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Reimagining Japanese aesthetic for a de-cluttered HDB flat

A home for a creative couple gets a facelift with an unexpected spin on a modern Japanese style.

Home Type: 4-room HDB flat

Floor Area: 969sqft

Text by Olha Romaniuk

From the minute of entry into the open-plan HDB flat inhabited by a duo of creative professionals, their penchant for Japanese-inspired design reveals itself in almost every way. Rather than adhering to traditional Japanese aesthetic, the couple asked their design firm D5 Studio Image to create a unique interpretation of the familiar and trendy Japanese aesthetic; a concept catering specifically to them and their lifestyle.

Japanese aesthetic in an HDB flat living room by D5 Studio Image

“There was a challenge of balance,” recalls Dave Wee, chief designer of D5 Studio Image. “A home that was Japanese, yet not typically Japanese; a concept that was traditional, yet modern and unconventional.” The couple also did not want to adhere to the prevalently popular ‘Muji’ aesthetic, which was one of the reasons they decided to enlist a design firm to help to put a unique spin on a familiar style.

Japanese aesthetic in an HDB flat living room by D5 Studio Image (3)

A big gesture to open up the floor plan was the demolition of a partition wall, previously separating two smaller rooms of the flat and merging the two into one living space. A large, built-in tatami platform occupies the footprint of a formerly enclosed bedroom area. Its boundary now only delineated by a non-obtrusive bulkhead above. The open living area and the platform enhance the versatility of the space for social gatherings and dining. The space below the platform, too, is not wasted. Storage shelves house books and various reading materials, keeping the living room uncluttered.

Japanese aesthetic in an HDB flat bedroom by D5 Studio Image

Carrying on the language introduced in the living area, the master bedroom uses an elevated platform as a practical solution for concealing a series of storage cabinets. The owners specifically expressed their disfavour for imposing wardrobes and full-height cabinets. So, Dave responded by keeping much of the storage below the platform, integrating only a single metal rod connected to a top-hung cabinet for the hanging of clothes.

Japanese aesthetic in an HDB flat work-and-play room by D5 Studio Image

The second room of the flat became a combined work-and-play room for the owners to exercise their creative muscles. Dave maximised the utility of the modest space through the use of pegboard wall organiser to keep the room largely free of obstructions.

Japanese aesthetic in an HDB flat kitchen and bathroom by D5 Studio Image

Material selection played a particularly important role in allowing the overall design to establish a differentiating departure from the ‘Muji’ style. It took several rounds to select just the right material palette that departed from the light oaks and whites, yet still felt distinctly Japanese in its origins. In the end, Dave went with dark walnut vinyl for the floors and dark walnut laminate for the built-in carpentry. Pure whites were avoided in favour of greys, while frosted wired glass was selected for the master bedroom and bathroom doors to merge them with the environs.

Japanese aesthetic in an HDB flat living room by D5 Studio Image (2)

“Ultimately, if you are looking to hire a design firm, you are expecting something beyond the conventional,” divulges Dave, alluding to the unique final result of the renovation. “The owners knew from the beginning that they wanted a bespoke concept created just for them.” The flat accomplishes just that and responds to the clients’ lifestyle while keeping to the Japanese aesthetic that they both wanted to achieve.

D5 Studio Image

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