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Annoyed By These HDB Features? Here's How To Fix Them

March 22, 2018
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Affordable, comfortable and convenient. These are probably some of the qualities that will come to mind whenever HDB flats are brought up.

However, things immediately become less attractive when you start noticing the generic, cookie-cutter layout in newer builds of BTO units. Not to mention, there’s the challenge of dealing with unappealing architecture and awkward structures too.

From boxy living rooms to tiny service yards, here are the 5 most annoying features that you can probably find in your new HDB home.


1. Asymmetrical Walkway Entrances That are Not Quite Right

Yishun Avenue 1 by Stylemyspace

Interior Firm: Stylemyspace

It’s perfectly understandable if you are irritated by these asymmetrical walkways in newer BTO flats. While they may seem just fine to the unpractised eye, being framed on only one side (at the corner where the living room and walkway-facing bedroom walls meet) creates a perceivable difference in depth along the corridor.

Upper Serangoon Road (Block 365C) by Fifth Avenue Interior

Interior Firm: Fifth Avenue Interior

Having said that, this may not be a bad problem to have. With a low structural beam above (yet another architectural eyesore), keeping both sides flushed is likely to result in a corridor entrance that is as rigid-looking as it is narrow.

The solution: Add a touch of colour with a wall mural, or have a snug dining area at the far end of the corridor. In any case, fill up the space as best as you can without making it feel too cramped.


2. Boxed-In Living Rooms That Are More 'Box' Than 'Room'

Yung Kuang Road by INCLOVER DESIGN

Interior Firm: INCLOVER DESIGN

Most of us would like to have a roomy area for rest and relaxation, but let’s be realistic here, you don’t always get one.

In smaller new-build HDBs, you will probably be left with a modest space after moving in. Both ends of your living room will either be chewed up by furniture or a TV console, which leaves you with about a meter and a half of in-between space (read: not much room) to play around with.

Bidadari Park Drive by Archive Design

Interior Firm: Archive Design

Bidadari Park Drive by Archive Design

Interior Firm: Archive Design

Depending on where they are positioned, the Consumer Unit (the official HDB term for the power distribution box) and bomb shelter will worsen your living room problem. But that’s not even the worst part. These structures can’t be hacked, which means that you will have to live with them.

The solution: Unless you absolutely need them, avoid building additional storage structures along the sides of your living room as they will fence up an already-compact space.


3. Walls That Are Way Too Short

Canberra Street by i Chapter

Interior Firm: i Chapter

There’s nothing quite as frustrating as decorating around a short wall. On one hand, it’s hard to make these structures look good, but on the other hand leaving them untouched is too much of a waste.

You are most likely to find this problem in newer BTO flats where the front (or rear, depending on orientation) wall is shorter than its opposite number. As a result of this difference in scale, it can be hard to visually balance both ends of the living room.

Yishun Ring Road by Sense & Semblance

Interior Firm: Sense & Semblance

This shortcoming (pun intended) is even more noticeable if you have long furniture that exceed the length of the wall. And even if you succeed in right-sizing your living room seats, chances are it will look like you are squeezing too much into a tiny sliver of space.

The solution: It may be a tad unorthodox, but consider using the living room purely as a sitting area or study. This way, you won’t have to worry about sofas that are all too long or underwhelming feature walls.


4. These Awkwardly-Positioned Niches

Canberra Street by ChengYi Interior Design

Ever wondered what these shallow niches are?

Mostly found at the rear walls of living rooms and bedrooms, they are in fact a ‘necessary evil’, according to Schemacraft’s Managing Director Martin Ngo.

“The vertical ends of these recesses are support pillars, which are built along the perimeter of the building. As for the horizontal sections that run across the room, these are strengthening beams that prevent the concrete floor slabs (of upper floors) from sagging,” says Martin.

Yishun Street 81 by Swiss Interior Design

Interior Firm: Swiss Interior Design

Despite their importance, it doesn’t change the fact that these recesses present an immovable obstacle when it comes to space-planning. On top of preventing furniture from being placed flushed against a wall, they also ruin the aesthetic appeal of otherwise smooth planes with an unsightly break.

The solution: Paint the inside of these awkward recesses with an accent colour to create visual interest; or maximise available space by building overhead shelves/displays within them.


5. Tiny, Zoned-Off Service Yards

Circuit Road by Space Atelier

Interior Firm: Space Atelier

Remember when HDB flats came with enough yard space for bamboo poles? We do too. These useful backrooms have shrunk in size across the years, and it is now harder to get the laundry done in them due to how tight they are.

More importantly, their boxed-up design does the kitchen-yard space no favours as it makes the entire area seem even tighter than it actually is.

The solution: This one is straightforward…but only if you are okay with cooking fumes stinking up your fresh laundry. Just remove the sliding door entrance as well as windows, and – voila! – everything looks bigger!

St. George's Lane by Project Guru

Interior Firm: Project Guru

Explore: Expand Your Kitchen Workspace by Merging With Your Yard!


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