'It's easy to take the man of a country, but you can't take the country out of a man', this phrase rings true for Aravindan and Yoko, the owners of this newly-renovated family home at Yishun Park Grove .
Working hand-in-hand with designer Martin Ngo from Singapore-based interior design firm Schemacraft, Aravindan and Yoko transformed what was once an “all concrete” space into their idea of a dream home – one inspired by their respective native countries of Sri Lanka and Japan.
We spoke to the amicable couple to get the story behind their renovation, why a soaking tub was on their list of must-haves, and how to get customised furniture from Sri Lanka.
Aravindan (A): I am Aravindan (43) a senior branding designer, and I live in this home with my two children and wife, Yoko (33), who is an administrative executive.
A fun fact: I used to be a packaging designer, and you may have seen some of my work in supermarkets, like beauty products, dishwashing liquid and detergent bottles.
About our home's design:
A: Right from the start, Yoko and I fully intended to renovate this apartment based on our vision of a dream home. The problem was, we had no idea how to bring our designs to life – that's why we approached Martin and Schemacraft to help with the renovation.
For the home's design itself, it features a mix of Japanese and Sri Lankan elements, both because of our ethnic roots and our fondness of each other's culture.
The first time I brought her (Yoko) to Sri Lanka, she fell in love with the hotel we stayed at because of the woody, rustic look of the surroundings. And that was when we decided if we were to build a home, it would look just like that.
Yoko (Y): Yes, if you take a look around the house, it's filled with wood and rustic colours, which is very Sri Lankan, but the details and appliances aren't. So you could say that the technology part is Japanese (laughs).
Our impression about the house before the renovation:
Y: When we bought the house, we took the 'no fittings' option, so there was barely anything inside when we visited for the first time. No tiles, no doors, all concrete. So it was a bit hard to visualise how the final result would look like.
A: I was also quite ill at that time (when we got the keys), so it was a bit hard for us to get into a celebratory mood. On a more positive note, we felt that the empty space was like an open canvas, which meant we had the freedom to customise it as we pleased.
On the renovation process:
A: The house has a very consistent colour scheme as we didn't want to mix different types of wood. There were quite a few rounds of synchronising between Martin and us to ensure that everything looked the same, from the furniture to even the blinds.
There were also a few changes made to the kitchen's design from start to end of the renovation.
For the backsplash, Martin initially proposed using glass, but we changed that to mosaic tiles, which Yoko loves because of their subtle marble-like grain and the pop of colour that they add to the kitchen.
There was also abit of a problem with the kitchen counter: the contractor who was responsible for installing the countertop got the colour code wrong and we had to replace it.
About the furniture:
A: Most of the wood pieces in the house – including the sofa, bed frame, TV console, dining table and bar chairs – were built in Sri Lanka and then shipped to Singapore.
Being originally from Sri Lanka, I didn't have a particularly hard time finding the right craftsmen for the job. There's this place in Sri Lanka where you can get custom-made furniture, and we went down with (laminate) samples in hand to ensure that the colour of every piece would match up with the rest of the house.
As for the logistics, I was also lucky enough to have a local (Sri Lankan) friend who helped to monitor the manufacturing progress, perform quality checks, and arrange the shipping to Singapore.
A: Although it was a last-minute addition, one thing that we really wanted was an 'ofuro' or soaking tub. Bathing in an ofuro is an everyday thing for most Japanese people, and having one really helps to create the right feel in our home. Plus, the children enjoy bathing in it!
Favourite part of home:
Y: Definitely the living room, looking at it is like seeing a dream come true. Every time I step into the house, I get reminded of my first trip to Sri Lanka because of how true the colours, textiles and furniture are to the real thing.
A: If you were to ask me this question 10 years ago, when my family wasn't around, it would definitely be my man-cave (laughs). Today, if I had to pick one place, it would definitely be the kitchen. There was more effort put into designing this area than the rest of the house, and we really made sure it wouldn't be isolated from the other living areas.
The study's bookshelf is also worth mentioning. We had the central walkway-facing partition wall torn out and replaced with a one-piece bookshelf and display cabinet. It's a useful fixture to have because I get to display my figurines in the study, while Yoko gets to store her book collection on the other side.
About working with Schemacraft:
A: I must say that Martin's project management skills are excellent; we really depended on his help since he took over the helm when I was ill. That, I was really impressed with, because Martin handled most of the work and direction without our active input, yet he managed to deliver what we wished for.
To sum up:
A: If you were to ask me if this apartment is my ideal home, my answer is 'yes'. Since coming to Singapore, we had been renting so having our own place really is a personal milestone. I am happy that I was able to do this for my family.
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