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Punggol 5-Room BTO Flat Becomes Scenic Waterfront Home After Makeover

February 23, 2022
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Many aspects of this seafront home’s design are also grounded in architectural principles.

punggol northshore BTO flat renovation

Unlike most HDB homes located in the heartlands, Javin’s 5-room BTO flat at Punggol Northshore is just a stone’s throw away from Singapore’s coastline. So naturally, when it was time for a home makeover, he knew that the re-design had to be focused not just on the inside, but also the outside.

“It’s all about the vista,” says Javin, who shares his new home with his wife, Crys, and their newborn son. “I think it’s very rare for to have a unit where you can see that far [across the sea], which is why everything I’ve chosen, from the materials to the design language, is meant to create an experience that capitalises on and emphasises the exterior.”

punggol northshore BTO flat renovation

The flat’s communal spaces in their original state.

Northshore Drive by Salt Studio

Interior Firm: Salt Studio

Ultimately, by tapping on his own architectural training as well as the help of Salt Studio creative director Joey Ong, Javin was able to realise his creative vision – having transformed what was essentially an empty apartment (albeit one with great potential) into a comfortable dwelling with a captivating panorama. Keep scrolling to see the entire makeover process!


About himself and his home

Javin (J): Actually, my wife and I were mildly disappointed when we saw our flat for the first time. The view was fantastic, but our first thought was that the house felt small for a 5-room flat, it did however make me think about what we could do with the space on a deeper level.

punggol northshore BTO flat renovation

The view from Javin’s home.

Meaning to say, we had to think beyond just what we wanted for the décor and explore this renovation in terms of interior architecture concepts.

For example, ideas like indoor circulation, which concerns movement from one part of the house to another; visual connection, the extent that one space is visible from another; and spatial relationship, which is about how spaces are positioned relative to each other.

punggol northshore BTO flat renovation

The floor plan of Javin’s home, pre-renovation.

Also, since flats are built environments, there were factors like site context and design constraints that we had to consider as well before getting and renovating this unit.

The site context here, which is the development itself and its proximity to the coast, was just so intriguing to me that I knew we had to ballot for a unit here, even if it meant dealing with inconveniences like long traveling times or the structural elements of the flat.

punggol northshore BTO flat renovation

The floor plan of Javin’s home, post-renovation.

WATCH: Homeowner Javin and Salt Studio designer Joey take us through the flat’s renovation

On creating the entryway and multipurpose corner

Northshore Drive by Salt Studio

J: The entryway is designed to be a convenient spot for shoe storage, but it also informs guests how they might potentially want to move within the house after they enter; the green laminates [at the sides], which continue into the kitchen, are a visual hint that you might want to move towards where the island is.

Then, at the island, you’ll notice the strong axis that bisects the flat from one end to the other – it might be uncommon, or even unpractical, to divide a house lengthwise, but by doing this we’re able to reveal the full depth of the space.

punggol northshore BTO flat renovation

The workstation/dining area and multipurpose corner before the renovation.

Northshore Drive by Salt Studio

The area beside the household shelter is meant to be a flexible space. Originally, it was a photography corner where we’ve taken several family portraits and shot a wedding video for a friend. But for now, we plan to use it as a play area for our son, and at night, a home cinema to watch soccer games.

About renovating the workstation/dining area

J: The idea of setting aside an area for a specific purpose, like working or eating, isn’t something that appeals to us because it means restricting the usage of a space to a particular activity.

Northshore Drive by Salt Studio
punggol northshore BTO flat renovation

In addition to the installation of wood-look PVC panels, a faux ceiling beam was also built above the dining area for aesthetic reasons.

Instead, we prefer to have a multipurpose space, which accommodates all the activities that are part of our life, and where everything and everyone can come together in a single zone with a view – that’s what this part of the house is.

On nice nights, for example, during the 2021 countdown, we got to enjoy the fireworks from both Malaysia and Singapore, and even on regular days, I get to see interesting things both in the sea and sky.

In the day, I’ll see fishermen, whom I get very worried for when the weather is bad, and at night, the stars can be seen clearly. I even bought a telescope, so that I can look at the constellations.

Northshore Drive by Salt Studio

Also, one question that we get very frequently is: “Did you customise these concrete tables?” In fact, we didn’t, they’re both ordered from Hipvan.

This is something that I think is worth highlighting, because most homeowners have the misconception that customisation is the only way to get a unique piece of furniture, but the fact is, there are similar options available in stores. By curating these pieces, it’s possible to achieve the look that you want and save at the same time.

