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Geylang 5-Room HDB Flat Finds New Life as a Relaxing Retirement Home

June 8, 2022

Also has enough rooms for the owners’ children too.

Geylang East Avenue 1 by Swiss Interior Design

Interior Firm: Swiss Interior Design

As the saying goes, too much of a good thing is a bad thing, but more square footage? That’s what most Singapore interior designers would like to see, or at least, what pumps Swiss Interior’s Hosen Gan up whenever he gets the chance to transform an old HDB flat into a new home for his clients.

“I was pretty excited to work on this resale flat in Geylang because it’s larger than usual,” says Hosen. “And even though I get to renovate older HDB flats quite frequently, this (project) was still a fresh experience for me because it has its own unique quirks and requirements.”

Geylang 5-Room HDB

The flat’s living area and balcony, pre-renovation.

To find out what these challenges entail, we got Hosen to share about his experience working on this HDB flat. Keep scrolling to see how the entire transformation was completed, from start to finish!

About the flat and its occupants

H (Hosen): I believe the owners are both in their fifties, and they upgraded to this 5-room flat last year because they wanted a comfortable space for their retirement. But because they’re living here with their three daughters, one of the project requirements was to ensure there would be enough bedrooms for everyone.

Geylang 5-Room HDB

The flat’s floor plan, post-renovation.

We were able to accomplish this, thanks to the size of the unit. Without the space, it wouldn’t have been possible to create an extra junior bedroom on top of the two existing ones and the current master bedroom.

The extra space also gave us more freedom to reconfigure the layout of the bathrooms and kitchen so that they’d have a flow of movement that makes more sense for modern-day living.

On the communal area’s makeover

Geylang 5-Room HDB

The front of the living room before the renovation.

H: The owners’ brief for the living room was simply to make it feel more spacious, and we did that by merging the existing living area with the balcony beside it.

To allow more natural light and air to enter the living room, the owners also chose not to have window grilles. Instead, we installed ZipTrak blinds, which lets the inside of the flat feel more ‘connected’ with the outside.

Geylang East Avenue 1 by Swiss Interior Design

Aesthetics-wise, the owners wanted the whole house to look as clean as possible, but not feel sterile. So, when we came up with the concept for the overall design, we incorporated a mixture of light and dark tans to act as a warm contrast to the white walls and built-ins.

Lighting plays an important role here as well, for example, the ceiling lights from Sol Luminaire have the right colour temperature, which helps introduce a cosy vibe throughout the whole living area.

The same goes for the LED lights surrounding the semi-circular entryway mirror, which also softens the vibe of the house with its rounded profile.

Geylang East Avenue 1 by Swiss Interior Design

The cabinet wall in the living room was another must-have for the homeowners since they really needed the storage space.

We gave this built-in look a sleeker look by going wide and tall with the cabinet dimensions and limiting the number of see-through displays to ensure there wouldn’t be too much visual clutter.

Geylang East Avenue 1 by Swiss Interior Design

About renovating the kitchen

Geylang 5-Room HDB

The kitchen, pre-renovation.

H: Before the renovation, the kitchen had a galley layout and also two doorways; one of them was near the main entrance and the other led into the original dining area. I think the previous owners kept this layout because they wanted to be able to go straight from the kitchen to the dining area where they can have their meals after coming home.

Then during the renovation, we sealed up both original entrances and opened a new one facing the dining table so that the kitchen can have an open-concept look.

Geylang East Avenue 1 by Swiss Interior Design

The new U-shaped layout is also more efficient because it forms a kitchen triangle between the sink, hob, and fridge. Ideally, there would be an uninterrupted stretch of space between the laundry area and the sink counter as well, but that’s impossible because of the rubbish chute between them which we aren’t allowed to demolish.

To cater for the large French door fridge that the owners bought, we also created a niche beside the breakfast counter, so that there would be enough room at the front and sides to open both fridge doors and fully extend the storage compartments inside.

Geylang East Avenue 1 by Swiss Interior Design

About revamping the junior bedrooms

Geylang 5-Room HDB

The flat’s original dining area, which was converted into a junior bedroom.

Geylang East Avenue 1 by Swiss Interior Design

H: What’s so interesting about the new junior bedroom for one of the owners’ daughters is that it used to be the original dining area beside the kitchen, and it’s why one of the kitchen’s existing doorways had to be sealed off for privacy.

There’s also a storeroom in the space that wasn’t demolished, so that we could turn it into a walk-in closet.

There were other possibilities with what we could do with the storeroom, such as hacking through the wall so that the master en suite would become a shared bathroom. But because there wasn’t enough space in the rest of the room to install a wardrobe, the only option was to use the storeroom to house the daughter’s clothing and belongings.

Geylang East Avenue 1 by Swiss Interior Design
Geylang 5-Room HDB

The walk-in wardrobe before (left) and after (right) the renovation.

In comparison, the other junior bedrooms have a more conventional layout, but the good thing about these rooms is that they’re about 140 to 150 sqft, and that allows us to do more with them than the ones in modern BTO flats which are only about 120 sqft.

For example, because of the extra 20-plus sqft, we were able to include a super single bed and built-in study desk, plus a two-seater sofa in one of the bedrooms to create a cosy corner.

Geylang East Avenue 1 by Swiss Interior Design

On revamping the master bedroom

Geylang 5-Room HDB

H: Like the rest of the flat, nearly everything in the master bedroom had to be gotten rid of, including the flooring and even the windows before it could be renovated.

For consistency, the master bedroom’s design mostly echoes what we created for the living room outside; it has a similar colour scheme and shares design elements like clean lines and soft curves.

Even the layout is similar where one side of the room is dedicated entirely to a TV wall with a dressing area, and the other is reserved solely for beds and seats. Like the other bedrooms, there’s also a workstation here, and the reason is because the owners want the flat’s shared spaces to be work-free zones that are purely for family time.

Geylang East Avenue 1 by Swiss Interior Design

About making over the common bathroom and master en suite

Geylang 5-Room HDB

The common bathroom, pre-renovation.

H: Most bathrooms in older HDB flats tend to have their showers located near to the entrance and they don’t have clearly demarcated wet and dry zones. These features can pose a danger to older occupants, plus it’s inconvenient when everything gets wet after a shower.

So, during the renovation, we changed the layouts for both bathrooms by shifting the WCs closer to their respective entrances and separating the shower areas from the rest of the space.

Geylang 5-Room HDB

In addition to that, we also made smaller tweaks to improve both bathrooms, like installing ventilation fans, shower niches, as well as new mirror cabinets for storing medications and hygiene products.

Geylang 5-Room HDB

The master en suite before (left) and after (right) the renovation.

To sum up

Geylang East Avenue 1 by Swiss Interior Design

H: In comparison to houses overseas, I’d say that the ones in Singapore are quite limited in terms of size and layout. But every once in a while, I’ll come across a unit like this flat and it provides an opportunity for me to exercise my creativity.

The most important part, however, is still the satisfaction of the homeowners. If they’re happy with the final result, then I’m happy too.

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