For couple Ivan and Yuan Mei, freedom and space are the keys to transforming their revamped resale flat into a home they can call their own.
With its airy, light-filled surroundings that are focused on basic, no-frills design elements, such as clean lines and a calming palette, couple Ivan and Yuan Mei’s revamped 4-room resale flat at Jalan Bukit Merah is probably every open-concept home lover’s dream come true.
However, what’s truly special about the house isn’t its spacious, minimalist surroundings, but how it provides a means of self-expression for its owners.
“We wanted a functional space that’s also flexible, not something that’s filled with pre-made fixtures,” says Ivan. “It’s sort of like an empty canvas that lets us decorate as we see fit.” To find out how Ivan and Yuan Mei’s ‘blank slate’ was created, read on!
About their home’s concept
Ivan (I): In terms of style for the house, we didn’t have a specific look in mind. Most of the conceptualisation was actually done by randomly fanning through pictures with Addison, who is our designer from Stylemyspace.
We did, however, have some must-have features on our list, one of them being herringbone tiles, which she (Yuan Mei) loves. The same goes for having open shelves in the kitchen, which was one detail that we laid down very early in design process.
On their must-haves
Yuan Mei (YM): We definitely looked at space as a primary concern. Having cramped areas was a no-no, so we didn’t want a lot of carpentry or customised fixtures that would eat up space.
We do have plans to fill up the empty areas and corners – but only when we want to. We decided that this would be our approach to decor because space was something that we both really wanted, especially after our experience living in rented homes.
About their home, pre-renovation
I: While house-hunting, we kept a look out for units with layouts that made sense. Unlike this flat, many of the homes that we viewed had a floor plan that was either weird or not easily digestible.
When we first saw this unit, it immediately became clear to us that it had exactly what we wanted: nice, squarish living areas and rooms that were well-proportioned to each other.
YM: Exactly. You know how some houses have large living spaces, but come with tiny kitchens or cramped toilets? There’s none of that here, which was why we bought it.
About their home, post-renovation
I: We spend plenty of time cooking, so the kitchen was definitely an area that we focused and spent plenty of effort on. I am also quite the techie, so it was important that the place be wired up correctly.
Also, wherever we live, plants are a must-have. And that was why we set aside some space for an indoors garden; there’s plenty of sunlight streaming through the area behind our dining table, so it’s a great spot to place our plants. We were also advised by Addison to have a Peranakan tile accent going on there as a way of breaking up the look.
YM: Speaking of tiles, there were originally two layers (of existing flooring) in total, and we were given the option to install another layer on top. However, we decided to cough up a bit more to have them removed, especially since we're planning to live here for a long time.
Once that was done, we then started looking at flooring options. Tile and parquet were some of the choices that we considered, but we settled on concrete. Stylemyspace used it for their office too. After taking a look and some discussion, we decided to take the risk, even though concrete floors can be hard to maintain.
About challenges encountered
I: In the kitchen, there was a water leak coming from the unit upstairs, but fortunately it has already been resolved by HDB. And then, there’s the sliding doors (at the indoor garden). Initially, we wanted folding doors for this area, but our request to remove the railings was outright rejected by HDB, so our original plan had to be scrapped.
The other issue we faced was that the bathrooms were smaller than we thought. Initially, we had plans to erect a shower partition, but the old HDB pipes proved to be challenging to build around. Still, we think the bathrooms are fine as they are.
On their decor choices and preferences
YM: For the most part, we wanted the fixtures to have a wood finish; we were also toying with several trending colours for the walls. French blue was one of the options that we considered, but eventually we settled on grey, which looks better with the concrete floor.
About getting to know Stylemyspace
I: We probably met 7 or 8 interior designers in total, but ultimately, we decided to work with Addison. What really turned us off about the rest was that they were constantly in a rush to provide us with generic ideas, rather than custom solutions. Or when they did, it felt that they were just trying to appease us.
The way I see it, is that when we ask for a proposal and get a pre-made concept in return, you’re just putting us through the machine, instead of trying to truly understand our needs. The difference is that Addison listened, and then he proposed – that was what we wanted, what we expected; it was just that simple.
About working with Stylemyspace
I: Again, during the design phase, we never provided Addison with a coherent idea. We pretty much only sent him pictures that we saw, but at the end of the day, he was able to steer the renovation in the right direction.
For example, one of the things that he helped out greatly with was planning, installing and then concealing the aircon trunking throughout the entire house. We got ourselves a total of five new aircon units, two for the living room and one for each of the three bedrooms; we were concerned about how they would fit in each space, but Allison told us not to worry, and settled everything for us.
To sum it up
I: One eye-opener for us was definitely the process of designing a home, it was very interesting; there was just so much planning, coordination and minor corrections that we had to handle along the way.
Also, at least for us, chemistry is very important. Find a designer who listens to you and is someone you can listen to. The trust has to go both ways.
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