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Shophouse-Inspired 3-Room Couple’s Nest is Full of Nostalgia

October 6, 2021

Old meets new in this couple’s 3-room BTO flat that embraces local retro influences.

Entering Ridzwan and Nadiah’s cosy home at St George’s Lane feels very much like stepping foot into the past. With its local-inspired décor, Peranakan accents and mid-century modern furnishings, their 3-room BTO flat is reminiscent of an old Singapore shophouse – albeit brought up to date with contemporary design elements.

St. George's Lane by The Local INN.terior 新家室

“To be honest, we don’t know if there’s a name for our home’s décor style! That’s because it’s a mix of mid-century modern and retro Singapore influences from the 1960s and 1970s,” says Ridzwan. “In a way, it’s like a classy take on a traditional Singapore shophouse for two old souls who aren’t actually that old. (laughs)”

Read on to find out more about this unique couple’s nest and its ideas!

About themselves and their home

N: We’re a couple in our early 30s. We decided to get an HDB flat when we realised that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together.

When it was time to renovate our home, I think our jobs in the creative industry definitely helped – Ridzwan is a design director, and I do plenty of social media-related work, so we were able to have a cohesive vision for our place.

singapore 3-room HDB flat renovation traditional

R: I’m very particular about details due to the nature of my job, and it’s also why we realised that we needed to engage an interior designer to bring our ideas to life, even though both of us have creative backgrounds.

While it’s possible for us to influence the renovation on an aesthetic level, having the insight and expertise of an interior designer would allow us to get the technical aspects of our home’s design right – and that’s something we don’t have knowledge or experience in.

About getting a home in Kallang

R: I think we were very lucky! We managed to get a unit here even though it was very popular during the sales launch. It was our first time balloting for a BTO flat. St. George Towers is also in a relatively new housing estate.

Prior to that, we had taken a look at other houses that are in Kallang because our parents reside in the vicinity. Plus, it isn’t too far from Tanjong Pagar where my office is, so that would lessen our commute time and allow us to save on transport costs in the long run.

St. George's Lane by The Local INN.terior 新家室

N: Kallang is a great location for us. Our home is just 5 minutes away from the nearest MRT station, so getting around is really convenient. We’re also fairly near to Serangoon and there’s just so much good food there.

And not just that, there’s a roof garden with a beautiful view – it’s on the 24th floor and from the top you can see as far as MBS! We are also able to catch the fireworks on National Day by simply taking the lift up.

St. George's Lane by The Local INN.terior 新家室
St. George's Lane by The Local INN.terior 新家室

R: Another surprise was the quality of the materials offered under the Optional Component Scheme (OCS) for our estate. Even our interior designer was impressed! The floor tiles in the communal areas, flooring laminate in our bedroom, and even the skirting panels are from the OCS, so we didn’t have to spend much on flooring.

On planning the finances for a flat purchase and their renovation

N: I think the biggest challenge was planning our finances. It’s impossible to predict what will happen in the future – for example, no one could have predicted COVID-19 – so we wanted to be conservative with our budget as much as possible, but without compromising on our needs.

It’s why we purchased a 3-room flat instead of a larger unit, so that if either of us is out of a job, it’s still possible to sustain the payments for the house.

singapore 3-room HDB flat renovation traditional

We applied for the Enhanced CPF Housing and Additional CPF Housing Grants back in 2014, and they definitely helped because we didn’t have much funds saved up in our CPF accounts when we were in our mid-20s.

The option to make the downpayment with our CPF also helped as well, because that meant that we didn’t have to tap on our cash savings.

About the living room’s design

R: We had a couple of non-negotiables for our renovation and one of them was to have a proper place for our book collection in the living room. Both Nadiah and I love reading. One of the first things that we talked about when we met was our shared love for Enid Blyton as children.

St. George's Lane by The Local INN.terior 新家室

N: Initially, the plan was to have a small shelving unit that’s half the size of what you see now, but we thought that it would be nice to have something larger and that’s how we ended up with a shelf that’s 2.5 metres long.

The living room shelf also houses our collection of trinkets. We’re bargain hunters, so we’re always on the lookout for nice finds at a good price.

St. George's Lane by The Local INN.terior 新家室

For example, the clock that we have is a model from the Diamond brand that was really popular in Singapore homes during the 60s – we got it off Carousell, along with what I believe is a Peranakan wedding basket that’s now a planter.

There’s also a couple of heirlooms that were passed down in my family, such as a vintage sewing machine and typewriter, which we took some of our design cues from.

On changes made to the dining area

R: Another non-negotiable of our renovation was that our home had to be modular. It’s why we had the walls around one of the bedrooms torn down before sectioning off the space with a sliding glass door.

