Elegant AMK HDB Flat Proves That Homes Get Better with Time
Statement pieces, dark woods and plenty of sunlight aren’t the only features that make this once-empty home shine.
Just like with wine and relationships, time is often the key to achieving a nice-looking home, and there’s probably no better proof than this HDB flat in Ang Mo Kio and its classy, well-appointed interiors.
Interior Firm: Arche Interior
Put together by Arche Interior designers Edward and Minhui for a couple in their late thirties, this revamped 5-room home now features plenty of warm tones as well as bespoke fixtures that make for a cosy, functional abode.
But while all of these features are undoubtedly appealing, there’s more to the process of this home makeover than meets the eye.
The kitchen (left) and living room (right), before completion.
“Actually, our clients had approached us in 2017 and the house was completed only in early 2019,” reveals Edward. “So, in total this project lasted nearly two years from the planning stage all the way to the handover.”
To find out the reasons behind this unusually long renovation, we had a chat with Edward and Minhui.
About the process of designing and renovating the flat
Edward (E): I think the owners got this unit during a sales-of-balance exercise, and they received the keys to it in 2017, I think. During this time up till end-2018, which was when the renovation started, they were working with us to firm up the design of the house.
Samples of laminates used in the renovation.
The owners were fine with this project timeline because they were still living with their families back then, and they were also comfortable with spending a lot more time on space planning, looking at material samples, shopping for furniture, basically all the things that you’d do to prepare for a renovation.
Minhui (MH): I think it’s safe to say that this (renovation timeline) isn’t the norm. It’s the longest HDB flat project that we’ve ever worked on (laughs), but probably also the most personalised one.
On a side note, the usual time needed to plan for a HDB flat renovation should be between one to three months, and depending on the complexity of the project, the renovation itself should take almost the same amount of time.
About the living room and cosy corner’s makeover
E: When the homeowners came to us, they already had a couple of requests in their design brief. For example, there were some furniture pieces that they wanted to include, things like the Hakama dining set from Conde House as well as the Mola Lux One Arm sofa from Grafunkt.
They had set their mind on having these two furniture pieces as they’re both statement pieces with distinct features like sleek angles and wide legs.
MH: Because of the degree of personalisation that the homeowners were looking for, the process of designing the communal areas was very much about understanding them as individuals, not just visualising how these spaces would look like.
Essentially, we had to look at things from their perspective before proceeding to craft a living room that suits their lifestyle. In a way, it’s a somewhat organic approach to interior design because it’s people-first.
The front and back of the living room, mid-renovation.
Colours-wise, for the living room, we used neutrals to create a simple base and tans as a complementary accent. That’s because the owners wanted a space that gives the impression of being grounded, both visually and physically – which is also why there’s brand-new parquet flooring installed as it has a solid feel underfoot.
The entire goal was to create a cohesive appearance here, even though some elements are more visually distinct, like the darker wood tones and furniture.
E: We didn’t plan for it as part of the final design, but there’s a noticeable difference in ambience during the day and at night.
In the day, the living room has a classic feel that goes well with all the clean lines and sleek forms, but at night it gives off a very cosy vibe when the warm lights are turned on. It’s a surprise to us, but a pleasant one for sure.
Behind the living room, there’s a cosy corner with a bay window seat and a customised bookcase. The owners wanted it because they could envision themselves spending their weekends reading at home.
What makes the bookcase unique are the ladder, which has an angled design so that it doesn’t take up too much space, as well as the mix of cabinets and shelves that prevents the entire built-in from looking too blockish. Variation is the key here, because our goal was to create something that doesn’t look boring.
On the dining area’s new look
E: Like the living room, we kept the dining area’s palette neutral so that attention isn’t taken away from the statement piece here, which is none other than the table. What’s special about it are the details, specifically, the angled legs and the chiselled carvings which make it a subtly beautiful piece.
The Nula 8 recessed lamps from Sol Luminaire are yet another unique piece that was included here. Initially, the plan was to get a pendant that would look cohesive with the living room, but none of the pieces that we found seemed to be a good fit. In the end, the owners settled on the current lamps because of their adjustability and subtle playfulness.
About the kitchen’s revamp
MH: Right from the start, the owners were drawn towards the idea of having a cool-looking kitchen, which is why the cabinets are all clad in dark blue laminates, but in order to break up the look, there are also other accents included within the space.
