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This Stylist’s Showroom-Worthy BTO Is Every Girl's Dream

February 12, 2018

If going full-on black in a HDB seems like a risk-taking move, living in an all-white space takes a whole lot of guts too.

After all, that means having to settle in a space where even the slightest dirt, dust or stain can instantly be visible. All that cleaning, tidying and maintaining? Less dedicated individuals would shy away.

Melanie Mak Home Feature HDB

However, for freelance fashion stylist Melanie Mak and her husband Eugene, that was just what they'd envisioned their home to be. Against all odds, their bright, showroom-worthy HDB decked in head-to-toe white maintains its spotlessly clean look, every single day.

But there's more to her awe-inspiring BTO than simply its pristine glitz and glam! Melanie's space is also home to every girl's ultimate dream - a huge, walk-in wardrobe filled with stylish threads, kicks and bags (as expected from the fashionista).

With nary a pinch of dust nor an item out of sight, we sat down with the meticulous duo to learn more about why they chose this look - and their secrets to keeping their home ultra organised, every time.

Melanie Mak Home Feature HDB

Qanvast: How did you start piecing together what you wanted for your home?

Melanie (M): Back in my mom's place, our living room had a lot of bulky built-in pieces, which I knew for a fact that I did not want in my new space. Instead, I was heavily inspired by American homes featured in those home makeover videos I watched on Youtube, where they focused more on filling a space with movable furniture that can be easily swapped or moved around for a new look.

M: However, what I didn't want was too much emphasis on knick-knacks, ornaments and decor, often seen in those Western-style homes. They collect a ton of dust - and because the both of us are working, we wanted to avoid unnecessary clutter that would increase our housekeeping load.

Melanie Mak Home Feature HDB

Qanvast: But your home is entirely white – doesn’t that require more cleaning and maintenance?

M: On the contrary, having it all white makes it easier for me to spot and do upkeep because you can literally see all the dirt! Especially when we have a cat, Maomao – fur sticks everywhere, so having a white backdrop makes it easy for me to know where to vacuum (which I do everyday).

Qanvast: I see. Other than Youtube, where else did you get your inspiration from?

M: I also pinned a lot of ideas on Pinterest. I saved many different looks, but they were all so different that it’s very hard to marry them. Ultimately, I had to take time and consolidate those ideas within myself, and after that with Eugene, to see which one style we should go for.

Melanie Mak Home Feature HDB

M: To be honest, he (Eugene) preferred something a little more rustic with woods and blacks. But matching wood accents was a concern; you can’t possibly lug your furniture around to see if it matches, and there are often no sample swatches! I was a bit worried it would make things complicated and take a longer time to put the house together. So I thought, screw it! Let’s just stick with something easy to match - and that's why we chose to have a white space.

Qanvast: Did you keep the original flooring in the living room?

M: Yes, but only the living room and bedroom floors. We changed our kitchen floor and service yard tiles, but the initial batch of tiles we chose ended up having dark patches when the workers removed the protective sheet. They initially thought it might be wet – but it never dried. Turns out the whole batch of tiles was affected.

Melanie Mak Home Feature HDB

Eugene (E): By then, most of the furniture was already in, including our fridge and oven. As a result, there were quite a bit of delays in which we had to shift the fridge around and use plastic sheets to cordone up the area.

M: The best part? The tile person asked our ID, “Your homeowner okay or not (with the patchy tiles)?” To which our ID asked, “Would you be okay if this was your house? Even I’m not okay with it. Of course you have to change it!” so they changed it.

E: Actually, our ID got confused. We bought tiles from two places - Hafary and Soon Bee Huat – and he thought the sick tiles were from Hafary. When the Hafary specialists reached, they instantly knew that the tiles weren’t theirs, but still advised us anyway, diagnosing that the tiles were sick, due to moisture absorbed from the bottom, which shouldn't happen if they were well made.

Melanie Mak Home Feature HDB

Qanvast: Were there other hiccups along the way?

M: Our marble top for the peninsula counter - the slabs got cut wrongly, even though it had been taped and marked. Because of that the suppliers had to check to see if they still had a similar slab. If there wasn’t, we had to reselect. And if the price was different (because of the grade of the marble), we would have to top up.

E: There were other hiccups that we just have to live with. Like the shape of our shower curb – we wanted a U shape instead of a 90-degree angle. Another hiccup was that our ID ordered the wrong tiles, we wanted tiles that were 30x60cm, but instead we got 60x60cm tiles. In the end, he hacked it away for us and absorbed the cost.

Melanie Mak Home Feature HDB

M: There was also a bit of problem-solving required for the bathroom. Maomao uses the toilet bowl to pee, so we have to make sure it’s very clean; any kind of scent lingering and he won’t use it. From experience, we know there will be a water catchment at the corner, beside the shower area. Our solution was to cut a hole in the shower glass and allow the water to directly flow to the drain. It works like a charm.

Qanvast: Were there other instances of creative problem-solving?

M: We wanted to conceal the switches for the oven and hob, after some discussion with our ID, we suggested hiding our switches under the overhead cabinets, where they would be easily accessible, but out of the way. We also placed one specifically for Maomao’s drinking fountain.

Melanie Mak Home Feature HDB

Qanvast: What was the most expensive item for your renovation?

E: We spent about $70,000 on just the renovation, and the walk-in wardrobe took up the most budget.

M: I actually designed the wardrobe myself. I drew rectangles in different configurations in my notebook and then I let it sit for a while before deciding on one.

Melanie Mak Home Feature HDB

Source: Melanie Mak

Qanvast: As a fashion stylist, how do you organise your wardrobe?

M: I go by the type of hangers. Hangers and the length. It took me a while to really think about how much of each kind of stuff I had to plan the wardrobe.

Qanvast: Does it look like this organized every day?

M: It's not just my wardrobe - my home looks like this every day! Eugene and I already made an pact between ourselves to keep our new home looking presentable and in a showroom condition at all times - because we never know who’s coming and when!

Melanie Mak Home Feature HDB

M: Also, I pay special attention to making my bed every day. Regardless of whether you have a good or bad day, ultimately you will want to come home, see a very nice bed, peel the covers off and crawl in! You should feel like you just stepped into a hotel – I find that it helps me relax better! But of course, it requires a lot of initiative and effort to keep things looking clean and pristine all the time.

Melanie Mak Home Feature HDB

Qanvast: Yep, there's a definite hotel vibe – especially with these gold accents! So, where did you buy some of these pieces?

M: The coffee table comes in a set with the one in the study room, and were originally black. Eugene spray painted them – as well as the open shelves behind the sofa. The sofa is custom-made from V Furniture, while the TV console and living room rug is from IKEA.

M: I got the rugs in the study room and bedroom online. I went to a lot of areas around Singapore, but just couldn’t find what I wanted, or the measurements or colour weren’t right, so I bought a lot of things online, including some rugs, the bench and lamps – you can check out Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware and Target Home.

Melanie Mak Home Feature HDB

Qanvast: Last question - what are three must-haves for styling your home?

M: Flowers, because they can really switch up the look of the space. Basically, plants. And paintings. I have several. Lastly, rugs - I’m huge on rugs. I gave a few away and still have some stashed in the storeroom!

Melanie Mak Home Feature HDB

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