Spacious Tampines 4-Room Flat Lets Its Owners Pull Off Quirky Ideas
Plus, it still has its roomy vibes post-renovation.
Even though it’s officially classified as a 4-room HDB flat, Hadri’s newly-renovated home at Tampines most certainly doesn’t look (or feel) like one. Spanning approximately 104 sqm, it’s not only larger than most modern-day 4-room BTO apartments but is also comparable in size to newer 5-room HDB flats, which have a floor area of 107 to 113 sqm.
“I guess that’s one of the reasons why we got this resale flat,” says Hadri. “The main influencing factors for us were price and waiting time, but size and layout were very, very important to us as well.”
The flat’s living room in its original state.
Interior Firm: Ovon Design
But that’s not all. Hadri and his spouse also had several renovation goals in mind when they were home hunting. “We wanted it [the house] to have the potential for a spacious master bedroom layout, and then, we wanted a combined communal space with an open-concept kitchen,” says Hadri.
Following a 10-week renovation handled by Ovon Design, Hadri’s ideas were realised in the form of an atypical home that has: 1) an entirely pink hallway, 2) a dining-area-turned-walk-in-wardrobe, and 3) an en suite bathtub that’s out in the open.
For more details about this unique home makeover and a closer look at its out-of-the-norm features, keep scrolling!
About himself and his home
The flat’s living room, mid-renovation.
Hadri (H): I’m working in sustainability and my wife is a preschool teacher. We’ve a son who’s going to be 5 months old next week, so we designed our home to be quite colourful – I guess it’s a bit like a preschool in that sense (laughs).
Before getting this flat, we actually tried balloting for a BTO unit at Canberra, and I think that was in 2020. In the end, we didn’t get one because the development was oversubscribed.
The floor plan of Hadri’s home, pre-renovation.
Because of this reason, we decided to get a resale flat in Tampines at the next opportunity we had. At first, it was a toss-up between getting a place near my wife’s parents or one that near mine's; my parents live at Simei, and hers at Jalan Besar, but because the prices for homes in Jalan Besar were much higher, we chose to settle down in Tampines instead.
The floor plan of Hadri’s home, post-renovation.
Although this flat is a 4-room unit, it has a lot of liveable space, which is great for a young family like ours. Most 5-room BTO flats are about 110 sqm, but that includes the bomb shelter, aircon ledge, and other areas like that. So, I believe that our flat is quite comparable in size to today’s 5-room flats.
The purchase itself went very smoothly. The layout was good and the previous owners were very friendly, so we ended up closing the deal just two days after the viewing!
On the entryway and living room’s makeover
H: Although we had put down the option fee in October 2020, we only got the keys to the flat about three months later after the previous owners had moved out, and following that, we were informed that there would be a Housing Improvement Programme (HIP) taking place. Thankfully, the town council was able to expedite the approval of our renovation or our flat would be left vacant for even longer.
In fact, the front door that you see in the photos is the original door that came with the flat, and it was only just replaced with a new one in January this year as part of the HIP.
The flat’s original window grilles after being given a fresh coat of paint.
What we also kept are the original 35-year-old grilles from the windows in front of the living room. We wanted them because they’re all curved, which matches the visual theme of our home.
Our designers from Ovon Design, Zi An and Hui Wen, had these grilles taken down and reinstalled after they were repainted. Not all the designers we met were confident about restoring these grilles and Ovon Design was one of the few who said that they’d give it their best shot.
“My wife and I used to go for yoga before we had our child, and the studio had a similar grey vinyl flooring, so we chose a similar one for our home,” shares Hadri.
To create a sense of elongation, we asked for wall-to-wall cove lights to be installed in the living room. And one important detail that we stressed to our designers was the rounded edges of the cove lights. I didn’t want them terminating at a 90-degree angle, otherwise they’d look out of place with all the curves around the house.
Also, we originally planned for the coves on both sides of the living room to be of the same width, but Zi An suggested pushing out the cove that's closest to the kitchen. This is so that it would terminate nicely at the sides of our arched walkway, which according to our Fengshui master friend is more auspicious.
The back of the living room that’s linked to the kitchen, mid-renovation.
Finally for the living room, we swapped the furniture layout so that we could make better use of the entire space.
The previous owners had the back of their sofa facing the wall where our entryway settee is, but we realised that this setup wouldn’t work for us as it would leave a lot of dead space near the entrance. Instead, we decided to have our sofa face the windows, which allowed us to get a longer L-shaped seat as well.
On renovating the kitchen and common bathroom
The common bathroom (left) and kitchen (right), mid-renovation.
H: One of the criteria that we had when selecting an HDB flat was that it should have enough space for a walk-in wardrobe. And when we looked at the layout of this unit, we realised that we could merge the existing dining area with the master bedroom to create a closet.
But to do that, we first had to revamp the kitchen’s layout. The kitchen’s entrance was shifted away from the walkway to its current position. And we also needed to build a partition wall, where our stove and washing machine now are, so that the walk-in wardrobe can be sectioned off from the kitchen.
As part of the open-concept layout for our kitchen, we have a bar table instead of a regular dining table. It’s one of my wife’s requests for the house; she’s quite tall, so the extra legroom is something that she likes.
I also find that the whole house feels airier after we hacked away the kitchen walls. The windows in the living room and kitchen are just directly across each other, so not having any obstruction between them really improves the air flow. Plus, without any walls in the way, we’re able to watch TV whenever we’re washing dishes or prepping our meals.
The part of our kitchen that’s near the common bathroom’s entrance is angled, so we had no choice but to follow the slant when building the full-height storage cabinets, which also help to conceal the rubbish chute and large water pipes in the corner.