Most prominently, the backsplash features patterned and plain tiles in an alternating lay; this is to prevent the wall from looking too overwhelming.
The kitchen, mid-renovation.
In terms of fittings, the kitchen was upgraded with a concealed dishwasher, an automatic faucet from TOTO as well as a domino hob with a gas stove, induction stove, and even a teppanyaki stove.
Although all of these practical features added to the final renovation cost, the male homeowner didn’t mind because as an avid home chef, he views a functional kitchen as a must-have.
A customised drop-down door conceals the dishwasher.
About renovating the study
E: As someone who prefers working in a focused environment, I could relate to the homeowner’s request to have a quiet workspace at home. So, in comparison to the other rooms, the study was designed to have an understated character that’s free of distractions, visual or otherwise.
To match this design philosophy as well as the all-white surroundings, the homeowners chose to include a clean-lined study table and desk chair from Noden, a furniture store in Singapore, which specialises in vintage Scandinavian pieces.
With the exception of the kitchen and bathrooms, the use of parquet flooring extends to the entire home, including the study.
On revamping the common bathroom
E: In order to achieve a more open look for the common bathroom, we suggested that the homeowners not build a screen between the shower and the sink. It’s a compromise, but a necessary one because the space isn’t large.
MH: At first glance, the most interesting feature of the common bathroom is probably the mosaic tile wall, but there’s also an ‘enclosure’, which addresses the lack of a shower screen. By creating a drop around the edges of the shower with raised floor tiles, we made it possible to have a dry area even without partitions of any kind.
About renovating the master bedroom
E: Like how the study is designed to be a place for work, the master bedroom is a space that’s purely for rest. For starters, the sleeping area is clad in Lamitak wood laminates to create a cosy environment that’s similar to that of a log cabin. It helps stylistically as well, because the laminates are a good match for the parquet flooring.
Also, in the original brief, the homeowners wanted to include a bedframe that they chose from Castlery, but after the discussions, we came to the realisation that having a built-in platform bed would make for a more cohesive look, especially when it’s paired with the full-height headboard to create a singular structure.
To create a larger sleeping area with its own walk-in wardrobe, the partition wall between the master bedroom and an adjoining junior bedroom was demolished.
MH: Although the primary purpose of combining the master bedroom with the junior bedroom beside it was to create a bedroom-cum-walk-in-closet setup, there’s the added benefit of creating a more tranquil, open space.
The glass sliding doors were designed with this natural vibe in mind. While they’re meant to keep the sleeping area and walk-in wardrobe separate, they don’t impede the flow of sunlight through the bedroom like an opaque partition would.
About creating the walk-in wardrobe
MH: The homeowners have plenty of clothes, which is why there’s two-and-a-half walls worth of cabinet space in the walk-in wardrobe. The wall cabinets are mainly for storing shirts and dresses, whereas the island and window-side drawers are for fashion accessories.
The island in the centre of the room is actually movable; there are wheels concealed in the base. Plus, there’s also a custom glass top for the first drawer, which is reserved exclusively for the male homeowner’s ties as well as his watch collection.
The walk-in wardrobe before (left) and after (right) the renovation.
The three pendant lamps above the island were all sourced from a store at Liat Towers. We chanced upon them while searching for fancy lighting fixtures, basically what we were looking for was something that would match the panelled cabinet doors but wouldn’t come off as gaudy or ostentatious.
On giving the master en suite a new look
The master en suite, mid-renovation.
E: The newest and probably most useful addition to the master en suite would probably be the counter at the side. The female owner requested for this particular fixture to be larger and to come equipped with accessory/make-up drawers because she wanted to use it as her dressing table.
Although it’s a piece of carpentry, the countertop itself is made of quartz; we chose an off-white colour so that it would match the subway tiles on the walls. Usually, such tiles are installed horizontally, but we went with a vertical lay here to create the illusion of height.
To sum up
E: From a designer’s perspective, this project is definitely a unique one, not just because of the timeline, but also the top-down approach that was taken. Usually, most owners would start with a blank slate and come to us for concepts, but this time round, our clients had a very strong vision in mind even before the design stage.
MH: Yup, putting together this flat was a special experience for everyone involved. There was plenty of care put into every aspect of its design, from the choice of furniture to the laminates used.
But most definitely, the best part of this project is seeing it come together after nearly two years of hard work – that’s what the homeowners have conveyed to us, and also something which I think everyone can agree on!
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