This Tiong Bahru Flat is a BTS Fan’s Dream Home Come True
Inspired by a love for pastel hues, this homeowner created a vibrant dwelling for herself that’s as unique as it’s colourful.
At the start of this year, Lucia’s Tiong Bahru HDB flat was just like any resale property – dark, drab and dated – but following a renovation that was completed by Free Space Intent (FSI) earlier in July, it’s now an extra-cheery home that’s filled from top to toe with pastel hues!
Interior Firm: Free Space Intent
“I’ve always wanted a home that I can call my own,” says Lucia, who’s a fan of hit K-pop band BTS. “It’s a dream that I’m glad to finally achieve because I’ve been renting for the past 19 years that I’ve been living in Singapore. Also, now that I have my own space, I’m able to put my BTS collectibles on full display.”
To find out how Lucia’s vibrant crib came to be, we got her to give us a home tour as well as a behind-the-scenes look at how the entire renovation was accomplished with the help of FSI interior designer Limin.
About herself and her home
Lucia (L): I came to Singapore to pursue my studies in 2001, and I’ve stayed here ever since. Other than wanting a home of my own, I guess another reason for buying a flat here is because it wouldn’t be financially wise for me to keep on renting.
The living room, dining area and kitchen entrance in their original state.
I bought this house in February this year, but due to the Circuit Breaker, I was only able to move here in July. It’s a 4-room flat and I really like how much space it has.
Even though I had my own room back when I was still renting, there just wasn’t enough space for my belongings as they kept piling on through the years, especially after I started collecting BTS merchandise; I had to ship my purchases to my friend’s home, so that she could store them first. And when I finally moved in, she brought everything over [laughs].
WATCH: Free Space Intent interior designer Limin shares more about the flat’s renovation.
It was after a trip to South Korea in 2018 that I became a BTS fan; I bought some merchandise of the BT21 characters that the band officially endorses because I thought they were really cute – especially the Koala, who is called Koya. And after that, I started listening to their songs, which I still do today.
The floor plan of Lucia’s home.
I can’t say for sure, but I believe that the house hasn’t been renovated since its completion, which was in 1995. It’s a typical old flat from the 90s – the carpentry was dated and some of the doors had to be replaced. Yes, it was functional, but it definitely wasn’t in the best shape.
About the living room’s makeover
L: I’ve always envisioned my home to be filled with pastel colours – that’s the one constant in all of the mood boards which I provided as design references. I wanted my flat to be extra-vibrant, unlike monochrome or Nordic-style homes which are more muted.
Also, one thing that I noticed when I showed my mood boards to interior designers was that a lot of them would tone down the colours in their proposals, I think it’s because they’re afraid that the end result would be too bright [laughs]. I even remember telling some of them, “I can take it, my tolerance (for bright colours) is high!”
So, that was how my interior designer Limin and I ended up with this ‘crazy’ colour scheme. But aside from the colours and an open-concept layout, I didn’t really have any other ideas. After discussing with Limin, she came up with some ideas for the living room, like the built-in seat at the side, which we refer to as the ‘hamster wheel’.
Interior Firm: Free Space Intent
A couple of other interior designers that I’ve met suggested building a settee below the windows, but I decided against this idea due to the cost and the fact that it would be uncomfortable, just because it’s so close to the outside corridor.
The front of the living room, pre-renovation.
Originally, there were two doors at the front of the living room – one leading to the guest room and the other to the study, but because I wanted to have the TV placed at the front of the living room, Limin sealed off the entrance to the guest room and built a new one at the side instead.
She was also able to incorporate an overhead arch into the new walkway’s design; it complements the rest of the circular shapes and rounded edges around the house, which were included to give the whole place a softer look.
I really like the yellow living room blinds as well, because of the bright pop of colour they bring to the space; I bought them myself from a shop called Blinds Guru, and they’ve turned out to be much easier to maintain than curtains.
On renovating the dining area
L: I’ve always wanted to have some sort of a feature area in my house, but it had to be practical, and that’s the reason for the recessed display shelves in the dining area where I store all my BTS and BT21 collectibles.
Most of the dining area’s furniture and decor carry brass accents, but that wasn’t a deliberate design choice as much as it was a natural decision to make. If we had gone with other choices, like for example, a table with black legs or a ceiling lamp with black swing arms, they just wouldn’t fit into the space.
The credit for the idea of having white-and-green ceiling stripes goes to my friend, Sharon; she was a huge help during my home hunt and renovation, and she’s also the one who helped store my collection before I moved in [laughs].
