If there’s one thing that homeowners and designers actively avoid when trying to make a space look bigger, it’s dark colours that feel constricting. Yet, black and grey were first picks for accountant Yu Junkey who recently renovated a Hougang resale flat.
“That’s because if I did everything in white, it would look too sterile,” says Junkey. "Plus, it probably wouldn't stay that way for long because of how hard it is to keep things clean."
Hearing his client’s wishes for a dark, but spacious abode, Dan Wu – founder and namesake of local interior design studio Dan’s Workshop – then proposed a drastic change in layout by merging all of the existing rooms into two extended living and sleeping zones.
Now a truly personal space with just the right balance of boldness and expansiveness going for it, Junkey’s home is a case study of monochrome chic done right.
“I was actually a bit hesitant about choosing a dark colour scheme because it’s my first time renovating a house,” says Junkey. “But after looking at the final result, I am sure that it was the right decision.”
On renovation requirements:
Junkey (J): The renovation took about 10 weeks to complete, and right from the start, I knew that I wanted a look that’s minimalist – something that’s clutter-free, looked neat and had plenty of clean lines.
Also, the original plan was not to demarcate the rooms in any way at all, and to have the entire space built like a loft where there are no walls between the different areas. But I thought about it again and felt that it would be too much; and that’s how the house ended up being divided into two large zones.
Some other things that I was looking for were quality workmanship and a proper schedule that would allow me to keep track of the progress.
On the layout:
J: You can think of the layout as two separate rows that run parallel to each other.
The current sleeping area and walk-in wardrobe were previously two smaller bedrooms, plus a storeroom combined into one; the new dining area is located where the old master bedroom was, and it’s now combined with the rest of the original living room space.
On unique home feature(s):
J: I have many books, so one of my requests to Dan was to build a bookcase as the centrepiece of the living area. And after some brainstorming, we came up with the idea to build one into the partition at the back of the dining area.
There’s also the hidden door that’s flushed into the structure. Personally, I feel that it’s a simple, but neat solution that ensures my personal spaces stay private. The fun part about it, is when visitors come over for the first time, they’ll never fail to ask, “Where’s the bedroom?” [laughs]
On the renovation process:
J: If I remember correctly, I think the renovation started on the last week of October; the workers first started hacking the walls around then. And by the first week of January, Dan handed over the keys – there were some holidays in the middle, so that certainly ate into schedule a little.
Dan also sent me regular updates so that I would have an idea of what went on. And because of that, seeing the completed project for the first time wasn’t really surprising for me. I also recall thinking that I should have been even more daring, because even with the dark colour scheme, the house turned out brighter than I had expected.
On working with Dan’s Workshop:
J: At the start of the project, it was all about getting to understand each other’s expectations, and once that was done I let Dan take over the reins. Actually, there was very little close supervision on my part even though I wanted to be a hands-on homeowner.
Also, I am not sure why, but when I first met up with Dan, I got the impression that he has very high expectations for his work – and that was what made me feel that he was the right person for the job.
On renovation challenges:
J: I remember clearly that there was a challenge with the kitchen. Because of the plan to create an open-concept space, Dan had to raise the (kitchen) floor to keep it level with the outside, and that also meant we had to ‘push up’ the windows because of a safety requirement stating that they must be at least, I think, 1 meter from the floor.
Dan did this by removing the window frame, raising the base wall by a little, and then reinstalling the structure at the new height.
On choosing furniture:
J: I got my furniture from multiple stores. The sofa is from Mountain Teak, the dining table is from GreyHammer, the bed frame is from Ethnicraft, and the dining chairs are from etch&bolts.
I do have some previous experience hunting for furniture, but the thing is, I am very slow at it because I need to view the items myself – every piece is personal, and I have to make sure that it fits the space.
On lessons learnt:
J: You should always aim to achieve your dreams. The flat was in pretty good shape when I bought it, and I thought a simple paintjob would be all that’s needed. But it didn’t take me long to realise that a thorough renovation would be the most efficient way of getting a home that I truly wanted, rather than making small tweaks along the way.
I have also learnt that it’s important to go into a renovation prepared, which means doing enough research. Don’t rush the process! Instead, take your time to browse resources like magazines and the Internet to get an idea of what you really want.
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