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Post-Revamp, This HDB Executive Apartment Feels Even Larger

December 16, 2020

Now, it has a roomier entryway, a larger kitchen, open-concept living spaces, and much more.

Just like maisonettes and jumbo flats, executive apartments are larger (and not to mention, rarer) than even the biggest of 5-room resale HDB flats. So naturally, when an opportunity to purchase one came around last year, James and his wife took it.

Bukit Merah by Aart Boxx Interior

Interior Firm: Aart Boxx Interior

“I think it’s about 130 square meters in size,” says James, who’s originally from the UK, but has lived in Singapore for the past 8 years. “We did find homes that were bigger, but they either had too much space, were older than what we wanted or didn’t have a layout that suited our renovation plans; this particular Bukit Merah executive apartment was just the right fit for us.”

However, before the couple could move in, they first had to give their (then) newly-purchased home a facelift – which they did successfully with Aart Boxx Interior’s help. For a more in-depth look at the entire process, read on to find out what James has to share about their first renovation experience!

About himself and their home

James (J): Prior to moving to Bukit Merah, I had always been living at Tanjong Pagar. My wife lived in a condo in the East and then we rented a home together at Tanjong Pagar for some time. So, when we looked for an HDB flat, we wanted one in a relatively central location that wasn’t too old and could offer us options for our renovation plans.

executive apartment HDB renovation Bukit Merah

The balcony, which is one of the three ‘pointy corners’ in the house. (Photo courtesy of James.)

executive apartment HDB renovation Bukit Merah

The floor plan of James' home, hand-drawn by Aart Boxx Interior designer Sam Peh

Eventually, we found this executive apartment and it had the most potential out of the other flats that we saw – there were no obstructing beams or structures preventing us from having clean open spaces. That allowed us to expand certain areas, such as the kitchen and master bedroom, and also build a new storeroom.

About the entryway’s renovation

J: Like the balcony, we decided to include some retro tiles as accents at the entrance. It’s my wife’s idea and I think it turned out pretty nice.

She also wanted to have some storage solutions in the space, so there are cabinets beneath the seats and at the sides, which we use to store our shoes, umbrellas, and just about anything we need before leaving the house.

Bukit Merah by Aart Boxx Interior
executive apartment HDB renovation Bukit Merah

The view from the walkway into kitchen, mid-renovation.

Aart Boxx had to hack a wall beside the kitchen to install the sliding windows; they don’t really serve a practical purpose other than being a ‘good-to-have’ feature in case we ever need to separate the two areas.

When we first moved in, we had the windows closed, but that sort of negated the open vibe of the house, so we haven’t shut them since.

On the living room’s makeover

executive apartment HDB renovation Bukit Merah

J: Our home has a mostly squarish layout, except there are a couple of sharp corners in the living room and other parts of the house, like the balcony and the bedroom. They didn’t really pose a problem for our renovation, and neither did the small nooks below the windows.

The original plan was to have some cabinets built into the nooks, but we simply utilised them to store our seats and cushions.

Bukit Merah by Aart Boxx Interior

There’s also a custom cabinet behind the couch, the plan was always to have a spot where we could place our record player; placing it there was the obvious choice because that way we’ll be able to change the music without having to walk in front of anyone who’s watching the TV.

The rug looks like it’s a single piece, but it’s actually two pieces; we got it customised at Heritage Carpets in Woodlands. There’s a front piece and a back one that fits nicely around the cabinet.

On renovating the kitchen and guest bathroom

executive apartment HDB renovation Bukit Merah

The kitchen, mid-renovation

J: Expanding the kitchen was one of the few ideas that my wife and I had, and we trusted the Aart Boxx team to pull it off. Back when we were still looking for apartments, we always kept an eye out for flats that could allow us to create a larger kitchen.

Previously, there was a room beside the kitchen, which I believe was a study, so that was merged with the existing kitchen to create the current space.

Bukit Merah by Aart Boxx Interior

Another feature that we always wanted was the island. At our old place, the household shelter doubled as kitchen storage, so this time round, we wanted to make sure that there would be proper drawers.

Initially, we wanted to have an induction hob installed on the island, but due to technical constraints, we switched to gas and had the hobs installed on the rear counter instead. We found our hobs while looking for bathroom fittings, and we especially like how they are integrated very nicely into the counter.

Bukit Merah by Aart Boxx Interior

The yard and common bathroom are right beside the kitchen, so our designer Sam gave the suggestion to conceal them behind a facade; there are two spring-loaded doors, one leads to the yard and the other to the common bathroom.

Even before staying here, my wife and I have always had our own bathrooms – it makes things more convenient in the mornings, so we decided to keep this arrangement. She has the en suite, while I have the common. Then it was each to our own on how we wanted our bathrooms to look like – in my case, I went for dark fittings, like a black WC and sink.

About renovating the master bedroom and walk-in wardrobe

executive apartment HDB renovation Bukit Merah

View of the master bedroom from the outside during the renovation.

J: Where our bed is, there’s a sharp corner right in front of it that’s similar to the ones in the balcony and living room. But likewise, it doesn’t really affect us; we installed blackout curtains to cover up the corner and we use the nook below the windows to store our laundry basket.

Bukit Merah by Aart Boxx Interior

If you take a look at the floor plan, you’ll see that the wall of the master bedroom has been pushed outwards to accommodate the walk-in wardrobe behind the bed. The exterior wall used to be in line with the confines of the master en suite, and making this change allowed us to create a flushed surface with the storeroom on the outside.

As for the walk-in wardrobe, it has a storage closet on one side and LED light strips on the other – installing them was Sam’s idea. We didn’t really have any lighting preferences, so we went along with his plan after we had found these LED light strips at Vlux Lighting; they don’t eat up too much room and they look pretty sleek.

Bukit Merah by Aart Boxx Interior

About the master en suite’s makeover

Bukit Merah by Aart Boxx Interior

J: My wife’s the practical type and even though she didn’t want a fancy dresser, she still needs a space where she’s able to store her cosmetics, hair dryer and all that. The size of the en suite bathroom’s dressing area doesn’t really bother her because its purpose is mostly practical.

At some point, we talked about whether to have drawers below the vanity instead of cabinets but having pull-outs in a small corner is quite impractical.

executive apartment HDB renovation Bukit Merah

The master en suite, before (left) and after (right) the renovation.

The storage shelves in the shower area are sort of an afterthought. Midway through the renovation, Sam pulled us into a discussion about whether we’d like to have a small shelf built into the existing nook below the windows, and we asked if we could have a seat installed there. However, there wasn’t really enough space in the shower, so we went with his idea.

To sum up

J: This is the first time I have renovated a home here in Singapore, or in any country for that matter, so I didn’t really know what to expect going into this renovation. Furthermore, neither my wife or I are creative types, so beyond the practical aspects and wanting open spaces, our plans were a bit of a blank canvas.

Bukit Merah by Aart Boxx Interior

And even though I have friends who had worked with Aart Boxx before, it was by chance that we ended up working with Sam – I don’t know if ‘old school’ is the right way to describe it, but he drew all his plans by hand, which is a rare approach these days and one that we enjoyed.

Overall, working with Sam and Aart Boxx was a pleasant experience and I’m happy with how things turned out. Likewise, we’re also grateful to our neighbours for their patience and understanding during the noisier stages of the renovation.

That said, I wouldn’t want to go through the entire process again – don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t that this experience was unpleasant, it was just that there was plenty to do. Thankfully, our home came out the way we wanted it to be, so no complaints there!

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