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UX Design Played a Big Role in This Clementi Flat’s Makeover

Optimum functionality lies at the heart of this UX designer’s home, which she designed on her own.

Simplicity, easy functionality and user-friendliness are some of the qualities that Jacquelyn’s apartment in Clementi possesses. And it comes as no surprise, because as a UX designer, she’s no stranger to the ins-and-outs of developing intuitive environments – knowledge that was also applied to the makeover of this 3-room resale HDB flat, which she shares with her spouse Jayden.

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“I believe that a home should be practical,” says Jacquelyn. “It’s why the design (of our flat) is very user-centric.” But that’s not to say there isn’t a balance between aesthetics and functionality in this mini abode for two. With a clean white-and-wood palette as well as good flow, there’s as much beauty to be found in its details as its layout. So, here’s a peek indoors!

About themselves and their home

Jacquelyn (Jacq): It’s just basically the two of us (living here). This is our first house and we moved in last year after getting married. I’m an UX designer who enjoys staying home as much I like going out. But because of the current situation, I’ve been spending a lot more time indoors.

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Jayden (Jay): I work in the aerospace sector, so my work hours are more flexible compared to the usual 9-to-5. Also, due to my work schedule, I don’t really have weekdays or weekends so to speak. The good thing about it is that I get to be at home for longer stretches, and that lets me appreciate our space better.

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Jacq: The design of our home is heavily focused on our lifestyle and habits, so you could say that it’s very practical, even though it has a cafe-like ambience which I really love. It’s important to focus on the end-user and their needs, more so than what’s in style – I believe that this is a principle that applies to both renovation and creating useful interfaces.

Because of that, it’s worth thinking about your own behavioural patterns, even if it’s something as mundane as where you place your keys. For example, do you usually store them near the entrance or in your bedroom? Knowing the answer will let you make an informed choice about where to set aside some space for a key drop, and it’ll also help you make other bigger decisions for your renovation as well.

On finding their home and the design process

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Jay: This house is about six years old, we got it just right after its Minimum Occupation Period ended last year.

Back when we were still hunting for houses, there was a unit in the same block that we had our eye on. It was on the fourth floor and it was fully renovated, but our agent asked if we’d be interested in another property that wasn’t listed on her network, so we came down to take a look and ended up buying this house which is on the 25th floor.

Jacq: Although we worked with a contractor firm called JPH Design & Contract that my mom had recommended, I came up with the layout on my own and we had to manage the project by ourselves. That was pretty intense, because throughout the entire process, we had to come down almost every weekend to liaise with the contractors.

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Both Jayden and I also had to be very specific about every nitty-gritty detail because the contractors followed our instructions to the T. We had to decide everything on our own – what height our cabinets should be, how the pipes should run, and even the type of switches to install; that’s probably the biggest difference between working with a contractor firm and an interior designer.

About the living room and dining area’s makeover

Jacq: Although our home has a great view of the surrounding area, that wasn’t the main reason why we decided to buy it. The previous owner had installed an almost opaque film on all of the living room windows, so we couldn’t look outside even if we wanted to; there was also quite a lot of work to be done because for a six-year-old flat, it was in terrible shape.

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The living room in its original state before the renovation

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Jay: From the start, our goal was to create a comfortable layout that feels spacious – not just for the dining area, but also the living room. Now, if you were to step in from the front door, it feels like more like 4-room flat rather than a mini home.

The main passageway in the house was also quite claustrophobic, so we made the decision to knock down the walls around one of the bedrooms, which we then turned into our living room. We didn’t need to use the extra room as a study, because we’re accustomed to using the dining table as a workstation.

On changes made to the kitchen

Jay: Like the passageway, the kitchen was originally quite small and dark – there was almost no sunlight entering the space, so we had to hack away the yard partition to brighten it up. Another way that we tried to make our kitchen look larger was to use vinyl flooring, which would make it look like a seamless stretch of space from the dining area.

