Can’t Hack These HDB Structures? Here’s What You Can Do

February 6, 2018
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If nobody’s perfect, your HDB flats are no exception. Be it old-school resales, brand-new BTOs or anything in between, every apartment has its fair share of necessary but unsightly structural features that can seriously cramp your home’s look. And to make matters worse? You’re not allowed to hack them (yes, for safety’s sake).

But hey, if you can’t beat em’, join em’, as they say! From pesky pillars to bothersome beams, take a leaf out of these creative ideas to work around those structural eyesores you have in your HDB.

Note: These ideas are a guideline - before embarking on any of these works, it always pays to check with HDB to see if there are any restrictions of permits to be applied before starting works.


Structural Columns

HDB Beam Column Bomb Shelter Staircase Ideas

Interior Designer: Livinz Synthesis

We know, those columns protruding from your walls can throw a major wrench to your home’s design, but they play a huge part in ensuring your renovation plans don’t fall flat on your face (literally). Reinforced columns work as frames to hold up walls, floors and ceilings in a building, preventing it from crumbling like a Jenga tower when strong winds (or choy - an earthquake) occurs.

How to Work It:

HDB Beam Column Bomb Shelter Staircase Ideas

Interior Designer: Jubilee Interior

1. Turn it into a visual point: Sometimes, the best way to conceal something is to make it a highlight – hang artworks on those protruding pillars to direct attention away from its unsightly structure.

HDB Beam Column Bomb Shelter Staircase Ideas

Interior Designer: Fuse Concept

2. Craft out a fancy half wall: Building onto the living area's protruding structural column, ventilation blocks are used to create a half wall feature that doubles as the sofa's backing.

HDB Beam Column Bomb Shelter Staircase Ideas

Interior Designer: Free Space Intent

3. Convert it into a convenient lounge area: One way of making that pillar less obvious? Constructing a built-in settee to close the gap between walls.

HDB Beam Column Bomb Shelter Staircase Ideas

Interior Designer: Asolidplan

4. Create a freestanding dining table: If you have structural pillars standing in the middle of nowhere like this oddly-shaped project, use them to your advantage by utilising it as a prop for a freestanding table.

HDB Beam Column Bomb Shelter Staircase Ideas

Interior Designer: The Scientist

5. Make it a convenient obstacle course for your cat: Shelves are the perfect storage solution for tight spaces like pillars. Try mixing it up and mounting them across the walls – and if you have cats, they work as an obstacle course too!


Structural Beams

HDB Beam Column Bomb Shelter Staircase Ideas

Interior Designer: Starry Homestead

In the same line as structural columns, reinforced structural beams are part of your building’s frame, and help to hold up your ceilings/floors to prevent it from caving in due to additional weight.

How to Work It:

HDB Beam Column Bomb Shelter Staircase Ideas

1. Use it as a space divider: Paint or overlay your beams with a different finish to help demarcate different areas in your home, like this living room and study area.

HDB Beam Column Bomb Shelter Staircase Ideas

Interior Designer: ELPIS Interior Design

2. Install a glass partition...: The protruding beams act as a convenient frame for partitions and panels, such as this kitchen set in see-through glass.

HDB Beam Column Bomb Shelter Staircase Ideas

Interior Designer: Livinz Synthesis

3. ...or a bar counter:
Likewise, if you fancy something more ‘open’, the beams can be used to visually frame a bar counter set up. Here, a white bar countertop finish is used to blend with the adjoining walls and ceiling beam.

HDB Beam Column Bomb Shelter Staircase Ideas

Interior Designer: Icon Interior Design

4. Create a TV console area: Have a pesky beam blocking up your living room’s view? Construct an attention-grabbing TV console on it (that subconsciously pulls your attention away).

HDB Beam Column Bomb Shelter Staircase Ideas

Interior Designer: Livinz Synthesis

5. Prop up a screen and storage cabinet: If going full-length isn’t your style, here’s a practical alternative – build a half-wall screen that separates the living and dining areas at the top, with a storage compartment at the bottom for stowing your dinnerware.


Staircases (in Maisonettes and Loft Units)

HDB Beam Column Bomb Shelter Staircase Ideas

Interior Designer: JDC Interior

Sorry guys, quirky ladders, stylish spiral staircases or any other sort of fancy designs are a no-go with maisonette or loft-style HDBs. While the typical staircase design can be clunky and obstructive (and you can’t hack or move them anywhere else), there are still many other things you can do to make this feature a practical standout.

How to Work It:

HDB Beam Column Bomb Shelter Staircase IdeasHDB Beam Column Bomb Shelter Staircase Ideas

Interior Designer: KDOT Associates, Fuse Concept

1. Change it into a functional storage compartment: Even if you can’t change the structure of the stairs nor its location, the void space underneath it can be modified to include smart storage solutions – from pull-out drawers to built-in bookshelves.

HDB Beam Column Bomb Shelter Staircase Ideas

Interior Designer: Fifth Avenue Studio

2. Create a reading nook: It may be hard to stand upright by the underside of the staircase, but that doesn’t mean it’s a no-go zone! Transform it into a cosy nook to curl up into with a book (or some tea).


Bomb Shelters

HDB Beam Column Bomb Shelter Staircase Ideas

Interior Designer: D'Initial Concept

Since 1996, bomb shelters have become a compulsory feature in every HDB block. Though we all know that it does serve a practical purpose (to protect households in times of emergency), it’s plain, reinforced white door may come off a little 'unfinished' in contrast with the rest of the home.

How to Work It:

HDB Beam Column Bomb Shelter Staircase Ideas

Interior Designer: Meter Square

1. Build a shoe cabinet: And if you’re already planning to cover it up, why not turn it into a functional piece as well? Allocate enough space to include slots for your shoes, so that you can access them when you open the partition door.

HDB Beam Column Bomb Shelter Staircase Ideas

Interior Designer: Design Chapterz

2. Camouflage: See no evil, think no evil. A quick, low-cost way to conceal is to camouflage it with a little paint! Here, this bomb shelter is painted black to match the rest of the wall – if you don’t look hard enough, you won’t even notice that it’s there.

HDB Beam Column Bomb Shelter Staircase Ideas

Interior Designer: Juz Interior

3. Turn it into a fun (and functional) display: Who knew a door could do so much more? Convert a bomb shelter door into a handy blackboard for keeping track of groceries with a little chalkboard paint; even the air vent is no exception, as it is transformed into a useful clock.


Love these ideas, but need a little help achieving them?

An interior designer can help to design a home that best maximises your space. Request for a quote here, and get matched with 5 interior firms, based on your budget and style.

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