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Walk-Up Apartments in Singapore: 5 Charming Homes Where Old Meets New

“You’re not just buying a property – you’re buying a piece of history,” as they say on Selling the OC.

Given that most of us live in high-rise apartments, finding a walk-up apartment in Singapore is like finding a needle in a haystack. It’s only natural, then, to be curious about what these rare residential properties look like on the inside.

walk-up apartment singapore
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But first, what are walk-up apartments?

As the name suggests, walk-up apartments are flats accessible only by walking up a flight of stairs. That’s right, they don’t come with elevators. * gasps in first world *

They’re also older than most residential properties in Singapore – some dating back to the pre-war era, lacking in amenities like air conditioning and cable points for the internet.

pre-war flat in Tiong Bahru
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A pre-war flat in Tiong Bahru; source: Visit Singapore

Despite these ‘turn-offs’, walk-up apartments remain highly sought after. For one, they represent a piece of Singapore’s unique heritage and history, with their period architecture conserved. On a practical front, they’re also (generally) found in central locations with larger floor areas compared to regular HDB flats.


So, what do walk-up apartments look like inside?

With that, let’s take a look at some of these old units that have been given a new lease of life :

1. This quaint and airy walk-up apartment in Tiong Bahru with a spacious open plan layout

Tiong Bahru by Art Of Integrity Studio
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Tiong Bahru by Art Of Integrity Studio
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View this project by Art Of Integrity Studio

In a classic example of old meets new, this walk-up apartment in Tiong Bahru retains original features like the front door and arched walkway. New furnishings in a mid-century aesthetic are then paired with contemporary touches like fluted panels and glass doors, resulting in a look that’s both nostalgic and current.

And unlike your typical BTO, this one is flanked by a row of windows on both ends, keeping the open plan space light-filled and cross-ventilated (read: breezy) when needed.

Tiong Bahru walk-up apartment
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If we saw a listing like this on Airbnb, we’d book it in a heartbeat.


2. This industrial chic apartment in Tiong Bahru that’s equal parts sleek and gritty

But if you’d prefer a little more edge, this next example might just be up your alley. Think bold accents and raw cement screed flooring juxtaposed against clean lines and white walls.

Guan Chuan Street by Fifth Avenue Interior
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Guan Chuan Street by Fifth Avenue Interior
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Guan Chuan Street by Fifth Avenue Interior
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View this project by Fifth Avenue Interior

Here, retro features such as glass blocks and patterned tiles are a nod to the era in which the property was built. Meanwhile, the rest of this walk-up apartment is decked in otherwise contemporary finishes, with several vignettes reminiscent of the Art Deco movement that inspired the architecture of these very walk-up apartments along Guan Chuan Street.

Guan Chuan Street by Fifth Avenue Interior
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3. This plant-filled walk-up apartment at Bukit Merah that’s bathed in natural light

Taking on a completely different look and feel, this next walk-up apartment is all about bringing the outdoors in.

Lim Liak Street by The Makers Design Studio
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Lim Liak Street by The Makers Design Studio
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Lim Liak Street by The Makers Design Studio
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View this project by The Makers Design Studio

Aside from its indoor garden – which, by the way, has unblocked views and receives an abundance of sunlight due to the way the flat is laid out – most of its furnishings are made from natural materials like wood or rattan. As a commitment to its theme, even the accent wall, bedside tables and bed linens are in earth tones, while the terrazzo floor tiles are akin to a pebble garden (sans the maintenance required, of course).

Lim Liak Street by The Makers Design Studio
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Lim Liak Street by The Makers Design Studio
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Probably the best kind of home to have been ‘trapped’ in during the COVID-19 lockdown, mental health wise.


4. This uber-homey walk-up apartment at Joo Chiat with not one, but two storeys

It’s rare enough to get a walk-up apartment. To get one that’s two storeys? Twice the gem!

And evoke two different vibes as well, depending on which room you’re at.

Joo Chiat walk up apartment
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View this project by Blend by Imc

Upon entry, the communal areas sport a striking monochromatic aesthetic replete with warm wood tones for an artsy, avant garde vibe befitting a walk-up apartment in a ‘hipster’ neighbourhood.

Joo Chiat Place by Blend by Imc
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Walk-up apartments in Singapore
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Joo Chiat Place by Blend by Imc
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But take a few steps further in, and you’ll find pops of colour, curves, soft furnishings and houseplants for a much homier setting. The best of both worlds? We think so.


5. This vintage walk-up apartment in Joo Chiat that once belonged to Zubir Said

Joo Chiat by Free Space Intent
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Once the home of Singapore’s national anthem composer Zubir Said, this walk-up apartment in Joo Chiat now belongs to a self-professed history buff. And you can see that reflected in the mid century-modern interior, where the wooden accents, muted colours, and antique pieces all give rise to a vintage, old-school theme.

Joo Chiat by Free Space Intent
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Joo Chiat by Free Space Intent
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Joo Chiat by Free Space Intent
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View this project by Free Space Intent

Granted, it definitely involved extra work and care to retain original features like the ventilation blocks in the midst of a complete overhaul. But seeing as this made-over home still very much transports you back to yesteryear, we’d say it was well worth the effort.


Dreaming of a walk-up apartment of your own?

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This article was originally published on 27 July 2021 and last updated on 14 May 2024.


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