Even though going was slow, the end result was absolutely worth it.
A typical renovation takes about six to seven weeks but for couple Shu Ling and Chin Feng, it instead took an entire year to get their home completed.
“Though it is our first home together, it’s unlikely that we’ll move,” shares Shu Ling. “So, we wanted it to be the best it could be, but there were some ideas that we couldn’t make up our minds on – we started planning the design in September last year and the renovation was finally completed in August this year.”
Eventually, this careful process culminated in a charming home that oozes contemporary cool and classic appeal with its beautifully wainscoted blue-green walls as well as mid-century inspired furnishings.
Needless to say, its owners were satisfied, not just with the end result, but also the journey that brought them to it. “The process was slow, but we truly enjoyed every moment of the renovation, and I guess that’s why, looking at our home now, we have little to no regrets,” says Shu Ling.
To find out about the makeover, we sat down with Shu Ling and Chin Feng to uncover all the changes – from to layout tweaks to new partitions – that were made to their 5-room HDB home which they share with their two pet cats, Ninja and Logan.
Shu Ling (SL): Hi, I’m Shu Ling and I live here with my husband, Chin Feng. I’m a business owner – I studied fashion in the past and wanted to return to it, so I founded BASIS Clothing together with my sister!
Chin Feng (CF): For me, I’m in sales. Been in the industry for around seven years.
About the home's new look
CF: We leaned towards a modern-colonialism vibe at the start, but the home didn’t turn out that way in the end – through our gradual filtering, the interiors just evolved to match our aesthetic. However, it still retains certain aspects of the modern colonial look like the wainscoting on the walls of the living room and the Shaker-style cabinet doors.
On changes made
SL: We weren’t in a hurry to move in, so we took our time planning and making right decisions for our home. Instead of looking for a theme to work with, we worked with simple search terms like “living room”, “dining area” and “kitchen” before picking out the little details that we saw and liked – that eventually led to the vision that we had for our home.
SL: Other than the living room, the original layout made the rest of the home feel really small. So, we had to modify the space a little.
CF: We built in an additional partition in the living room, which creates an entryway and private area. That’s great because we’re private people. I was looking forward to using navy as an accent colour…
SL: … But I was set on using pink in other areas of the home. Though the blue-and-pink combination is popular, I personally felt that it was dated. So, we swapped out the navy for green, which was our wedding’s colour scheme [laughs]. Our interior designer also worked in a ‘window’ (in the wall) for the light to pass through or the living room would be too dark otherwise.
CF: We had our hearts set on an open-concept kitchen from the beginning, so hacking down a wall was always part of the plan. However, we didn’t know we were going to do away with the service yard. It was a move suggested by our interior designer, and we’re glad that we did it because it made the space look a lot longer.
SL: But that’s not to say that the service yard is completely gone. One of our cupboards actually stores our washing machine. It also has a nook for us to fold our laundry on and a rack to hang the clothes up – it’s a very functional space and I love it a lot [laughs].
SL: Most cat owners who build installations along their walls have a wooden theme going on so the catwalks don’t look out of place. However, that was out of the question for us as our home isn’t MUJI-esque. Instead, we went online to find matching fixtures that we could use and built this cat wall.
There’s even a cat flap on the door of our master bedroom – it was important for us because Ninja and Logan tend to scratch on the doors (when they want to come in). And leaving a gap for them to squeeze through meant that the cold air from the A/C would leak out.
SL: To enlarge the space, we also hacked one wall to combine the master bedroom with the spare room. We then turned that into our dressing area by lining one wall with cabinets, adding more lights, a vanity and a big mirror.
SL: There’s also a partition room, but it’s not quite decked out yet [laughs]. It’s going to be my ‘hideaway’ space that’s small and cosy. I’m planning to bring in a sofa, a TV and consoles.
CF: The bathrooms underwent a huge overhaul. The original tiles were in this kueh lapis colour [laughs] and they had to go. Shu Ling wanted pink bathrooms while I wanted a black one.
SL: So, we compromised. The common bathroom has an accent wall with pink hexagonal tiles and black fixtures while the master en suite features pink scallop tiles and gold hardware.
About their furnishings and décor
SL: I think we invested a lot of time into finding the right furnishings. The bigger, bulkier items were bought locally. Most of the bathroom tiles were from Hafary, but our pink tiles were from a neighbourhood store that was recommended by our ID.
CF: We also put a lot of thought into our appliances because we would like to live without a helper as much as possible. Every single chore that can be automated, is automated.
We’ve a Steigen laundry drying system that allows us to dry clothes indoors, a dishwasher that we've been using after every cookout, and of course a dryer for wovens and big sheets! These appliances have added great convenience to our stay so far and are in our humble opinion a very worthy investment.
CF: Our TV console, bedframe, bathroom accessories and a lot of our décor lights were from Taobao. We got our headboard from an Australian brand though.
On challenges faced
CF: HDB didn’t approve for our service yard to be hacked away. We had to go through several applications. Eventually, they said that they would approve it if we got a professional engineer to evaluate and make sure that it was safe to do so.
SL: Because we have two cats with us, we also needed to grille up our home. It was challenging as the space was narrow – we had to install a casement grille with mesh. For now, only the service yard and living room windows have been done up, but we’re planning to change that in the future.
To sum up
CF: Though our decision-making was on the slower side, our home is filled with enduring features that we know we will really love. And to be honest, we don’t see a need to constantly move – the house is very nice, and it’s also near to our parents’ homes and at a convenient location.
We were also lucky to have a very patient ID who worked around our timeline, hers was much shorter. And even though sometimes she chased us to be faster, we are really blessed to have her around! [laughs]
SL: A word for advice from us is to take your time and enjoy the process! We've been questioned a lot about why we take so long for our home to be ready, but I guess it's up to every individual to work in a pace that's comfortable to them. I say this a lot but it's your home so, you do you!
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