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Flat Shelter an Eyesore? Not Anymore in This Couple’s Home

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Or a pegboard facade.

When homeowners Timothy and Shu En first visited the Bukit Panjang flat that they bought last year, there were two things about it that left an immediate impression: the entrance as well as the bomb shelter that was just past the front door.

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“The gate was hideous, but in a funny way. It had these gaudy dolphin cut-outs, it was faded, and the only person who really loved it was my mom – she even asked us to give it to her if we wanted to remove it!” says Shu En. “Also, we realised the first thing you see when you enter (the house) is the bomb shelter. There were polka dots. All over.”

Determined to give their (future) guests a good first impression, the duo didn’t hesitate to replace the original gate with a simple, yet elegant wire mesh screen at the main entrance. Likewise, the household shelter received a makeover too, but a more elaborate one that involved covering its door and sides with pegboard panels.

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View this project by Project Guru

“I was apprehensive about the idea at first due to the cost,” admits Timothy. “But taking a look at the whole thing after it was built, I’m convinced that the pegboards were something we really needed. As you can see, they make a really nice facade for the whole shelter.”

Even so, with its (useful) visual upgrade, the household shelter still proved to be an obstacle in Timothy and Shu En’s home. “It affects the kitchen as well,” says Timothy. Keep scrolling to find out what he means – and also for a look at the home’s before-and-after transformation, that was pulled off with Project Guru’s help!

About themselves

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Shu En (SE): We first met each other in church and then we got to know each other for about 10 years, and we got married last year. I work in the communications industry for a chocolate manufacturing company. He’s a photographer. He loves cats, he used to say that he would have 1 cat for every year that’s he’s single.

Timothy (T): Thank God, I got married, if not I’d be living with a bunch of cats now!

About the house, pre-renovation

SE: It was… terrible? [laughs] It was a rental flat, and the tenants were a Japanese mom and her daughter. It was very simple as all rentals are, and it was quite old. I think the only time it was renovated was probably when they moved in. Basically, everything needed to be redone, but we weren’t going to be choosers, because we couldn’t.

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The entryway, pre-renovation.

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The new floor plan for Timothy and Shu En’s home

T: So, the context is, Shu En is from Malaysia and she’s a Singapore PR. And before we got married, we were renting a place right here in Bukit Panjang.

We really wanted our future home to be close by, so resale homes were in the picture. Unfortunately, at that time, we couldn’t find anything. Then just as we were thinking about compromising and settling down elsewhere, this particular unit appeared so we bought and renovated it.

About the household shelter and its pegboard facade

T: A lot of the work for our renovation was about covering things up that we didn’t want to be out in the open, like the recessed walls in our bedroom and living room, and the household shelter. I think it (the shelter) is a defining point of our house; it’s different and memorable, but not to the point that it looks like it doesn’t belong in a home.

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SE: Some of the décor pieces are from HOOGA and the plants are all fake because we can’t risk his cat accidentally eating them when it’s staying over. The pegs and shelves are all removable and can be plugged into any of the holes, so that’s quite nifty.

About the kitchen’s revamp

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The kitchen prior to the renovation.

T: So, as you can see the kitchen is really, really small. It doesn’t even have a yard! We would have torn down one of the walls to turn it into an open-concept space, but the bomb shelter was in the way. So, we simply had to make do with what we have.

The entrance has a glass door now because it looks more modern, but anyway, we didn’t have the luxury of choice since there’s no space to install a sliding or bifold door because of the bomb shelter’s position.

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SE: Although we don’t cook dinner regularly or do very intensive cooking, mostly just the steaming kind when we have guests, we had a long discussion about the backsplash; the mermaid tiles look great, but it’s easy for all sorts of oil and dirt to get into the grouts, so we have to be careful about it.

We also went for KompacPlus, rather than a quartz tabletop, as it’s easy to clean and because quartz doesn’t really fit the overall look of our house.

About the living room and dining area’s new look

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The living room before (top) and after (bottom) the renovation.