We also encountered a challenge with the placement of our fridge. Originally, we had plans to create a kitchen triangle with the sink, stove, and fridge near to each other. But after a few layout revisions with Ovon, we realised that we had no choice but to have the fridge placed closer to the entrance because it wouldn’t fit along the kitchen walkway.
For our common bathroom, we chose to give it a strong pink look. My wife spotted these pink rectilinear tiles on Instagram, and she thought they would complement the theme of our house. We ended up sourcing for similarly shaped tiles from Hup Kiong in alternating shades of pink to give the entire bathroom a more interesting look.
On making over the walkway
H: At first, we thought about painting only the (walkway’s) ceiling pink, but after looking at some examples online, we thought: “How about we just paint the whole thing pink instead?” That’s how we got our pink walkway (laughs).
This shade of pink is a heavy colour, but because it’s confined to such a small part of the house, we felt that it would be safe to have. Also, my wife and I think that the final result looks a lot like the Museum of Ice Cream, so much so that we joked that we don’t have to go to the Museum to be there.
The storeroom at the end of the walkway, mid-renovation.
The storeroom at the end of the walkway is something that we kept from the original layout, but we decided to conceal it with botanical wallpaper; we got ours from Hello Circus, along with the floral wallpaper that’s used for the entryway settee.
For aesthetic reasons, we also made the call to narrow the walkway; this is so that the size of the overhead arch would match the settee’s, otherwise they would appear lopsided when you look at them from the front.
The walkway and entryway settee, mid-renovation.
On revamping the nursery
The nursery, mid-renovation.
H: Although everybody says it looks like pink, the walls (in the nursery) are actually painted in brown; the specific shade is Frontier Shadow from ICI Dulux. It matches the look of the house and we decided to include a rounded pattern to give the space a softer vibe.
Other than that, we didn’t change the look of this room much or include any large built-ins because we wanted to keep it a flexible space that our son can grow into. But we did add a few IKEA furnishings recently, like open shelves, trolleys, and other child-friendly items, so that the space is ready for play activities in the future.
About renovating the activity room
H: We don’t get to use this room that often nowadays because we have a child, but it’s a hobby room that also functions as a guest bedroom. There’s a sofa bed that can be converted into a queen-sized bed if someone stays over.
We chose to give this space a more neutral-focused look because most of the other areas are already very vibrant. My drum set is stored in this room, and my wife has her keyboard here as well; there’s also a projector, but we seldom use it too because it’s just so much easier to watch movies in the living room.
Still, we’ll probably keep this room as an activity space. My wife and I have plans to continue our yoga practice, so maybe we’ll use this space for that.
About renovating the master bedroom and walk-in wardrobe
H: When you enter the master bedroom, what you’ll see is the bed and bathtub, and on the left is where the entrance to our walk-in wardrobe is.
My wife and I used to go for staycations when we were dating, so we wanted our master bedroom to have a similar vibe, so that we can just stay at home after we move together. That’s how we came up with the idea of having an open master bedroom layout with our bathtub right in front of the sleeping area.
Colours-wise, we’ve been asked by our guests whether we took inspiration from the blue-and-white buildings in Santorini. But the actual reason is because there are already plenty of pastel hues around the house, so we wanted a more regal look for our master bedroom.
My wife likes the modern aesthetic, so we got dark blue walls and included gold accents wherever we could around our bedroom. One detail that we kept consistent as well are the half walls, which we also have in the walk-in wardrobe in form of laminates and inside the en suite as tiles.
The walk-in wardrobe was a long dining area previously, and it has a window at the end of the space. We chose to have the vanity here because of the natural light, which is something that most walk-in wardrobes don’t have.
We definitely have more than enough storage space here. My wife uses the side of the walk-in wardrobe with six cabinets, while the one with three belongs to me. We store our son’s baby supplies here as well; he’s still quite young, so he doesn’t really have much clothing and toys yet.
On configuring the master en suite
H: Another reason why we chose to have the bathtub outside is the size of the en suite. Probably the only thing that’s lacking about this unit is the size of the bathrooms, they’re quite small compared to those we’ve seen in other resale flats; it’s why our vanity is located outside too.
The en suite entrance and bathing area, mid-renovation.
Most of the designers we spoke to were cautious about our idea to have a bathtub outside the en suite. In fact, some of them rejected us outright, saying that they didn’t want to take on our renovation because of this.
But our bathtub is perfectly legal, it’s a portable model from a supplier called HERA. Because it isn’t built-in, there’s a drainage hose that has to be pulled into the en suite every time we want to use the bathtub. And just to be safe, we also had additional waterproofing done here.
The countertop for our vanity is the same quartz that we used for our kitchen bar table; we chose to have the counter suspended because we didn’t want any carpentry below the sink.
The waterfall mixer is from Taobao, and we found it while looking for a tap with gold accents online. The sensation we get when washing our hands with it feels quite different from using a regular tap, and it has a very good flow because of the size of the spout.
To sum up
H: Living here has been pretty good so far. The space is airy and comfortable, and we settled in almost immediately.
One thing that I really like is the cove lighting; we didn’t get many hanging and/or downlights, so most of the illumination is soft, which gives the house a very tranquil vibe. That’s good because it makes me feel relaxed whenever I come home after a long day at work.
Also, on hindsight, I think it’s a blessing that we didn’t opt for a BTO because the waiting period, which is about 2 to 5 years, would have been too long for us. Our son would have been born even before we get the keys to the flat, and we wouldn’t be able to enjoy family life in a home that’s as nice as this one!