Instead of Moving, This Family Renovated Their Tampines Home
Going for a top-to-toe makeover was definitely the right decision.
To move or to stay? That was the question which Ellein and her family was faced with after living at their condominium home in Tampines for five years.
“When we first moved here in 2014, we didn’t engage an interior designer. And we handled most of the basic renovations by ourselves,” says Ellein. “But after giving birth to our first son, we realised that most of the surroundings as well as the furniture weren’t exactly child-friendly. Because of that, we thought about moving out for a fresh start or getting a professional to redo our home.”
The front and back of the living room before the renovation.
Interior Firm: Habit
Eventually, two deciding factors – a love for their first home as well as a long-time friendship with Habit designers, Denise and Yan Ling – led to Ellein’s choice to proceed with a gut renovation that took every room from tired-looking to beautifully-designed.
About themselves and their home’s layout
Ellein (E): I live here with my husband and my two boys. The house itself is about 990 square feet, which makes it close in size to a 5-room HDB flat. We really like it here because it’s always breezy; there are two balconies on both sides of the living room, one of which faces Bedok Reservoir, so we don’t have to turn on the air-con even on warm days.
The floor plan of Ellein’s home featuring its current layout.
After having our second son, we decided to change the whole design of our home so that it’s not just cosier, but also better utilised. Sometimes, after living in a house for too long, you might notice that it isn’t 100% efficient, which is why we chose to engage Habit to totally redo our home.
While we did think about moving out to stay with my in-laws, we eventually changed our minds because this is our first home together. Moreover, the unit number of this apartment carries a special meaning to us because it matches our eldest son’s birthday, and that’s another reason why we chose to keep the house in the end.
On changes made to the living area
E: Our first renovation when we moved in was quite simple. Basically, we changed some of the laminates and added some extra storage space for my husband’s Lego and toy figure collections. That was pretty much it.
But this time round, we got Habit to take a closer look at the entire layout of the house, so that it can be better optimised. For example, the study at the back of the living area used to part of a larger bedroom, but Habit demolished the walls around it to create a compact sleeping nook for my helper. Doing that also gave us extra space to build a storeroom for our luggage bags, appliances and my husband’s toy boxes.
The other new addition is the TV feature wall, which comes with a display cabinet. We used to have our TV placed on a console where the demolished wall was, but it’s thanks to Habit that we learnt that this wasn’t the most efficient way to use our living space.
You know how there’s always a gap behind a TV console? It might be small, but we learnt that every inch counts. We now have a bigger walkway at the front of the living area because we swapped our previous console to a TV mount. Plus, it’s more useful because we’re able to swivel the TV so that it faces the balcony when we are having dinner there.
About the balcony yard’s and main entrance’s makeover
The main entrance (left) and balcony yard (right) prior to the renovation.
E: We have two balconies in the house, and we now use one of them as a dining area while the other is a service yard for laundry. Previously, the indoors space beside the yard wasn’t maximised that well, so Habit added a storage island that serves as a mini pantry.
The mosaic feature wall and the side cabinet are new features too. I wanted a mosaic wall because my job involves creative work – and having a neutral backdrop makes me happy because I can easily snap all the photos I need. For my husband, the equivalent would be seeing his Lego collection on display; each row is dedicated to a different series like Star Wars or Harry Potter.
Like the space beside the yard, the entryway features a new layer of mosaic tiles, and as part of the renovation for this area, Habit halved the size of our shoe cabinet. It used to be a lot larger with about seven to ten shelves in total, but since it’s been shrunk, we could fit in a seating area which is helpful for teaching our boys how to put on their shoes.
On changes made to the kitchen
The kitchen prior to the renovation.
E: My mother-in-law uses the kitchen most. She used to complain that there wasn’t enough counter space for food preparation and about how the stove and sinks were too far apart because they weren’t side-by-side. But now, after the renovation, the kitchen’s layout has been optimised and she no longer has to turn around just to drop a used pan or pot into the sink.
Another idea that Habit had for the kitchen was to remove part of the wall beside the living area and replacing it with a glass window – it’s a useful feature because it prevents any cooking smells from escaping the kitchen while allowing us to keep an eye on the boys from inside the space.
On changes made to the kids’ room
E: This room was quite sparse previously; there was just a desk, a wardrobe and my makeup counter, but Habit turned it into a kids’ bedroom by building in a L-shaped platform. The structure serves two purposes: the first is storage, and the second is to add an element of fun that a kid’s room should have.
My eldest son really enjoys the look and feel of his bedroom. To him, it’s as though he has his own house within the home. I didn’t notice that myself, until one day, he pointed out how the stairs and the wardrobe are like a small corridor that leads into his ‘personal house’!
On the master bedroom and en suite’s renovation
The master bedroom and en suite prior to the renovation.
E: Prior to the renovation, our master bedroom wasn’t very well-optimised; there wasn’t much within the space other than our bed and a study table that my husband uses to play computer games. So, what Habit did was to split the room into two – one half of it is solely for sleeping, while the other serves as our changing area.
They accomplished this by adding a storage partition between both zones; the lights for each half can also be controlled separately, and it’s a feature that I really like because it prevents us from waking our younger son, who still sleeps with us, or each other up accidentally.
For the en suite’s renovation, what I find amazing is how Habit managed to squeeze in a nice vanity into the corner of the space. By doing so, they made the bathroom feel bigger and also created enough space to add a side shelf above the WC for our toiletries.
The top-mount sink is another change that I really appreciate. Now, I’m able to place all of my facial products and cosmetics on the counter, and I won’t have to worry about water splashing out due to the sink’s curved design.
About the common bathroom’s makeover
The common bathroom, before (left) and after (right) the renovation.
E: The original grey tiles that came with the common bathroom and en suite weren’t to our liking, and they made both spaces feel claustrophobic. So, for this renovation, we opted to get new ones.
The terrazzo tiles in the common bathroom are a refreshing change, and I like how they come in large-format pieces with less grouts. Our boys like the new tiles too, and they often have a fun time identifying all the different colours on the walls while they’re bathing.
To sum up
E: There’s a belief that you shouldn’t engage your friends in a professional capacity, but after working with Denise and Yan Ling for this renovation, I feel that our friendship has been strengthened and I’ve recommended them to other friends as well.
They’re very responsible individuals who communicate in an honest, no-nonsense manner and if my ideas don’t work, they’d tell it straight. Also, they’re very serious about their work – for example, there was some difficulty sourcing for a display cabinet with the right dimensions for my husband’s Lego collection, but Habit didn’t give up and they eventually found a suitable option.
Overall, I’m really thankful for Habit’s help with this makeover. And it’s really heart-warming that my eldest sees things the same way because his room is “my house”, as he calls it. Coming from a three-year-old boy, that’s when you know that a house has really become a home.
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