From 40 year old mature estate HDB flat to stylish home for one.
As anyone can tell you, renovating an old home has its challenges: electrical issues, moisture problems, and aged plumbing are just some of the many issues that you could encounter along the way.
However, none of that fazes Archive Design’s design director Lucas Yang – who instead found a variety of creative design opportunities in this 3-room HDB flat that’s located in the Mei Ling estate of Queenstown.
“We could have access to the full space (of the flat) because there tends to be less pillars and columns in the corners of older flats. And by hacking off some of the walls, we could connect the different rooms together to create a direct path to any part of the flat,” says Lucas.
“Every area is highly accessible. Want to go to the kitchen from the bedroom? It’s easy. Bedroom to the living room? It’s also easy. Just walk through.”
Optimised floor plan notwithstanding, Lucas also worked alongside the flat’s owner – a bachelor in his thirties – to give the insides a stylish makeover with pastel hues, terrazzo accents and characterful furnishings. Here, he shares more about the entire process of creating this chic yet efficient pad.
About the design brief
Lucas (L): Aesthetics-wise, the interior was designed to have a soft palette with pops of colours to match what my client wanted – a bright and spacious home with plenty of natural light.
Another thing that he specifically asked for was to separate the bedroom into two distinct zones, one for work and rest, and another as a walk-in wardrobe. He also requested for an open-concept kitchen so that there would be a more seamless flow between the kitchen and the rest of the house.
On changes made to the home
L: One of the main challenges of this project is, of course, the flat’s age, the walls were uneven and that made plastering them quite a challenge. And speaking of age, we also retained and refurbished some of the original fixtures that the house came with to give it a slight retro touch. For example, we kept the metal gates as well as the main door after giving them a new paint job.
Overall, the furniture set-up in the entryway and living room is quite simple because the house is quite compact. The flat’s size should be about 850 square feet and it was even smaller in the past because the dining area was only added later during HDB’s Home Improvement Programme.
For the entryway, we proposed having a pair of black-and-white rattan chairs instead of a regular settee because they would add a bit of a colonial feel to the surroundings. The living room’s TV console is from IKEA while the PLAYplay coffee table is from Journey East, we got it at a 50% discount during a sale, so that was great.
The kitchen was configured galley-style because that was the most efficient layout, plus it also had to accommodate a washer and dryer. The passageway might feel narrow because it’s sandwiched between two runs of cabinets, but it fits a single person just nice.
Another thing that we had to take note of when designing the kitchen was the depth of surrounding fixtures, like the hood, so that they wouldn’t jut out into the walkway.
Like most of the house, the dining area’s set-up was kept simple. There’s a solid teak dining table for six that our Indonesian carpentry partners specially made, and as an accent, we got a lamp with brass pieces from Taobao to create a sophisticated, private dining room sort of feel.
The reason why there’s a pegboard garden in the dining area is because it’s the room that gets the most sunlight, and that made it the best spot for the owner to grow his herbs and spices.
Older HDB flats tend to have their bathrooms separated into a shower and WC area, but because the owner is living by himself, we could combine them into a larger area. Basically, what we did was to hack away the walls around the bathroom, and that’s also what created the ‘pathway’ that allows the owner to easily walk around the whole house.
The terrazzo in the bathroom was sort of unplanned because it was quite a last-minute change; the initial idea was just to have subway tiles all over, but the owner and I fell in love with the (terrazzo) slab when we saw it at Hafary’s showroom. And even though he was informed that it would cost him more, the owner didn’t hesitate to make the change. He was just that committed!
Unlike the living area, kitchen and dining room, the owner asked for a more neutral palette of whites and greys for his bedroom to give it a more restful vibe. The furniture set-up is once again quite simple – just a king-sized bed and a compact work corner by the window. Decor-wise, we installed a moon lamp to create visual interest.
The walk-in next door was previously another bedroom, but we merged it with the master by demolishing the wall between them and installing a full-length sliding door.
The walk-in was equipped with a pole system instead of a boxed-up wardrobe because that would appear too chunky. Plus, since the owner wishes to be in full control of his wardrobe, the see-through design allows him to keep track of how many clothes he has and it makes mixing-and-matching easier as well.
To sum up
L: I think what was most enjoyable working on this project was the satisfaction of seeing something old become so new. It’s a bit surreal, especially when you walk through the rest of the estate and everything still looks like it’s from the past.
Another thing that made the experience interesting was the opportunity to interact with the neighbours. When you’re working on homes in new BTO estates, there’s barely anyone around and it’s just a regular site visit every day. But for mature estates, you get to know the uncle or auntie living next door. It’s this convivial feel that I enjoy, and that’s really the charm of working on old homes.
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