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Old Choa Chu Kang 5-Room Flat Has Its Own Gym (and a Fresh New Look)

With careful layout changes, this home now has way more storage and even its own gym!

Unless you’re living alone, renovating your home will involve balancing different preferences. While most homeowners need only do that with their spouse, Justin had to do so with his parents and adult sister – all of whom have their own set of likes and dislikes.

“We knew that finding a middle ground was going to be tough,” says Justin. “For example, my mother loves the traditional, oriental look, whereas I prefer an industrial theme. Somehow, we had to find a way to reach a middle ground.”

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A previous renovation with a contractor left the family facing numerous issues; and while they’ve put up with it for years, Justin knew that they had to rectify these issues before his parents got too old. So, this time around, they decided to engage an interior designer – specifically, Hilda from Charlotte’s Carpentry – to do things right.

To see how everything eventually came together in this old 5-room flat in Choa Chu Kang, we sat down to have a chat with Justin!

About himself, his family, and his home

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Justin (J): My parents bought this home around the time I was born. Before this recent renovation, they hired a contractor to work on the house, and it created a lot of existing issues with the space planning and layout. And since my parents are getting older, we thought that we should fix those issues before they get too old.

Because we knew that we wouldn't be selling the house anytime soon, we wanted to future-proof the house for my parents. Even though we haven’t installed any grab bars or anything of that sort, we wanted to make sure that the space itself would be able to accommodate any changes we need to make in the future.

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At the same time, both my sister and I aren’t dating anyone, so we don’t have any plans to move out or get a BTO anytime soon. Previously, our bedrooms were quite kiddy – for example, my sister’s room was almost fully purple. In a way, we wanted the space to feel a bit more ‘professional’, to reflect our transition to adulthood.

On searching for the right interior designer

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J: Charlotte’s Carpentry was actually the first ID firm we reached out to. I saw their portfolio on Qanvast, and based on the rough idea that we initially had, they came the closest to it.

But even then, we still wanted to do our due diligence – I think our research took us about three months overall. We reached out to about five or six other IDs through other portals, but in the end, we felt that Charlotte’s Carpentry still resonated with us best.

It helped that our ID, Hilda, did a 3D render before we signed with her, so it was very easy to visualise the end result. She also said that she would propose the most expensive plan before discussing things to cut out. So, the contract price never went beyond the first quotation, and this honesty assured us that she has our interest at heart.

About the living room’s makeover

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Changing the location of the living room

J: My house has an L-shaped living room, which is pretty uncommon in HDB flats. But the previous renovation didn’t really allow us to use it properly – before this, the living area was next to the door, where the home gym is.

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The old living room

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The living room, post-renovation

The area next to the balcony was completely unused, which was a waste. This time, I wanted to shift the living room nearer the windows to take advantage of the sunlight coming in. This position also enables cross ventilation between the door and window, so it feels breezier. Family gatherings now are a lot easier as we can seat more people.

Doing this left us with an empty space beside the door. When we met up with prospective IDs, we ask them for ideas on how to use it. Some of them suggested creating a study room – which, to us, didn’t make sense, since we already have our own study areas in each of our bedrooms.

Creating an entertainment room was another idea, but because this area’s near the living room, we felt that the audio would clash with the sound from the living room. Plus, there are no windows here, so the ventilation isn’t great – I figured that whatever this space became shouldn’t be something we spend a lot of time in.

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“We didn’t want the home gym to feel so small, so we used floor-to-ceiling windows to create an enlargement effect,” says Justin.

Taking all of this into consideration, a home gym made the most sense. It’s something that we’d use often, but at the same time, we won’t spend an extended amount of time there each day. At most, we’ll spend an hour here everyday.

Also, my father is already retired, and since he’s home a lot, it lets him keep himself healthy.

About the kitchen

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J: The kitchen was more or less in good condition, because we don’t really use it – none of us can really cook (laughs). We did ask Hilda if we should change a few things, but she said there was no point in doing that, since it was in very good condition.

So, we left it mostly untouched – everything from the floor tiles to the backsplash remained as they were. It helps that the white-and-wood theme is timeless, so even though it was renovated years ago, the look still is quite relevant today.

The only things that we changed were the appliances. We replaced things like the washing machine and microwave, since the previous ones were quite old.

On making over his bedroom

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J: One thing we wanted from this renovation was more storage space. Our house doesn’t have a store room, so growing up, it was quite a challenge to find a place for all our things.

We initially wanted to get a standalone bed frame that provides storage space, but Hilda suggested creating a platform bed instead. Other than its functional aspect, it also looks very seamless – like it’s integrated into the design itself.

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View this project by Charlotte's Carpentry

As I prefer darker tones, Hilda used darker wood laminates for the wardrobe, platform, and shelves. She also gave me a hotel-like vibe, which I appreciate – it creates this cosy feeling which I really like.

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Justin’s bedroom, pre-renovation

Also, it looks and feels cleaner. Previously, I used a lot of standalone furniture and had things stacked up around the place, so there’s a lot of dust. But now, with this cleaner look, it’s much easier for me to clean, and I’m not having major sinus infections anymore.

On his sister’s bedroom renovation

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Justin’s sister’s bedroom, pre-renovation

J: For my sister’s room, our main goal was to fix the existing issues. Some of her shelves had gaps that were only about 5cm tall, so she couldn’t really fit anything in there.

Also, the previous renovation took place when she was much younger, so her built-in table – which was originally facing the wall – was way too short for her as an adult.

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So, Hilda redid the entire shelving area to include sufficient gaps in between, and built a bigger, L-shaped table facing the door. It’s more space-efficient, I feel – now she has a dedicated wardrobe area, separated by the desk, and then the bed behind her, out of her line of sight.

Oh, our ID actually suggested creating a platform bed for my sister as well, but after some discussion, we decided against it because her room is smaller than mine. So, we decided to stick to our original plan to use a standalone bed frame for her.

To sum up

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J: This renovation was very different from the one we did with the contractor. Back then, we didn’t have any renders or drawings to help us visualise the house. Also, there wasn’t much space-planning involved – my parents just told the contractor what they liked, and it was included without considering the potential problems.

This time around, the experience was much more smooth-sailing. In fact, when we first met Hilda, she was more excited about this renovation than we were, because to her, there was a lot of potential for this house. I think we could see that her enthusiasm was genuine, and it showed in the way she planned and designed the house.

Overall, I’d say that the renovation is more suited to our lifestyle. It’s not only more comfortable, but more practical as well – the space is more efficiently used, there’s more storage space, things like that. In a way, we feel much happier at home now!

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