Almost like a posh home in the Mediterranean.
At 156 sqm, which is about two-and-a-half 3-room BTO flats in size, this jumbo multigenerational HDB flat at Yishun is one of the largest and most challenging homes that MET Interior’s Corey Wang has worked on to-date in his career as an interior designer.
“It’s mostly because of how big the house is. There’s a lot of potential [with the space], but the question is what we were going to do with it,” he shares.
“I recall spending almost 3 hours at the site taking all sorts of measurements so that my team and I would get a full understanding of the house, because we had all these ideas that we wanted to work.”
Some initial design concepts that eventually ended up making the jump from paper to real life include the flat’s internal walkway, which was created by merging its original balcony and exterior corridor, as well as two separate kitchens (one closed, and the other, open concept). For a look at all these new spaces and more, keep scrolling!
About the house and the process of designing it
Corey (C): Size aside, what makes this house an interesting project for me is also its age. If I’m not wrong, it’s 34 years old this year, and it’s a good learning opportunity for both the homeowners and I due to the amount of preparation work that had to be done at the start, such as space planning and dealing with structural obstacles.
My first impression of the house was that it was a very lived-in space with too many bright colours. (laughs) The current owners are a pair of retirees who live here with their children, and they prefer a more neutral aesthetic with plenty of white for their forever home, but at the same time, we made sure that the final look wasn’t too clinical by bringing in luxe and Art Deco-inspired elements.
There was a lot of groundwork that had to be done before we could begin the renovation, because there were some details that could only be observed at the actual site.
For instance, the piping layout isn’t something that’s reflected in the floor plan from HDB, and we had to modify our plans for the master en suite after coming down and seeing a large water pipe there.
About revamping the entrances, balcony, and exterior corridor
C: The entrance looks quite eye-catching with its custom gate and a new panelled door, but what most people can’t tell is that it’s an entirely new doorway.
This doorway didn’t exist originally; if you were to look at the original floor plans, you’ll see that there were two main entrances into the house before the renovation. Now, there’s only one, which was built after the existing balcony was combined with the recess area that the homeowners bought.
The intention behind this change was to create an indoor-outdoor area with a totally different atmosphere from the rest of the house, just like a patio or porch. We also introduced some strong geometric elements here, like a herringbone floor and overhead arches, to create visual interest.
The walkway tiles were bought from Hafary; the homeowners and I spent quite some time picking the tile colours and figuring out the best lay pattern, just so that this entire feature would stand out. We ended up using a total of four different tiles, the darkest ones were used to frame the floor, and the rest were used to create the herringbone pattern.
One of the original doorways along the common area was also turned into a walkway entrance for the master bedroom. That took place after we installed new windows and levelled the floor to the same height; both these renovation works required HDB permits to be carried out.
On making over the communal areas
C: At its heart, the living room’s design is quite simple with just loose furnishings and vinyl flooring from King’s Flooring. There’s the usual TV console and coffee table combo, plus a two-seater sofa that the homeowners brought over from their previous home.
The settee is a brand-new feature, and it was built in the same spot where the balcony’s original sliding glass doors were.
The communal spaces, including the dining area, were all configured in a way that there are uninterrupted sightlines into the kitchen from almost every corner.
This feature is useful for the homeowners since one of them is a professional baker and a communal layout makes it easier for her to communicate with her students.
On renovating the kitchens and yard
C: Even before the renovation took place, there were two kitchens in the flat. Both had bathrooms connected to them, but only one of them was kept as a common bathroom, and the other was turned into the master bedroom’s en suite.
All the exterior walls surrounding the kitchens plus a storeroom were demolished during the renovation to create an open-concept space with plenty of cabinetry for storage. The larger kitchen is also divided into two halves by a custom quartz-top island built around a structural column that had to be kept intact.
Both halves of the larger kitchen have different functions; the left half functions as a home pantry, and the right serves as a baking area where there’s a dedicated industrial fridge for cake ingredients.
The kitchenette is where most of the heavy cooking takes place, and it has glass doors installed to prevent cooking fumes from entering other parts of the house. On the inside, there’s a U-shaped layout with a sink in the centre because it’s the best option for maximising a small kitchen like this one.
Even though it’s one of the smallest spaces in the flat, the kitchenette was one of the areas where the most renovation work had to be done.
Other than installing new built-ins and redoing the pipework, we also had to build a partition wall on the left [of the space] to mount the hood and separate the kitchenette from the attached bathroom that’s now the master en suite.
What’s now the service yard used to be part of the original kitchen. Unlike the kitchenette, it’s still directly connected to the common bathroom.
We kept the original layout with the external vanity so that the common bathroom would be less cramped on the inside. And finally, we added a dragonfly handle to the new undersink cabinet as a fun touch.
About making over the junior bedrooms
C: The homeowners’ children each have their own bedrooms; the one closest to the kitchen belongs to their son and it has a strong masculine aesthetic with dark blue laminates from EDL and black furnishings for contrast.
The window side study table and bedside wardrobes are both new additions to the room, and the table, in particular, is a feature that the owners’ son finds especially useful because he’s an avid gamer who needs storage space for his computer and gaming console.
In comparison, the junior bedroom belonging to the owners’ daughter was renovated more extensively. There was a new set of wardrobes installed beside the bedroom’s entrance and the en suite’s layout was reconfigured to create an open-concept bathroom.
To do this, we demolished the original bathroom entrance and expanded the confines of the en suite by shifting the vanity outwards. And afterward, a privacy wall was built to separate the bathroom from the rest of the space.
About revamping the master bedroom and en suite
C: Although one of the flat’s original main entrances was turned into a doorway for the master bedroom, we reopened another doorway that’s located in front of the bed; the previous owners had sealed it up because they were using the space as a living area.
Making this change completes the ‘loop’ so to speak, because the owners are now able to walk through the entire house, from their bedroom to the communal areas, into the walkway, and then back to their bedroom again.
Aesthetic-wise, the master bedroom was designed to be a subtly posh space where there are touches of luxury that aren’t in people’s faces. To accomplish that, we sourced eye-catching metallic handles and also added textured wallpaper behind the headboard to complement the studded bedframe that the owners brought over from their previous home.
Having the double vanity outside the en suite helps too, because it conveys how luxurious the bedroom is, both in terms of space and looks.
The new shower enclosure is almost entirely glass for a clean look, and on the inside, you won’t be able to see any exposed pipes. That’s because the en suite’s water heater is housed in one of the kitchenette’s built-ins, which is located just behind the wall where the shower fittings are mounted.
The original plan for the en suite also involved installing a bathtub within the space, but due to restrictions, that idea fell through, so there’s now a dry area outside the shower that’s decorated with marble-look and monochrome floral tiles.
To sum up
C: It isn’t every day that I get to work on a jumbo HDB flat, so it’s definitely going into my portfolio. (laughs)
But that aside, I think what matters more is the close cooperation between the homeowners and myself. Without their help, it wouldn’t be possible to create such balance and cohesiveness in a home as large as this!
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