St. George's Lane by The Local INN.terior 新家室

Right now, we’re using the space as a dining area and work corner, but it’ll eventually be converted into a baby room when we have kids. As our family grows, our needs are going to change as well, so it’s to our advantage to have a flexible space that we can use for different purposes.

St. George's Lane by The Local INN.terior 新家室

N: The idea to have breeze blocks installed as part of the partition between the dining and living area came from our designer. We wanted to use glass initially, but then we realised that these blocks would make for a nice classic touch.

Plus, we think these blocks are quite unique because they aren’t as commonly used today as compared to the past when homes didn’t have air conditioning.

St. George's Lane by The Local INN.terior 新家室

On the kitchen’s makeover

N: We merged the kitchen with the yard and made use of the extra space to extend our kitchen counters. We enjoy cooking together, so it’s really important that our kitchen has an efficient layout and enough space for us to move about freely.

St. George's Lane by The Local INN.terior 新家室

We also managed to fit a full pantry into the space that allows us to store all of our ingredients. There’s also enough space for a laundry area and right on top of the washing machine is a counter where I grow my very own edible garden.

St. George's Lane by The Local INN.terior 新家室

R: We have a smart home, everything from the air-conditioner to the reading lights in our bedroom can be controlled via Google Home. As for our kitchen, we have a voice command interface placed on top of a shelf beside our stove, which we use to search for recipes online.

About the master bedroom and en suite’s design

N: One thing that’s special about our bedroom is that it has no wardrobe. Our clothes are stored in the large cabinet that’s in the dining area, and we decided not to make it accessible from both areas because of sound-proofing reasons.

The reason for this decision was because it was the best configuration we could think of. We wanted to have the vanity table that was passed down to me from my family in our bedroom, so having the wardrobe as well may be too congested.

St. George's Lane by The Local INN.terior 新家室

R: It’s not really a compromise as much as it’s about optimising our bedroom and figuring out what suits us best. To that end, we also got a hydraulic storage bed from Courts that lets us store our luggage and other miscellaneous belongings.

The headboard is actually a separate piece that we got customised at Second Charm – it’s made of rattan, so it looks perfectly at home with all the other retro features.

St. George's Lane by The Local INN.terior 新家室

N: For the en suite bathroom, we wanted these black-and-white mosaic tiles because they bring to mind the aesthetic of colonial bungalows. And for the shower area, we chose to have beautiful jade green subway tiles in a vertical lay.

St. George's Lane by The Local INN.terior 新家室

That said, the biggest change in the en suite is the sink’s position. It was originally facing the entrance, but our designer relocated it to the right side of the bathroom. This configuration gives us enough space to install an L-shaped counter and with everything now tucked to the sides, the entire en suite feels bigger.

About renovating the common bathroom

St. George's Lane by The Local INN.terior 新家室

N: The common bathroom mirrors our en suite in some ways, such as the flooring and the white wall tiles that came with the flat, but it also has its own unique features. For instance, we chose not to have a shower screen so that if we have kids in the future, it’ll be easier to bathe them.

St. George's Lane by The Local INN.terior 新家室

Other than that, the basin is also really unique. It’s made of porcelain and I found it on Carousell from a seller in Penang. We paid about $180 for it and the best part is the price included delivery because the seller had quite a few orders in Singapore.

On working with their interior designer

R: The biggest renovation challenge was probably the mosaic tiles in the bathrooms, but it was no fault of our interior designer.

We didn’t know that we had to specify the colour of the grouts to the contractors, so they had it all done up in white which reduced the contrast between the floor tiles. Fortunately, Teck Hou, who is our designer from The Local INN.terior, was able to remedy the situation.

St. George's Lane by The Local INN.terior 新家室

N: In fact, working with Teck Hou was a very pleasant experience because there was chemistry almost right from the start. On our first meeting, we simply told him about our ideas and by the second time we met up, he prepared a 3D mock-up that had us sold.

He also has a great sense of humour and that’s something we really appreciated because that made our working relationship more than just a transactional one. At one point after our renovation ended, we were like, “We miss him.” (laughs) So, yes, we have nothing but good things to say about Teck Hou and The Local INN.terior.

To sum up

N: We love our house. We barely leave it nowadays. (laughs) Our work-from-home experience has been great. We work in the dining area, so during lunchtime, we cook and have our meals, then get back to work. Then we have our exercise classes on Zoom here in the evenings.

Everything is done within this house! We definitely managed to turn this flat into a home that works for us – whether it’s work or play.

singapore 3-room HDB flat renovation traditional

R: It’s also a comfortable space to have conversations. Whenever we have friends who visit, they don't notice how much time has passed. Because of that, we’ve come to realise that time really does fly, especially when you're enjoying yourself in a comfortable, wholesome space of your own.

This renovation journey home feature was brought to you in collaboration with MyNiceHome, HDB’s official website for all things related to home buying and renovation in Singapore!

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