Nostalgic elements and a play of light and shadow capture a mood in this five-room flat, rather like ones found in Wong Kar Wai films.
2 August 2021
Home Type: 5-room HDB flat
Floor Area: 1,300sqft
Text by Janice Seow
Movies transport us into different worlds, and sometimes, they can be so compelling that they get to influence our aesthetic taste. Such was the case for Mediacorp YES 933 DJ Zhong Kunhua, who happens to be a Wong Kar Wai movie fan.
“Movies create an escape from the real world, and what better place to escape to than home right? Wong Kar Wai films evoke a certain sense of nostalgia and meditativeness, which served as an inspiration for my furniture choices and spaces for quietude,” says the first time homeowner.
He continues, “Shadows and light are integral to a Wong Kar Wai film as they create a mood and convey the emotions of his characters. Likewise, the choice of lights and how they cast shadows is my way of capturing a mood, be it for myself or my guests.”
Kunhua’s home is a five-room resale flat in the central area, which he picked for having the same familiarity as the heritage neighbourhood that he grew up in. It’s also fairly close to his parents’ place. Space wise, he was drawn to generous floor area and rectangular layout that afforded “many possibilities in terms of design and the reconfiguration of space”.
Having met with several interior design firms, Kunhua settled on Free Space Intent as “the chemistry was good”. He explains, “Leon [the designer] was very patient and helpful even before I committed. He listened to my needs, was open to robust discussions, and made me feel comfortable.”
In designing this home, Leon Luo of Free Space Intent took his client’s request for it “not to look like any other home” to mean that it should reflect the personality of the homeowner. And while the space is only meant for one at the moment, it had to be flexible for future changes too.
A ‘Retro’ home was part of the brief, and Leon took time to distil what that meant to his client. “Retro can mean different things to different people who grew up in different time periods. So there was quite some discussion with Kunhua about his definition of Retro. We concluded that he wanted something close to heart, and to his childhood spent in the Chinatown district. Architectural elements of that area appealed to him,” says Leon.
The entire house was gutted out almost entirely and replaced with new finishes. The kitchen was opened up to enhance the flow of space, and two bedrooms were combined to create a master bedroom with a walk-in wardrobe. “The only element we kept were the entrance and bedroom doors. They were one of a kind and in good condition,” Leon shares.
As a hands-on homeowner with a clear vision of what he wanted for his home, Kunhua made it a point to source for his own furniture, shopping at vintage stores and customising certain pieces. “With vintage pieces, it was possible for my home to look dated. I was very mindful that I needed to mix and match my furniture in a refreshing way and choose pieces that have a vintage flavour incorporated in a more contemporary style,” he says. “I would like to think that I’ve created my own ‘retro rojak’ aesthetic, where a variety of flavours come together harmoniously to create a yummy whole!” he quips.
In this flat, the dining area is conveniently located next to the open kitchen, making it easy to entertain guests when they come around. Old vinyl records, which Kunhua also collects, are displayed on a pegboard and furthers the retro feel in this space.
Since Kunhua seldom cooks, terrazzo was used as the countertop material for its retro appeal, even though it is more prone to staining compared to common quartz. A grille reminiscent of ones found in old HDB flats, a green mosaic backsplash, and customised bar stools complete the kitchen. Adjacent to this, a Wong Kar Wai movie poster is just one of several that displays the owners’ love for his films.
The service yard was carved out from the original spacious but oddly shaped kitchen. Kunhua has turned it into a back yard garden of sorts, and the small format tiles and vintage door complete the retro look.
Further in, a display divider separates the dining and living zones while maintaining the sense of openness. “This is actually my favourite element of this project,” shares Leon. “It is a massive piece of carpentry, but I managed to trim down its silhouette to make it less overwhelming. It serves the homeowner very well for his collections. It also divides the huge living/dining space with partial visual permeability, and hides the television cables and Wi-Fi peripherals.”
One of the most unique features in master bedroom is the ventilation wall. It let’s light and views through, but can be covered by a sliding glass panel for privacy while still allowing some light to filter in.
Patterned flooring creates a ‘corridor space’ that visually divides the resting quarters from the walk-in wardrobe that lies beyond the timber wall. Once again, a fluted glass panelled door serves as a light filter.
The walk-in wardrobe is a sizeable room, complete with bay window seating to enjoy a quiet moment. Further in, the master bathroom is Kunhua’s favourite spot in the house because it carries his favourite shade of green, and has little design elements like the “On Air” lightbox that gives a little clue about him. Finding mosaic tiles in the perfect shade of green proved to be a challenge and almost delayed the renovation. But the result doesn’t disappoint as the space – like much of this Wong Kar Wai inspired flat – is an homage to retro.
Free Space Intent
Where to Shop
Living room vinyl flooring from Wood Culture
Terrazzo kitchen countertop surface from Lian Hin
Kitchen backsplash from Unlimited
Master bathroom, small tiles and mosaic from An Huat and Unlimited
Yard floor tiles from Hafary
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