Heritage and restoration

Beautifully restored by MONOCOT, this 50-year-old HDB walk-up apartment gets a refreshed style sensibility without losing its nostalgic charm.

  • Heritage and restoration

Home Type: HDB walk-up

Floor Area: 963sqft

Text by Disa Tan

Having relocated from Shanghai to Singapore, a young couple wanted to find a place steeped in history like their previous home, a pre-war dwelling in the French Concession area. They eventually decided to settle down in the Tiong Bahru estate, which had the kind of conservation architecture they love. However, the old HDB walk-up apartment they purchased required a big overhaul to be made suitable for modern living.

old walk-up Tiong Bahru

Architectural designer Mikael Teh of MONOCOT was tasked with the project. He says: “The original space, a two-bedder with balconies on both sides, was quite unusable in the current context. We needed to completely redesign the space to suit the homeowners’ daily needs which included having a powder room and a usable living and dining area.”

old walk-up Tiong Bahru

Noting the homeowners’ preference for the wabi-sabi style with a tinge of luxury, Mikeal opened up the communal space by merging the balcony with the living area. Now a lofty and serene lounging area decked in brand new engineered timber flooring, a welcoming backdrop has been put together for the homeowners’ existing and new furniture pieces to harmoniously co-exist.

old walk-up Tiong Bahru

Part of the brief included salvaging and repurposing the existing architectural elements in the old HDB walk-up. It was handled sensitively with Mikael and the homeowners bringing in specialists to reinstate the original windows in the post-war apartment. The window shutters from the hacked balcony have been relocated to the living room and make a striking conversation starter.

Forging a connection between the living area and study, the repurposed window shutters fill the study with daylight when it is open.

old walk-up Tiong Bahru

The cosy dining area shares a similar wabi-sabi aesthetic of new and old furniture pieces. The well-worn dining table, for instance, hails from the homeowners’ previous home and has been paired with new pieces like a buffet sideboard and a paper shade lamp from HAY.

The external window grilles were also kept and have been restored into charming statement features around the house.

A modern and open eat-in kitchen now replaces the previously enclosed kitchen. It is fronted by a peninsula counter lined with kit kat tiles that lends a contemporary touch to the monochromatic colour scheme.

Clad in Caesarstone quartz countertops, painted cabinets and a tiled backsplash from RICE, the bright and minimalist kitchen is elevated by brass details.

Filled with new patterned floor tiles, the chic kitchen showcases a collection of travel mementos on the fridge – a nod to the well-travelled homeowners.

Hacking away the balcony at the back of the kitchen has introduced a copious amount of daylight into the old HDB walk-up apartment, making the spaces feel so much brighter and airier.

The powder room is accessed via an all-white door seamlessly hidden within the kitchen wall. This unassuming entrance unpacks a bold surprise where one opens the door to view a wallcovering of fantastical jungle motifs.

Combined with the balcony, the enlarged master bedroom now enjoys a good circulation of space and light to nurture a restful ambience.

In keeping with the apartment’s wabi-sabi leanings, the textured wall effect is matched with calming wood finishes like the timber veneer cabinetry surfaces and engineered timber flooring.

old walk-up Tiong Bahru

Topped with a mirror, this desk from Studio Kallang is turned into a compact vanity table with a playful vintage touch.

Previously a separate WC and bath area, this layout has been reworked to carve out a sizeable floor area for the master bathroom. Now decked in earthy travertine tiles, the new setup with a shower stall has the luxury of space.

A sculptural centrepiece, this custom integrated basin’s floating design makes washing up a beautiful experience.


Photography by Studio Periphery

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