A request to add back a room to a flat led to a most beautiful proposal for HDB living.
4 August 2022
Home Type: 4-room HDB flat
Floor Area: 1,055sqft
Text by Janice Seow
When one’s family grows, a common response might be to find a new and larger home. One couple decided, however, that redesigning the flat that they had lived in for a decade, and making it fit for purpose, would be the better alternative.
They called on their friend and interior designer Keguang to make it happen. The designer, who runs his own studio Anomaly, was given a rather unusual brief to revert the existing unit, comprising two enlarged bedrooms, back to its original layout of three bedrooms and one storeroom.
“The family has grown, and with the clients’ children now stepping into early adolescence, it was felt that they would grow more comfortably in individual rooms,” Keguang explains.
While the frequent solution to small spaces is to break down walls to create open zones, the designer’s challenge was to establish private rooms for each member of the family, yet maintain the airy and spacious atmosphere so essential in dense high-rise living, and the sense of connection crucial to family life.
“The new Parent’s bedroom was conceived as an openable timber box inserted as the ‘heart’ of the apartment,” says Keguang. The sense of openness is enforced with a full-height window between this bedroom and the living/dining area that not only invites visual porosity, but improves cross-ventilation in the flat. In fact, on most days, the family gets to enjoy a steady breeze across the home.
The window is also truly where family life revolves. “The window facilitates the clients’ supervision of their young children studying or playing in the living area while they are plugged-in at the work desk sailing across the opening. Sliding doors close the windows up when privacy is needed,” Keguang explains.
In the master bedroom, sheer curtains that conceal the vanity and bathroom en suite diffuse natural daylight coming in from the window into a soft glow, amplifying the calm and airy atmosphere that’s so important to the occupants. Elsewhere, curtains are again utilised to partially conceal the entryway to the children’s rooms and master suite, adding an extra layer of privacy to these spaces.
Foyers have risen in importance as a threshold between the public and private amid the pandemic. In this case, Keguang has made it a proper space, with visual porosity presenting itself again as a common theme with the choice of a see-through grille door (embellished with greenery) and matching shoe rack, and a timber-framed glass door further in being that additional layer to conceal the family’s private sanctuary.
The living/dining area enjoys a soothing palette of whites and greys, which is meant to accentuate the contrast between the ‘timber box’ bedroom and common spaces.
Little idiosyncrasies of the unit have been left as is, becoming part of the charm. “During the renovation, a subtle rectilinear pattern in the soffit of the floor slab above was discovered. Left behind by the timber formwork after it was removed post-structural casting 38 years ago, this architectural feature was embraced and left exposed,” Keguang explains.
The family has a common interest in Lego, and this is reflected in the design of the television cabinet that incorporates a mural of Lego 1×1 round tiles on studded baseplates that, given the nature of Lego, is fully customisable.
“On the onset, a pixel art inspired by Google Chrome’s No Internet Dino Game was installed as a subtle reminder to unplug and unwind,” says the designer. Heeding the clients’ wish that the television should not be a focus, the Lego mural wall can also slide to conceal it when desired.
The art of concealment continues yet again where a full-height, glass-encased figurine display is hidden behind a roller blind, only revealing itself when one feels the desire to admire the collection.
In furnishing the house, the clients have mostly maintained the Ikea furniture pieces they have collected over the years – given too, that many are discontinued gems and still in good condition.
Armchairs by Hay (Ypperlig) and Piet Hein Eek (Industriell) sit in the living area. In a master bedroom, an Eames Elephant Stool that the children have outgrown has been modified to carry Ikea’s Skala tray, thus forming a side table. The Ypperlig bench at the common corridor (that’s used like a balcony) is shared with a neighbour to sit and gaze.
The redesign of this HDB unit completely dispels the notion that bigger is always better. With well-considered design interventions, making spaces just right for all is possible even in modestly-sized flats.
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