In This Retro-Industrial Home, Old School Becomes New Again
Sometimes, the marriage of two different design preferences can lead to something totally unique.
Renovation is already tough work but designing for an expanding family comes with even more considerations – from space planning to layout changes and budgeting, it’s all about optimising the home as much as possible – and then some.
Interior Firm: Craftwerkz Interior
For homeowners Nurul and Faizal, renovating their 4-room flat at Tampines GreenRidges was also about finding a balance between their respective preferred styles: retro/mid-century modern and industrial. But more than that, their goal was to design a home that was comfortable for all, including their three children who are all under the age of 5. Here’s what they did:
About the home’s concept
Nurul (N): Like most homeowners, we started out with a mood board of our favourites – there were real-life homes with the aesthetic that we were trying to achieve, colour palettes, and other key features.
Through this, we got to know our likes; I much preferred the mid-century modern/retro style while Faizal wanted a more industrial-inspired look. So, we wanted to find an interior designer who could combine both our styles into the home.
On changes made
N: Since our home already had an open-concept kitchen layout, we didn’t really see the need to change it. Instead, our focus was more on the little details – the furnishings, the carpentry, and the home’s overall vibe.
The home's layout.
Not having a feature wall gives us the freedom to change up our furniture layout with ease. Instead of a feature wall, we used colour blocking to add a pop of colour to the area. Not only is it a convenient way to spice up the living room, it can also be easily painted over whenever we want a new look.
That’s part of the reason why most of our furnishings are standalone pieces too; moving them around is effortless, and we find that the eclectic mix is much more eye-catching.
Because having a main feature wall will "dictate where our TV should always be”, Nurul and her husband decided against having one.
N: We gravitated towards darker tones for our kitchen during the selection process. The green won out in the end as it’s the only colour that truly complemented our set of yellow/mustard armchairs in the living room.
N: I know the seamless/handleless cabinetry is in trend these days, but we felt that our kitchen needed a bold pop. It just so happened that these handles from Etsy added the playful twist we were looking for!
Nurul and Faizal went with a smaller, mobile dining set instead of a kitchen island because it gave them flexibility on what they could turn their dining space into. From time to time, they flush it towards the wall for additional space for their kids.
N: We wanted a herringbone backsplash initially, but these mermaid ones caught our eye. When we were laying them in our kitchen, we mixed the patterned ones with plain versions to stop the look from being too messy or overwhelming, and that helped to add just the right amount of quirkiness to our space as well.
Tiling up the whole backsplash wall wasn’t possible – it would have broken our budget, but I wasn’t keen on leaving it clad in the white HDB tiles. So, our interior designer proposed two options: We could either plaster the remaining bit and cover it with paint or top up a little to invest in a cement screed wall. We went with the cement screed because it adds an industrial touch.
N: Splitting up our kitchen into wet and dry areas wasn’t part of our original plan either, but we wanted more storage areas. We added under lights and painted the wall a darker grey to draw more attention to our open shelves.
While we used darker palettes for many areas in the home, the kids’ room features a different aesthetic. The white and wood combination gives it a much brighter and fresher look. It’s really simple right now. When they’ve grown up a little, we’ll let them decide how they want their room to be.
“We wanted to paint a mural for the kids, but unfortunately, we got caught up in the moving in process,” shares Nurul. “We decided on a painted half-wall instead to break up the monotony.”
N: Despite the home’s overall dark look, we didn’t want to commit to using black. That’s why we played up the restful air in the bedroom by accenting the wall behind the headboard a darker grey. Combined with the concrete-look Lamitak laminates, which we used to plaster the walls of our walk-in wardrobe, the room has a much cosier vibe without coming off as too small or depressing.
Though the idea of having a walk-in wardrobe started out as “wishful thinking”, it became reality for them. “We had to pick between a regular L-shaped wardrobe and a king-sized bed or having the walk-in wardrobe and shrinking our bed, but the choice was clear to us,” shares Nurul.
N: Because we left the wall tiles in the bathrooms as is, we felt that both spaces were a little lacking in personality. So, we clad the floor in hexagonal tiles, and that became the main feature.
Meanwhile, the black fittings serve as a call back to the industrial style we wanted to incorporate – they offer a much sleeker look too.
The couple split the wet and dry areas up by building in glass panels that effectively works as a partition in both bathrooms.
On her furnishings
N: Most of our furniture were bought off Carousell – it’s a really pocket-friendly way to shop and it’s really easy to mix-and-match pieces that you like.
In fact, my favourite set of yellow “Pak awang” armchairs (chairs inspired by the organic, sleek lines of Mid-Century Modern Scandinavian furniture and then popularised by the 1960s Malay TV sitcom Pak Awang Temberang) were from there; they are kind of old-school though, that’s why we had to mix things up with modern elements to keep things from looking too dated.
Other than that, I have pieces from IKEA, Etsy, Ezbuy and Johor Bahru. So, yes, it’s really an eclectic mix, but we find that it works for us!
On working with Craftwerkz Interior and Asyiah
N: Our neighbour first engaged Craftwerkz Interior for their renovation and recommended them to us. When we first met, there was instant chemistry, and they provided comprehensive consultations, giving us plenty of great suggestions on layout and design. I felt that Asyiah had a good grasp of our styles without us having to explain it either.
Some IDs will just execute based on what you already asked of them because of the established ‘customer is always right’ mentality, but Asyiah did the opposite. She’s honest with her renovation advice, telling us which features/elements won’t look as good in reality which I really appreciated.
And she proposed alternative ideas that worked well within our budget. Take for instance our cement screed half-wall backsplash, and the walk-in wardrobe. Both are great additions to the space that we never thought of having.
To sum up
N: For us, it was all about picking out our favourite features and then finding that sweet spot, where everything just clicks together. Interior trends come and go, and you might get tired of them eventually, which is why it’s important to not only find something that speaks to you, but also endures the test of time.
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