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From Time-Worn 50-Year-Old Home to Chic Retirement Nest

July 29, 2020
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Into the full-blown transformation of this 67 sqm resale unit, and what it took to achieve the industrial-colonial look it has today.

For homeowner Valerie, moving back into a 3-room flat at Commonwealth Drive is somewhat a nostalgic experience. “Growing up, I used to live around the area, in a flat just like this,” shared the sixty-something retiree. “I’m very familiar with this place, and I’d say that I’m likely to live here for the rest of my days.”

hdb resale renovation singapore

Only, the 50-year-old resale unit she bought over had a rather restrictive layout and looked time-worn, a far cry from being her ideal forever home. To fix it up, she reached out to The Local INN.terior’s Vincent for help. Scroll down to find out how they refreshed it so that it feels less claustrophobic!


About herself

Valerie (V): I’m Valerie, and I live in this resale unit with my two daughters – well, that’s only until they get married and move out [laughs].

Commonwealth Drive by The Local INN.terior 新家室

About the home

V: After I retired, downsizing seemed par for the course. With that came the need for additional storage space in this place, because we did accumulate a fair bit of stuff [laughs].

hdb resale renovation singapore

Red circles indicate where the spaces had been extended.

hdb resale renovation singapore

Because the home was a corner unit, the family had a larger entryway (left) to work with. They built in an additional wall (right) for more privacy in the master bedroom.

And that’s what led me to pick out this flat – it’s small enough but it wasn’t renovated, left only in its original condition so I was free to update it, based on my own requirements. Oh, and the unblocked view it offers is a really great bonus as well.

I’m very into the antique look, which is why the home has a darker palette with industrial touches.

On changes made to the living room

V: Since it was a compact space, I kept my built-ins to a minimum. The only ones that I have are the console and shelves, and that had been customised to fit into place. It’s also why we opted for a pair of lightweight armchairs from Journey East – it’s much easier to shift them, rather than a bulky sofa, out of the way.

Commonwealth Drive by The Local INN.terior 新家室

The kitchen was built on a raised platform (right) so that they could conceal the running pipes.

There used to be a wall that divided the living room and kitchen, but I had that knocked down because I wanted an open flow. However, I did install a foldable, glass sliding door to keep the fumes contained when I cook.

Still, this addition doesn’t take away from the ‘seamless’ appearance, and I think it’s largely thanks to the feature wall – it’s an oriented strand board that we extended from the living room all the way to the kitchen.

On changes made to the kitchen

V: A kitchen island is a must-have for me, but I won’t lie, trying to work one into the space was an incredibly difficult process; not only due to the flat’s configuration, but also because of the HDB restrictions.

hdb resale renovation singapore

The kitchen, pre-renovation.

To make way for it, I had to shift the walls of one of the bedrooms inwards, and that required HDB approval – the first request didn’t go through, and we had to resubmit. Eventually, they sent someone down to do an inspection and it was finally approved. This whole process actually set us back for about a week, and, while I can laugh about it now, I worried that the flat wouldn’t be ready by the end of November, which was when we were planning on moving in.

Commonwealth Drive by The Local INN.terior 新家室

Most of her kitchen appliances and fittings are black in colour to better match the overall industrial look of the home.

Despite the challenges, it has quickly become my favourite space in the home – the three of us would gather there to chat and eat.

I dare say that our kitchen island is far from the typical kinds you’ll see in other homes. Aside from building a cooker and oven into it, there’s a modem plus an additional downdraft hood embedded within. The hood is automatic too – when you press a button, it’ll pop up, otherwise, it’s concealed for an unhindered view of the space.

Commonwealth Drive by The Local INN.terior 新家室

To make the island even more functional, Valerie also had some power points installed.

Even the FENIX® laminates from EDL are special – aside from being scratch-, warp- and heat-proof, it’s also fingerprint resistant. In fact, it’s so functional that I used them in my wet area, around my mixer and sink, as well.

Commonwealth Drive by The Local INN.terior 新家室

The space behind the sink doubles as both the service yard and vanity area.

On changes made to the service yard, vanity and bathrooms

V: The service yard is small in size, so we had to get quite creative to get the biggest mileage out of it. A 3-in-1 space; Vincent customised the carpentry in a way where I could store both my bulky washing machine and conceal my ironing board, and still left me enough room for my vanity, which I really wanted to have.

hdb resale renovation singapore

The vanity area (left) and the bathroom (right).

And right next to this, we have the common bathroom. We had that clad in terrazzo tiles, because it’s retro-looking and reminds me of my childhood home. The other bathroom, however, is much more modern in design – featuring a black-and-white colour scheme that matches the home’s colonial-style blinds.

Commonwealth Drive by The Local INN.terior 新家室

Despite the compact square footage, the family managed to squeeze in a top-hung cabinet for additional storage space. It’s also embedded with lights to provide additional visibility.

On changes made to the bedrooms

V: We had a couple of changes made to the bedrooms, most of which were similar. First, the wardrobes – we used to have a pole system back in our old place, and we wanted to have that here. Only this time, we decided to include glass doors that doesn’t just keep the dust out, but also keeps the area well-lit, and makes it seem less built-up in a sense.

Commonwealth Drive by The Local INN.terior 新家室

Inside the master bedroom occupied by Valerie.

I didn’t want headboards because our beds are all divan, so Vincent proposed that we create false walls. This provided us with a niche to display our knick-knacks on and we even embedded lights in them to brighten up the spaces.

hdb resale renovation singapore

Inside the junior master occupied by one of her daughters.

However, the master bedroom does have an additional “balcony” area – it used to be part of the entryway, Vincent built a wall in to create a private nook. It looks a little different because I wanted something pleasant, away from the black, that’s why it’s more pastel-looking. Once I close the sliding doors, it becomes a personal retreat of mine.

Commonwealth Drive by The Local INN.terior 新家室

Valerie veered away from the homogeneous tiles and vinyl in favour of pastel ceramic tiles for her mini “balcony” area.

On working with The Local INN.terior

V: Like most homeowners, I sent in a request for quote via Qanvast. While I did meet up with other interior designers that were recommended in order to do a comparison, The Local INN.terior was the one who stood out the most.

Not only did their designer, Vincent, get back to me first, his designs were a definite cut above the rest, especially when it came to the kitchen. Despite it being a relatively tall order, he managed to present an idea that was out-of-the-box; he designed it so that it worked with the elongated shape, extending the platform beyond the original kitchen area to give us a bigger space to work with.

While it did mean that part of the living room had to be sacrificed, the space didn’t feel smaller in any way, and I think it’s, by and large, due to the glass door. Since we can see all the way through, it doesn’t feel claustrophobic. In that sense, I think Vincent was quite clever when it came to design planning.

Commonwealth Drive by The Local INN.terior 新家室

He was on the ball too – when HDB rejected our application to have the bedroom wall shifted, he carried on with the other renovation works first instead of putting it on pause, allowing us to stick to our move-in schedule.

Honestly, while their quote isn’t the cheapest, I felt that they were better value-for-money because of the amount of things Vincent was trying to accomplish, including the hacking and material choice.

But most importantly, he has a great attitude and demeanour – as you know, renovating is not a simple affair, being able to communicate effectively, and having that synergy definitely helped the process along too.


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