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Sandra Sim’s Home Is The Most Rule-Breaking HDB, Ever

January 15, 2018

Extremely adept at hunting for good pieces of furniture online, Sandra Sim - co-founder of Cantonese tapas bar Sum Yi Tai and cocktail bar Chikin - knew exactly what she wanted in her home.

While most of us might stray away from black walls in favour of light, spacious-looking hues in HDBs, Sandra's breaks away from this mould entirely. Applying dark shades generously throughout the space - her knack for designing and arranging pieces has culminated in a bold, swanky apartment that doesn't feel the least bit claustrophobic.

Another shocker? Her home is actually decked almost head-to-toe in Taobao buys! Proving life's more fun when you break the norm - the self-professed appreciator of red wine and Chinese tea shares with us the work that went into her new home.

Home Feature of Sandra Sim

Qanvast: What were the design considerations for your home?

Sandra (S): My previous home was white and bright, so I wanted dark colours for the new place. Ideally, it should be a quiet and soothing place to return to after a day at the bar. I wanted an open concept as I host and have friends over occasionally, as well as a walk-in wardrobe, so I knocked down the walls in the living room and combined the bedrooms to accommodate one.

Likewise, I was looking at a more modular concept for the home so I can move things around. As a result, I minimised the amount of built-in furniture so as to keep the space open. I also decided to skip fancy feature walls too so it's easier for me to update the decor every now and then.

Home Feature of Sandra Sim

Qanvast: How did you chance upon the interior firm you engaged?

S: My mum used an interior firm for my previous home and since she found him reliable, I decided to work with him as well. It was a family business and I worked with the sons. I like how they understood my design needs (well, I mean most designers will not encourage homeowners to use black paint at home!), had forward-looking ideas, and were able counter-propose some good suggestions on top of my requirements.

Home Feature of Sandra Sim

Qanvast: What difficulties did you run into while renovating the house?

S: Our biggest problem was the storeroom. I tried relocating it as I wanted the living space to be bigger. Although we finally found a suitable corner, HDB did not approve the application to hack the walls.

We were also rushing to move in before the Hungry Ghost Festival, so our contractors had to rush the major renovation works first, and then continue with the minor works and touch-ups after the Ghost Festival.

Qanvast: Where did you get your inspiration from?

S: Mainly from Pinterest. I also used Qanvast for ideas on how to hide and design certain HDB features like beams and trunkings. I was pretty clear of what I envisioned my home to be.

Home Feature of Sandra Sim

Qanvast: Where did you get your furnishings from? They're pretty unique!

S: I got almost all of my furniture online and a lot of them were from China - aside from my study desk, which is from my old place, everything else is from Taobao! I was in charge of doing up my F&B establishments, so I already knew which sites and brands to go to. The local furnishing scene didn’t really appeal to me, and the designs online had a wider variety that were also slightly cheaper. For example, I wanted a dining table that is 2.2 metres long, but most dining tables here are only up to 2 metres long.

Home Feature of Sandra Sim

I would say the furniture shopping was a really long process. I spent a lot of time reading reviews and chatting with the sellers, and even requested for samples to review their quality. The shipment for bigger items took about a month, but the items were quite easy to put together.

I had to visit many shops to get the right decor pieces to make sure the overall look is coordinated.

Home Feature of Sandra Sim

Qanvast: What advice would you give to potential homeowners?

S: Do up a mood board and discuss with your partner what you really need in a home. Built-ins can be redundant and bulky, so think twice if you really need it. Details-wise, consider height, mechanisms, storage capabilities, and your lifestyle needs- my designers even went to my old place to observe how I store my makeup and curling tongs, and even looked at my clothes, such how many dresses and shorts I have.

Home Feature of Sandra Sim

I told them all the items on the vanity had to be hidden at the new place, so they took that into consideration and even included a plug within the drawer for my hair styling tools so they won't clutter up the counter. They also took the initiative and added lights to the vanity mirror for better illumination. It was really commendable and very meticulous of them.

Home Feature of Sandra Sim

Qanvast: Which part of your house is your favourite now?

S: My favourite corner would be the study area. I enjoy brewing Chinese tea, and now, I'm dabbling in indoor gardening. I also love my bedroom because it's dark and cosy, making getting-up in the morning much harder. [laughs]

Home Feature of Sandra Sim

Sandra spent $58,000 on renovation works and $35,000 on furnishings and appliances.

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