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Almost Every Wall in This Designer’s 3-Room Home Was Hacked

The purpose wasn’t just to create an open-plan home, but to make it a modular one too.

For the average homeowner, finding inspiration for a new dwelling typically begins with scouring the Internet for ideas or a keen scrutinisation of a design magazine’s pages – but for Lemonfridge Studio designer Jacinda Dymara, it all started out when she fell in love with a floor plan.

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View this project by Lemonfridge Studio

“Previously, I had worked on a client’s home and it had a layout that I liked so much that I got a property agent to hunt for a flat with the exact same floor plan,” shares Jacinda. “Eventually, my husband and I found one, and I was so excited that I started making design plans even before we bought the house. [laughs]”

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Needless to say, the end result was an open-plan 3-room HDB flat with a seamless flow throughout, but yet there’s still more to Jacinda’s home than meets the eye. We sat down for a chat with her to find out about the renovation process – and also how it all begun by tearing down nearly every single one of the property’s original walls.

About herself and her home

Jacinda (J): I’ve been designing homes for the past five years, but this is my first home so I was definitely excited about the renovation because I could finally try out some aesthetic and layout ideas that I've had in mind for a long, long time.

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The main reason why I wanted this 3-room flat was because it’s slightly larger at 67 square metres as compared to today’s 3-room BTO flats, which are usually about 60 to 65 square metres in size. Plus, older HDB flats tend to have less structural walls and they don’t come with a household shelter, so there’s just more open space to experiment with.

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I wanted a ‘clean slate’ to work with, so nearly every single non-structural wall in the house was torn down, including the exterior walls surrounding the two bedrooms, the kitchen, the master en suite as well as the storeroom.

Typically, this isn’t something that most homeowners would be willing to do, but for us a total revamp was already on the cards from the start, mostly because this house was already 40 years old when we bought it.

On changes made to the entryway

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J: One of the things that we did to make this home a modular one was to leave some space in the foyer, which we use as an exercise area because it faces the TV.

We also added loose storage options like a pair of IKEA shelves with mesh doors that can be moved around for easier space reconfiguration; we combined them together to create a shoe cabinet and display space for storing our keys and various knick knacks.

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There’s also a built-in settee on the side and it comes with storage compartments too; we mainly use them to store miscellaneous items that we don’t use often and when they’re closed, they make for a convenient entryway seat where we can put on our shoes before leaving the house.

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Right next to the entryway’s settee, there’s a set of shelves, but it’s not just for display purposes because it conceals the DB box as well. One little known hack about renovating resale homes is that it’s possible to have the position of your DB box shifted. If you’re already getting an old house rewired, you just need to fork out for a new box.

About the living room’s makeover

J: Our current living room was previously a bedroom and it used to occupy the same stretch of space as another bedroom as well as a small dining area. After hacking the walls around them, we then used some of the space to expand our master bedroom and left the rest, which is about 4.6 metres long, for our communal area.

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Jacinda’s home mid-renovation, after the original walls between two bedrooms and a dining area were demolished to create a long stretch of open space.

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Overall, the configuration of the living room is quite simple; there’s just a sofa bed, settee and a built-in TV console that also houses my husband’s LEGOs.

Additionally, the living area can be partitioned off by sliding panel doors; the reason for this feature is that if we have children in the future, we’ll be able to convert the living area into a kid’s bedroom by relocating the TV and sofa to the foyer area, which is mostly empty for now.

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The reason why there’s an opening right beside the living room TV console is because the study in the adjacent master bedroom is quite dark.

There’s only a small window beside the en suite in the master bedroom, so having this opening here allows some natural light to enter the space. Plus, it’ll let us keep an eye on our child from the master bedroom in the future.

On the dry kitchen and dining area’s renovation

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J: This stretch of space was designed with larger built-ins in mind, such as full-height shelves and a tall cabinet with pocket doors, which allow us to store bulkier items like vacuum cleaners. But at the same time, we were careful about not cramping up the dining area too much by limiting our storage options to only one side of the space.

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The quartz dry kitchen island is another feature that I really like in this space. We use it for everything from food prep to entertaining, and the best part is that it houses a mini fridge at the bottom! We paired the island with a bespoke dining table from Grey and Sanders which was customised from a slab of wood that we chose at their store.

About the kitchen and yard’s renovation

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J: There used to be a storeroom right outside the wet kitchen’s entrance, but because we replaced it with the tall built-ins, we were able to install our own glass casement doors to keep the flow from the dry kitchen to the wet kitchen visually seamless.

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There was also quite a bit of space-planning involved in the kitchen’s renovation; we wanted a semi-galley layout because it’s the most efficient configuration for our space.

We had all of our major appliances, such as the fridge, oven and microwave, tucked to one side of the kitchen. And right below the oven unit, there’s a concealed rubbish bin, which means having one less eyesore in plain sight.

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The wet kitchen’s fishbone tiles extend all the way into the yard where our pet cat lives; that entire space is dedicated to her – there’s a pet feeder, water fountain, and even a Dyson fan to keep her comfortable when we aren’t home! Also, her pet corner serves a dual purpose because it conceals a big water pipe in the back.

On the master bedroom and walk-in wardrobe’s transformation

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J: The master bedroom is the main reason why so many of our friends have mistaken our 3-room flat for a 4-room flat – and that’s because it’s large enough to house our walk-in wardrobe, study, sleeping area as well as en suite.

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Aside from the extra bedroom space, another perk of working with a ‘blank slate’ is that I was able to create a brand-new niche right in front of our bed. It’s a great spot to get dressed in the mornings as well as to have our books and plants displayed; we’re also able to hang our work clothes and bags there for easy access.

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Meanwhile, for the study area/walk-in wardrobe, we kept its configuration simple with just a decently sized 2.5-metre-long desk and an L-shaped closet. As in the case of the living room and the foyer, we wanted to keep this area flexible and spacious enough to fit a baby cot.

About the master en suite’s renovation

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J: Like the rest of the house, the master en suite was totally revamped. Aside from moving the sink outside, we also completely removed the original entrance and split up the WC and shower into two separate areas. It’s hard to notice, but there’s actually a clear glass panel separating the bathroom in half.

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The reason why our bathroom is an open concept one with glass doors is because there’s limited natural light coming in from the window on the side and we’ve plenty of dark tiles in the space. It also creates a hotel-esque vibe for our master bathroom, in combination with the compact bathtub and concealed mixer.

To sum up

J: Designing a home for myself was quite a unique experience because the challenge mostly lay in aligning my husband’s ideas with my own. He’s actually an interior designer as well, so he had some input, even though I was the one handling most of the design work. [laughs]

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On the other hand, it was easier tackling the technical aspects for the renovation because we both have the necessary experience and knowledge. So, in short, this project was a break away from the norm and it was definitely a satisfying one!

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