Cool nostalgia

In designing this pre-war flat in Tiong Bahru, d’Phenomenal crafted a unique mesh of old and new with a rich dose of old-world neighbourhood charm and an airy down-to-earth aesthetic.

  • Cool nostalgia

Text by Airis Abdullah

Project type: 3-room pre-war flat
Floor area: 1,000sqft

For the homeowners, both educators with a love for dogs, café hunting, photography and active living, their new home in Tiong Bahru puts them right on the pulse of everything they enjoy. When d’Phenomenal designed this pre-war flat, the intention was to fuse influences from the neighbourhood into the design concept while adding a touch of British India style.

d'Phenomenal tiong bahru project

“The idea was to open up the spaces and remove all non-structural walls, even the ones to the bathroom, to create a new space,” says Kef Tan, who led the project. Together with designer Kelly Chin and his team, they overhauled the home by linking various spaces. A door, which is part of the television feature wall design, leads to the master bedroom.

d'Phenomenal tiong bahru project

Having created an airy and open communal space, Kef and his team could work in a cosy corner by the dining area. A built-in counter serves as a workstation, extra seating, and even has a nifty niche to store stools and free up space. A small countertop by the windows makes an idyllic spot to watch the world go by.


Functionality is at the forefront of the kitchen design, from the handle-less cabinets to the lighting solutions. The aim was to create a sense of space, so one side of the kitchen was fitted only with lower cabinets and a shelf for often-used items. Although clad in grey and white, the patterned backsplash and woodgrain laminates create visual flair.

tiong bahru flat by d'Phenomenal

Kef and Kelly created a wardrobe with curved lines and rattan doors. When combined with the wardrobe lighting, it contributes a warm and relaxing glow to the space. Together, the light wood and warm grey aesthetic remind one of the hippest cafes while the rattan surfaces bring out hints of the British India influence.

tiong bahru flat by d'Phenomenal

“With the new layout, the spaces are all linked and the bathroom can now be accessed via the kitchen and the bedroom,” Kef explains. A sliding door closes off the bathroom from the master bedroom. The team also created a spacious sink area and niches to store accessories and toiletries.


Instead of enclosing the wardrobe area, the design team’s approach was to insert a low chest of drawers to serve as a room divider and as extra storage. This arrangement does not crowd the room visually as compared to a full-height divider, and it lets the team orientate the bed in a way that the homeowners wake up to a window view.


Like the rest of the home, the bathroom sees the appearance of curves and arches. Such curves soften living spaces and produce a laidback feel that befits the surroundings. The bathroom is livened up with terrazzo walls, which are also a nod to the heritage of the building’s long history.


Different terrazzo colours were chosen for each space within the bathroom. The shower area, for instance, is decked out in vibrant pink terrazzo and light grey tiles. Eschewing bathroom accessories, the design team incorporated niches into the shower area for toiletries to maintain a clean and streamlined aesthetic.


Featured in Lookbox Annual 2023


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