Refined Japanese luxury in a small 645-square-foot apartment

Interior designer Andrea Savage of ALBD works her design magic on a petite apartment, giving it a sense of sophistication and crafted sensibility.

  • Refined Japanese luxury in a small 645-square-foot apartment

Text by Luo Jingmei

Creating a sense of welcome and comfort in a small 645-square-foot apartment takes plenty of creativity and experience. These, interior designer Andrea Savage has in spades, gleaned from 15 years in the industry. She is the co-founder and creative director of ALBD (A Life By Design), a new firm she recently established with partners.

645-square-foot apartment

The studio’s tagline is “Living: designing dreams, elevating spaces, transforming lives”. It reflects Andrea’s belief that “design transcends mere aesthetics; it’s about creating experiences that deeply touch individuals and communities.”

She elaborates: “At the heart of our approach is the belief that every environment can narrate a profound story – stories of ambition realised, emotions kindled and lives transformed. From the drawing board to the final flourish, we engage in a collaborative journey with our clients, ensuring that each detail reflects their unique personalities and ways of life.”

645-square-foot apartment

For this apartment designed by Andrea and her team, the owner is a bachelor who is a professional and appreciates Japanese interior aesthetics. In his free time, he also dabbles in photography. When he engaged Andrea, he referenced the Aman New York, designed by Jean-Michel Gathy of Denniston, where an assortment of timbers, bronze and brass, as well as stainless and blackened steel mix with subtle Japanese-inspired details such as textured stone floors laid in a basket-like pattern.   

While the footprint of the apartment, located in Bukit Timah, was small, it came with 4.3-metre-high ceilings. Together, these qualities “presents an intriguing blend of opportunity and challenge,” says Andrea. The height enhances the sense of verticality but was not high enough to accommodate a mezzanine. “Additionally, the acoustics of the apartment can be impacted by the high ceilings, which may amplify sound and affect the overall intimacy of the space,” Andrea highlights.   

One of the strategies was to embark on a layered approach to lighting to provide warmth in the high-ceilinged home. “A mix of ambient, task and accent lighting ensures the space is both warmly illuminated and visually expanded, with statement light fixtures drawing the eye upward, enhancing the lofty ceilings without creating a cavernous feel,” Andrea explains. For example, placed high up on the walls are opaque frosted glass-and-bronze metal sconces. They are like little pieces of art that embellish the surfaces.

Andrea adds: “The distinctive proportions of the space also required a meticulous selection of furniture that respects the scale and volume to ensure that the interior feels cohesive and balanced.” There is a thoughtful commingling of bespoke items like carpets and timeless design pieces, such as Hiroshima chairs from Maruni designed by Naoto Fukasawa, and the Series 7 swivel chair from Fritz Hansen whose curves break the monotony of the interior architecture.

645-square-foot apartment

“Proportionately balanced furniture, coupled with the use of soft furnishings, rugs, curtains and wall fabrics, absorbs sound and introduces warmth, softening the impact of the high ceilings and hard surfaces,” Andrea advises. The neutral tonality of creams, browns and beiges also aids in crafting a tranquil home, while the use of mirrors “cleverly extends the horizontal axis, creating the illusion of a more expansive space.”

The apartment came with a small balcony that Andrea decided to integrate with the interior so that the living room “is perceived as more cohesive and extensive.” Here, a small sofa, table and pouf create an inviting setting, where the owner can be found on a good balmy day, having tea while enjoying the green views outside.

645-square-foot apartment

Most importantly, the home embodies the feel of Japanese interiors the owner desired. There is a sense of calm and thoughtful, minimal yet warm gestures. Says Andrea: “The home’s DNA has Japanese elements, natural materials and connection to nature, but it has been reimagined as a refined Japanese style with luxurious elements.” It is refined yet has a subtle wabi-sabi touch, where character rather than perfection was the aim.     

The owner is more than satisfied with the final result, commenting: “The team’s creativity to detail surpassed my expectations, and the end result is elegant and sophisticated.” Functionality is more than met, as there is plenty of customised storage for the photography gear and display shelves to showcase his collection of books.  

645-square-foot apartment

Lastly, Andrea’s attention to lighting design has made all the difference, transforming the space into a sanctuary. He adds: “With the lights dimmed in the living room, it feels like a mini home theatre where I enjoy my evenings watching movies. The carpets are a great addition, which makes the whole space feel a lot softer and cosier.”

A Life by Design

Photography by Sayher Heffernan

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