About revamping the entertainment area

Northshore Drive by Salt Studio

J: Crys rarely watches TV, so this space is more of a gaming area. I hang out here very often with my friends, they’ll come by on a weekly basis and we’ll play FIFA together.

The fluted panels on the wall and ceiling are a common design element that’s shared by the dining area/workstation. Joey and I had looked into various options to create this feature, and it was a challenging process. Some options were impractical, while others would work, but would be very expensive.

punggol northshore BTO flat renovation

The entertainment area, mid-renovation.

For example, if we were to use laminates, the cost would easily reach $10,000 by Joey’s estimates. In some sense, I’d been okay with it, but my goal was to achieve the same look at a lower cost.

Then we looked at wood-look wallpaper as an option. At first, I was sceptical about using wallpaper, but when I visited the vendors and touched the samples, I was impressed by how close the texture was to the real thing.

No doubt, in terms of quality, this was one of the better options, but due to our proximity to the coast and constant exposure to sea air, it wasn’t suitable.

Northshore Drive by Salt Studio

Finally, we found a PVC panel supplier, and they were the most suitable option. But still, it was a challenge because these panels are usually installed on walls, and not ceilings.

Also, since the panels are only available in 3-meter-long pieces, we had to figure out where to terminate the joinery and drill holes for the lighting fixtures. Thankfully, the vendor is architecturally trained, and we were able to come up with detailed drawings on how to build the entire structure.

On the kitchen’s makeover

punggol northshore BTO flat renovation

The kitchen, mid-renovation.

Northshore Drive by Salt Studio

J: Late in the kitchen’s renovation, we faced an issue with the sliding doors for the entrance. Although one of the requirements that I stipulated was not to have bottom tracks installed on the floor, I was upset by just how wobbly the doors turned out to be.

It was honestly quite unbelievable, because sometimes when the wind is strong, the doors would swing inwards all the way to the counters – there’s no way that’s right. But with Joey’s input, we were able to come up with the solution of installing two stoppers with spinning rubber rings to align the doors and keep them secure.

punggol northshore BTO flat renovation

The kitchen door stoppers that were added later.

Northshore Drive by Salt Studio

As for the island, Crys uses it frequently for food preparation and baking, there’s also a bin installed at the side for convenience. Although I was the one who came up with the design drawings for the island, all the detailing and technical aspects were taken care by Joey.

In fact, this was the creative process that guided the renovation, not just for the island, but also the rest of the house. I was busy because of other commitments, so I had no time to take charge of the project personally, but by delegating the tasks to Joey, he was able to bring the ideas I envisioned to life.

Northshore Drive by Salt Studio

About the master bedroom and en suite

Northshore Drive by Salt Studio
Northshore Drive by Salt Studio

J: One of the most common misconceptions that I noticed local homeowners have is that they’ll have to sacrifice an entire room just to build a walk-in wardrobe. That’s terrible because it just isn’t an efficient use of space.

Instead, what I’ve done here was to demolish the existing master bedroom entrance and the exterior wall of the junior bedroom beside it; this gave us enough space along the master bedroom’s walkway to install a set of wardrobes, plus an open shelving system, which is right beside the bed.

punggol northshore BTO flat renovation

The demolition plan for Javin’s home. Bold lines indicate existing walls that were hacked.

Northshore Drive by Salt Studio

A concealed entrance leads into the master bedroom’s en suite.

Initially, I had other ideas for custom bedside storage, but I discovered a similar system offered by a brand called OPSH. All the fixtures are customisable, like the accessory case and retractable mirror, and they can be installed at the height you want them to be at.

Crys does her morning makeup here, and the best part is that it acts as a semi-partition that filters out light from the changing area, but still allows us to be greeted by the sea view when we enter the bedroom.

To sum up

J: So far, it feels amazing to be living in a space of my own, even though some sacrifices had to be made to realise my vision. For instance, because we share a workstation, Crys has to move her laptop elsewhere whenever we’re both on conference calls.

Then there are also issues with the site. Our block is opposite Pasir Gudang, so there’s air pollution and you can sometimes detect a burning scent at night – it’s a problem that other residents discuss in our block’s group chat as well.

Northshore Drive by Salt Studio

But there are also merits to living here, there’s Northshore Plaza and Waterway Point nearby so shopping isn’t an issue, and I can easily wind down at night by taking a quick jog along the coast. So, if you were to ask me how it’s like living on the fringes of Singapore, I’d say that it isn’t so bad.


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