Once, during a joint discussion, Sharon suggested adding the stripes and Limin rendered them into the 3D mock-up; we thought they looked pretty good, and that’s how the painted ceiling came to be.
On making over the kitchen
The kitchen before (left) and after (right) the renovation.
L: I prefer spacious areas over closed-off ones, and I really dislike structures that cause spaces to appear smaller than they actually are, so the kitchen’s partition walls definitely had to go.
For the kitchen’s cabinets, it was Limin’s idea to have colourful laminates for the top row of built-ins and plain ones at the bottom. To match the geometrical theme, she also incorporated mermaid tiles into design of the backsplashes behind the induction hob and sink.
Another interesting detail about the cabinets are the cloud-shaped knobs that I found off Taobao; they’re pretty small, so you’ve to look closely to notice them. Actually, Limin isn’t a big fan of having knobs on cabinetry, so there are only a couple of these fittings in the kitchen, like on the dish rack above the sink.
The pride and joy of Limin’s work is the kitchen island – it’s not your standard island because she incorporated all sorts of interesting features into its design, like rounded edges, terrazzo pattern laminates, and a ribbed wraparound that’s made of wood. Plus, there’s even storage cabinets at the back, so it’s definitely a practical fixture; I think she’s quite proud of it, and rightfully so.
About changes made to the common bathroom
L: I can’t remember exactly whose idea it was to paint the common bathroom’s drainage pipes pastel yellow, but one thing that Limin and I both agreed on was to coordinate the colours of the sink and the bathroom cabinets. Having all of these fixtures and fittings in yellow also creates a nice contrast with the blue hexagonal tiles on the walls.
Yet another feature that I’ve always wanted was a bidet. Whenever I travel to countries like Korea and Japan, they’d have these nice ones with heated seats.
However, I ended up installing a manual bidet with basic cleaning functions, that’s because electric ones aren’t allowed in HDB flats, according to an electrician I spoke to. I bought this bidet from a Malaysian seller on Shopee and it’s made by Panasonic.
About the master bedroom’s makeover
L: Because the rest of the house is so colourful, it follows that Limin would also design a vibrant look for my bedroom. For thematic consistency, she incorporated pastel hues as well as geometrical shapes.
The bedroom furniture that I chose match Limin’s vision as well, in the sense that they’re all geometrical. For example, the bedside table, bed frame’s headboard and even the dresser’s mirror are either circular in shape or feature rounded edges.
I’ve always wanted to have wallpaper in my bedroom as well because it's a window of opportunity for more intricate designs that would otherwise be hard to accomplish by hand. But to prevent the polka-dotted wallpaper from drowning out the rest of the bedroom’s design, we only used it as a backdrop for the bed.
When we were designing the master bedroom, one question that Limin asked me was whether I wanted a walk-in wardrobe, but I didn’t need one. So, she ended up turning one of the corners of the room into a mini dressing area and installed a row of storage built-ins, which have the same laminate design as the kitchen’s cabinets.
About the master en suite’s new look
L: I was quite specific about the design of the master en suite’s door – I didn’t want the typical aluminium bi-fold ones that most homes have. Instead, I told Limin that I wanted a frosted glass casement door.
Initially, there were some concerns about whether there would be enough room between the WC and the entrance to accommodate the door’s turning radius, but thankfully, the measurements came out right and everything worked out.
On the inside, I wanted the master bathroom to be as vibrant as possible – there had to be colourful walls, a colourful basin and colourful cabinets – that’s the kind of eye-catching look and vibe that I was going for.
For the wall tiles, I went shopping at almost all of the major tile showrooms across Singapore, but I wasn’t able to find an option that I really liked. But eventually, I bought these polka-dotted ones from Lian Seng Hin.
Like the dining area’s ceiling stripes, Limin rendered the tiles into her 3D drawings, along with other options that I had shortlisted – the current ones looked best, so we ended up picking them.
To sum up
L: I’d say that it was a combination of chemistry and an extensive portfolio that gave me the confidence to work with FSI. As for Limin, she has the right balance of experience and creativity – from the start, I could tell that she’s someone who’s meticulous about her work and that she was a designer whom I could trust.
Even though the original designs that she came up with don’t look like how the house is now, I had the feeling that we would get there eventually. And true enough, we did.
As for my own thoughts, I’m really glad to have a space of my own – just imagine having to live in a single room since 2001, and the sense of relief and freedom to finally have your own home afterward. Of course, like BTS says, “life goes on”, but I don’t think I'll ever forget the journey to get here.
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