we made the decision to preserve some features, specifically the terrazzo and parquet flooring; they were well-maintained, and in a sense, were the gems of the flat.
About the entryway’s new look
In addition to serving as storage units, overhead built-ins also serve to conceal the home’s air-con, which is hidden behind a set of vents above the kitchen’s entrance.
A: Upon entering the house, the first thing you’ll see is the entryway and a storage built-in with shelves and cabinets at the side; it was custom-made by Happe and serves as a general-purpose storeroom because the house didn’t have one before the renovation.
This built-in functions as a partition between the kitchen and the communal areas as well; Happe had to tear down the existing sliding door entrance and part of the kitchen’s exterior before building it in the space that those two structures used to occupy.
If you take a closer look, the shelves have a ribbed backing. Happe came up with this design element as a subtle way to introduce style and texture. I’m totally in love with it – in fact, my friends and family never fail to mention how they’re impressed by the workmanship of this built-in and the rest of the carpentry when they’re over.
On the living area’s renovation
A: To make up for the lack of storage solutions, Happe didn’t just create the entryway built-in, they also maximised the entire length of the living room by adding overhead cabinets and a new TV feature wall with storage units.
For a sleeker appearance, tinted glass doors were installed for the kitchen’s and study’s entrances, which are respectively located on the left and right of the TV feature wall.
I’m impressed by how they were able to accomplish this without making any of the fixtures appear awkward. I’d say that the magic lies in how Happe was able to seamlessly incorporate various design details, like for instance, the TV feature wall; it stands out from the darker structures on the sides, yet it doesn’t look out of place at all because it has a similar, albeit much lighter wood-look laminate.
There’s also a long drawer beneath the TV, I requested Happe to include one because I practice leather crafting as a hobby, which meant that I needed a space to store tools and leather goods, like wallets, card holders and passport covers.
The living room configuration was changed to match my preferences as well. The TV was previously mounted on a wall at the end of the living room, but I prefer having it at the side along with the sofa.
This new configuration allows me to break away from the typical living room layout and it also makes it easier for my guests to mingle because they’re able to move around the seating area on all sides.
On the dining area’s makeover
A: The dining area’s makeover was pretty simple. Instead of placing it beside the front door, it’s now beside the windows. That was an effective tweak because the plan was always to have the living room and dining area side-by-side so that they form a large communal area where my friends can gather round, watch TV, and interact.
Happe also added a really sleek ceiling lamp with brass accents to the dining area, and I feel that it’s a pretty nice fixture to have. Because one of the fixture’s lamps faces upwards, it diffuses light overhead and that creates a soft touch, which really enhances the dining experience at night.
About making over the kitchen and common bathroom
A: I spend half of my time at home in the kitchen where I’ll either be preparing ingredients, cooking or doing the laundry, so it’s a really important part of the house to me. There are times where I’ll bake cakes or cook up some mala steamboat, even if it’s only for one person. [laughs]
For a more grounded look that draws attention away from overhead structures, only the bottom half of the kitchen’s built-ins were cladded in dark laminates.
There’s an open-flame stove, an oven, and a galley-style layout with plenty of countertop space, so in that sense, the kitchen’s new design fully caters to all of my cooking needs.
The washer is also concealed beneath the countertop closest to the common bathroom, which is the only bathroom in the entire house. On the inside, it retains the original, old-school layout where the shower and WC are in two separate spaces, and that comes in handy when my parents or friends stay over.
On re-designing the study
The study, prior to the renovation.
A: Structurally, the study room hasn’t changed at all but now that it has been whitewashed, it feels a lot more tranquil. So far, this space has served me well, especially during the times that I’ve been working at home.
Both the furniture and design choices were kept simple so as to create a space where I’m able to fully focus; most of the pieces were purchased by Happe from Danish Design Co. and the existing parquet floor was also retained after it was polished.
About the master bedroom’s new look
For aesthetic and safety reasons, light strips were built into the platform bed’s steps as indirect lighting.
A: The idea to have a platform bed for my bedroom came from a friend’s home; he had previously worked with Happe to renovate his house and he has a similar bed as well, which I clearly remember for the quality of its workmanship. It’s also why Happe was one of the interior design firms that I shortlisted when it was my turn to renovate.
I use the storage compartments to stow away larger items like my luggage bags and all of that bulky stuff – mainly things that I don’t need to use on a daily basis.
To me, this bedroom is a space where I can retreat to after a long day at work. There’s no TV or any other forms of distractions, though, there are night lamps on both sides of the bed that allow me to do some light reading before I sleep. And because there’s a mirror backing on the headboard, it diffuses the light from the lamps, so they don’t end up being too glaring.
To sum up
A: Looking at the photos of the house before the renovation, it’s really hard to believe that it has changed so much, even for me. It’s now a place that I can truly call home, and I’d say that much of it can be attributed to the work of the Happe team. They really did take into account what I wanted and created features that best matched my needs.
Oh, and I must say that their workmanship is almost magical – I remember being informed that a chunk of the parquet in the study and bedrooms had to be taken out along with the existing door stoppers. But the floor looks untouched even though the stoppers have been removed, I guess how they did it will always remain a mystery to me.
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