Some believe in it, while others don’t. But love at first sight was very much a cliché come true for designer Denise Chng.
“When I was hunting for a new home, I didn’t look around that much, because I fell in love with this place right after I saw it,” says Denise. “What captivated me was the view. Most of the buildings here are low-rise, so there isn’t much blocking the way. And the whole environment, the surroundings – they just felt right.”
What was less impressive, however, were the original insides of this 657 square feet Telok Kurau apartment.
For a start, the developers had catered enough room for three sleeping areas, which Denise felt “was a bit too much”. Similarly problematic was the original layout of Denise's bedroom, which left its new owner with little room for useful storage. “Even though it came with a flip-down bed and open shelves. I just felt that entire section needed to be tweaked,” she recalls.
Enlisting the help of fellow designer, Li Yanling, whom she met at a previous job at a hotel design consultation firm and later co-founded design practice Habit with, Denise then set to work on making the interior changes that she wanted.
And top on her list of things to go were, of course, the loft bed’s original stairs. “Although we kept the basic skeleton of the bed, everything else was re-built. We also pushed the structure outwards to encompass the walls and create extra space for a larger wardrobe beneath.” Clad in textured laminates from Lamitak and jet black veneers, the revamped stairway now doubles as a cosy corner/breakfast counter.
“There’s a dual purpose to everything we create – not just for my home, but for our clients’ (homes) too,” says Denise about her approach to design. “I feel that certain features become dead spaces if you’re building them just for (a single) purpose.”
This very same principle was likewise applied to the rework of a closed-off study adjoining the apartment’s entryway and island bathroom. Aside from being a quiet thinking spot, this compact, but cosy corner in Denise’s home also serves as a thoughtfully-designed guest room post-facelift.
“We wanted to create more value,” says Denise about the concept behind the study’s current layout. “Although this apartment was a one-plus-one, there wasn’t much privacy for guests; that’s why we decided to turn the study into its own room. There are two clusters of fixtures here; one is a pull-out desk, and the other includes a flip up/down bed and a clothes closet.”
In contrast, rather than being its own standalone space, the island bathroom is visually connected to the living room through a backsplash clad in glossy black mosaic tiles – the very same components that make up the living room’s dramatic statement ceiling. “The idea was to create a subtle call-back,” explains Denise.
A closer look at the living room also brings to the fore another detail that reflects the duality of Denise’s, and by association, Habit’s approach to design.
“The mood of this space at night is very different from how things are in the day,” says Denise. “It’s bright now, but when the sun goes down, it gets really dark because of the tiles – setting foot in here really feels like entering a lounge.”
That said, for all of its distinctive flair and charming boldness, Denise’s own home is not the end-all to her creative ambitions. “At the end of the day, I think I had a very safe mentality when designing this home. There were practical concerns involved in the design process. For instance, if I were to rent or sell it in the future, the (home’s) look can’t possibly be too avant-garde."
"If it’s possible I would like to experiment with colour-blocking someday – maybe paint an entire house in white, from top-to-bottom," Denise muses. "But until then, I’ll just have to wait for the right client to come my way.”