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The yard (right) and kitchen (left) in their original state.

We’re aware that tiles are a better choice, but our flooring contractor reassured us that it’s okay to install vinyl, even if it isn’t commonly used in kitchens. Naturally, we were sceptical at first but up till now it’s been great, and we haven’t encountered any problems. We do wipe the floor frequently though.

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Jacq: Compared to how long we’ve been living here, the open shelves are a relatively new addition. Initially, we didn’t have the budget to have these shelves installed, so it wasn’t until after the renovation that they were added. The previous owner had chosen to install top-hung cabinets, but that just made the kitchen look even tighter, so we refused to have too many built-ins in here.

But as you can tell, the kitchen is still quite compact, so another thing we did was to create as much countertop space as possible. For instance, we got ourselves an induction hob, so on days that we don’t cook, we’re able to utilise the extra ‘space’ by placing things on it.

On the master bedroom and en suite’s renovation

Jacq: Going back to the idea of applying UX design principles to our renovation, I wanted to create a master bedroom that puts us and our needs first – and one of our biggest priorities was to have ample storage without sacrificing on bedroom space.

So, we ended up knocking down the partition wall between the bedroom and the living area, and that gave us enough room to install a wardrobe deep enough to store all of our clothes.

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Jay: Another idea we explored was colour-blocking, and we used pastel pink for the doorway and the wardrobe to create a more calming vibe for our bedroom.

Jacq: You might think that I was the one who asked for the pink built-ins, but it was actually Jayden who wanted it. [laughs] He said that it’s a colour that he’d be happy waking up to, so I was like, “Alright, let’s do it!”

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Jay: We believe that home should be a place that we can chill and relax in, so even the bathrooms are comfortable and calming.

Jacq: We got the idea to give this bathroom a full-on marble look whereas the common bathroom has more of a colonial black-and-white aesthetic. We liked both styles, so we ended up doing one for each bathroom.

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There’s a built-in ledge at the side that’s part of the shower’s original design. Although most people would see it as a hindrance, I see it as a convenient feature because I didn’t want to have additional metal racks in the bathroom. Another good thing about it is that it dries more quickly compared to regular shelves.

About the common bathroom’s revamp

Jacq: Rather than the view, what really drew us to this particular flat in the first place was the common bathroom’s layout; it has a two-way design that’s linked to the kitchen and the walkway.

I believe that all the bathrooms in this block are designed this way because this estate was actually built to rehouse Selective Enbloc Redevelopment Scheme residents, so having two entrances would serve old folks and the handicapped better.

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The common bathroom, prior to the renovation.

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The first thing to go during the common bathroom’s renovation were the original partition doors. Initially, we wanted frosted glass panels because our guests use this bathroom more than us, but we realised that it would clash with our goal of making the shower feel less claustrophobic. So, we ended up getting a shower curtain – it’s from Taobao and although it looks like it’s made from fabric, it’s actually waterproof and I don’t have to wash it frequently.

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We also thought about having his-and-her sinks for the vanity outside, but we realised the bathroom would get even tighter and that would make it look quite uninviting, so we stuck to having just one sink. We got the entire top mount set-up from IKEA and we did the same for our master en suite’s vanity.

To sum up

Jay: Renovating on your own is a path that’s less taken for Singapore couples, but if you’ve the time and the capacity to do it, you might just find the entire experience quite enjoyable. Plus, you get to decide almost every aspect of your renovation. It has been a hands-on experience for us, but this home definitely feels like something that we actually built.

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Jacq: Also, if you’re planning to renovate independently, I feel that it’s important to be forgiving to yourself. For us, we told ourselves that even if we made a mistake, it’s okay and that it would be a lesson learnt for our next renovation.

After all, which home is perfect? For example, most people wouldn’t notice it unless we point it out, but if you take a look at the air-con in our living room, you’ll see that the back isn’t completely concealed! [laughs]

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