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Peek Into An Architect’s Zero-Renovation Tropical Abode

There’s always the assumption that architects design their homes the way they do their projects - with an emphasis on structure, space and linearity.

Yet if anything, architect Livina's rental condominium is a homage to all things un-structured. Plants in all sizes (from tiny succulents to hulking Areca palms) flourish, while décor in a fusion of Scandinavian, vintage and Asian styles create a tropical-themed masterpiece. Though many might find her space a shoo-in for 2017’s ever-popular Jungalow aesthetic; for Livina, the process was entirely instinctive.

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‘I don’t feel like my home has a particular style, or that I’m going with some theme. I just paired the things I liked and thought matched well,’ she quips.

Ironically, it was her close encounters with interior stylists and landscape artists in her former architectural studio that helped hone her keen eye for home decor. “I often observed them at work, and picked up their habits along the way. And one of them was a love for plants,”, she enthuses.

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Now mother to an adorable two-year old boy, Livina dedicates her time to being part domestic goddess, supermom and macramé extraordinaire. But perhaps what’s most impressive is how she managed to pull off her home’s impressive style – without spending a dime on renovation works! We spent some time with the multi-talented mummy as she reveals her tricks to buying and styling pieces, the perfect indoor plants and tips to shaping out a kid-friendly space.

Qanvast (Q): First off, tell us a bit about yourself!

Livina (L): I’m currently a stay-at-home mum to my two-year-old son, Matteo. I previously worked as an architect in an architectural firm, specialising in residential projects like bungalows and landed houses. I quit my job just before I gave birth, so as to focus on taking care of my son in his formative years. Now that he’s attending pre-school, my husband has been egging me to get back to the workforce! (Laughs).

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Q: You mentioned that this was a rental. How did you manage to transform the house without doing any built-ins and renovation works?

L: As the apartment already came with the kitchen and bathrooms done up, and we weren’t allowed to do any major renovation works like changing the tiling, we decided to match our furniture with the existing built ins. I tried to find loose pieces that could be easily moved, dismantled or swapped out – just in case we plan to move to a new house again.

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Q: Where did you get your furniture from?

L: We tried to keep our furnishing budgets low (considering this is a rental). So, many of our furniture pieces are actually from IKEA! We also got some pieces from Grafunkt (dining chairs), Castlery (TV console) and Crate and Barrel (Wine Cabinet). There are also some stuff that I brought back from my travels; for instance, a leather lounge chair, which I bought from Sri Lanka on a company trip, and some traditional Balinese knick-knacks.

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Q: Any money-saving hacks when shopping for furniture?

L: If you don’t mind, consider getting display sets for better savings. True, some of them may have some imperfections or scratches, but they are often nothing major. We got our wine cabinet (which we've been eyeing for a long time) from Crate and Barrel at half-price! And if you’re moving from another place, Carousell is a godsend to get rid of your old pieces. We managed to earn back a sum to fund our furnishing costs – by selling our old furniture on the platform. Even if you’re selling at rock bottom prices (like we did), it’s better than seeing perfectly usable items in the trash.

Q: With all these plants, furniture and knick-knacks around, how do you keep everything in place – even with a kid?

L: I do try to educate my son on the things he’s allowed to touch, and the things he cannot. For example, we allocated a storage cabinet for him to place all his toys and playthings. That’s the only area he’s allowed to have access to – and thankfully he takes to instructions well!

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L: As for plants, some parents are appalled that I have cactuses in my home (where it’s in close proximity to my son), but I have instilled in him for the longest time what things he can touch and what things he cannot. He listens – and doesn’t have much of a fascination for plants anyway. I’d tell him that if he touches the cactus, he’s going to get hurt, so he avoids it.

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Q: Other considerations to make for a kid-friendly home?

L: When Matteo was still a baby, we did attach those plastic corner guards to protect him from sharp furniture edges. We also tried to choose furniture which was a little ‘out of reach’ for him. Our storage components like the bookshelves, cabinets and consoles are very tall, so it’s almost impossible for him to reach the handle and tip everything over. Likewise, we tried to choose cabinet doors that are difficult to open – some have their handles flushed inside (like a hole), some don’t even have handles.

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Q: What plants are easy to maintain and great for indoors?

L: Definitely plants from the fig family, like Ficus Lyrata (Fiddle Leaf Fig) and Ficus Elastica (Rubber Fig). They are really hardy and can go for the longest times without water. Other plants I’d recommend are the money plant and Monstera Deliciosa (Swiss Cheese Plant), as well as Areca palms and cactuses.

Q: Any housekeeping and styling tips to share with new homeowners?

L: I think go with closed cupboards. We used to have open shelves, but no matter what we did, it just looked really cluttered. And with kids, it gives them more reason to pull things out. At the end of the day, concealed storage really works if you don’t have the time to constantly rearrange and tidy up over and over - out of sight, out of mind. 

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L: As for styling your home, I always believe in sticking to the classics – neutrals, black & white, marbles – that kind of thing. Especially if you’re not really sure of what you want, these themes will never go out of style in the long run. Besides, neutral tones like these allow you to easily match and blend with the rest of your existing furniture.

Love that relaxed, tropical vibe?

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