T: You’ll notice that the living room looks particularly big for this unit because the previous owners tore down one of the bedrooms and turned it into a study room. So, effectively, this is a 3-room flat now, even though it’s a 4-room. Unfortunately, that didn’t really help us to save on the cost, because we still had to spend on removing the existing structure.

We also thought of building our own transparent bifold glass doors so that we could have private meetings in the dining area, but that turned out to be really expensive, like $5,000 to $6,000, so we ended up keeping it open.

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The front of the living room, mid-renovation.

SE: Ultimately, that turned out to be a good decision, because considering how close the dining area is to the couch now, we wouldn’t have had the clearance for a partition anyway.

Oh, by the way, I have an older sister and an older brother, we were all born a year apart, we all got married a year apart, and we all have the same sofa from Castlery! My older sister first bought it, then my brother and then us too. The same goes for our lights, which we all got from Like Lights.

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T: Oh yes, if there’s one tip about furniture-buying that we would give, it’s to get the display pieces. Like Lights gave us a discount on our dining lamps because they had been rented out for photoshoots and came back with some minor wear.

The storekeepers told us that we could buy the lamps at a discounted price if we didn’t mind. I was like, “Wow, you can barely see the scratch,” and honestly to us, it didn’t really matter because we knew they were eventually going to get knocked up.

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This dining table, we got from Castlery also. It’s 2.1 metres long, and it’s great for gatherings. When her family visits, we typically have about 10 people seated here, partners and all. And when our cell group comes over, it’s usually 15 people, which is really pushing the limits.

As a photographer, I need space for editing. I used to work in my bedroom, but since we have a house now, I can do my work in the dining area; this also allows me to keep my work and private spaces apart as well. The entire workstation is from my old home, we refurbished it a little before moving it here.

About the common bathroom’s redesign

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SE: Initially, we wanted to leave the giant water pipes exposed, but his parents were like, “No la!”, so we asked for the pipes to be boxed up. Same for the master bathroom.

T: We also have farmhouse sinks in both bathrooms for consistency, and because they just look nicer than regular ones. Plus, they are large enough so that we don’t end up flicking water everywhere when we wash our hands.

About the master bedroom’s new features

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The bedroom’s arch during (top) and after (bottom) its construction

T: The arch above the bed is a decorative feature, but it’s very important. It used to be a recess just like the living room’s wall, which we covered up because it doesn’t add any value.

But here, instead of just covering up the entire recess, we thought about turning it into an arch and painting it green to let it stick out. Also, having this arch lets us maximise the recess better because it’s the perfect spot for us to ‘park’ our bed, shelves and side tables.

About the new bedroom entrances and the master bedroom’s en suite

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The new bedroom entrances being built (top) and after their completion (bottom)

T: There was quite a bit of work done to the main corridor indoors because we wanted the new entrances for both bedrooms to be flushed along the same wall. It looks nicer that way. So, the original doorway for the master bedroom ended up being demolished, while the guest bedroom’s entrance got sealed up.

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The en suite’s original entrance sealed up (right) and its new doorway (left, circled in red)

We also requested for the master bathroom’s entrance, which was previously right in front of the bed, to be shifted to the side for two reasons. First of all, no one wants to wake up to a view of the toilet in the morning [laughs], and second, we wanted the entrance to be in the same place as our previous home.

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The master en suite, post-renovation. The tiles are from Hafary, whereas the sink and pendant light are from Hoe Kee and Like Lights respectively.

About working with ProjectGuru

SE: Working with our designer Clarice was great! We had read online on Qanvast that she could come up with creative solutions for problems.

For example, the half-tiled walls in the bathrooms – those was her idea, it helped us save quite a bit but still made the spaces look great. Also, if there were any unforeseen circumstances, she’d explain them to us, and provide us with options.

To sum up

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SE: Overall, I am satisfied with this renovation. I am just glad everything’s over because we were planning our wedding and this renovation at the same time. We really like staying here and it feels pretty amazing to stay in a home that’s yours.

T: Yup, I often find myself waking up in the morning, stepping into the living room and thinking, “I live here, this is my house”. There’s a sense of achievement, a sense of belonging, which feels really satisfying.

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