Backed by 18 years of industry experience, Shermaine Ong now runs MOW Interior Design with her business partner and former schoolmate Wong Teck Soon. Having previously founded and run individual firms, they decided to merge their complementary skill sets and form the current firm in 2018.

To this day, Shermaine continues to be one of the leading interior designers in Singapore. Inspired by Marie Kondo in recent years, she believes in thinking inside the box – that is, planning for clients’ lifestyle needs by optimising workflow and storage, and making design highly functional on top of being aesthetically pleasing.

What is your design philosophy?

To create a good interior experience, where you can  sense that the atmosphere is different, but can’t quite tell why. We also try to align the experience with the lifestyle and behaviour of clients, such as their habits upon arriving home. For example, homeowners who prefer to hang their outfits for a second use before washing will appreciate our cupboard with ventilation and a dehumidifier strip, so everything is properly aired being they’re put away.

What are some design elements BTO homeowners can consider?

A walk-in wardrobe is very popular among young couples. Most will also ask to connect one of the common rooms with the master bedroom for a bigger space. 

Homeowners also tend to request for an open-concept kitchen. However, unless you’re a neatness freak, this doesn’t really work in everyday life, especially when you have things like appliances and condiments scattered on the counter. It’s important to consider how a design element will factor ito  everyday living and how often you will use something.

If a homeowner has a limited budget, which renovation aspect/s should they prioritise? 

A big no-no is to try to split the money equally between all aspects of the home because this will leave it look very ordinary. It’s better to spend a litte more on an outstanding design in one or several areas, like the kitchen, living room or master bedroom.

You should prioritise needs according to your lifestyle and must-haves. For instance, if a walk-in wardrobe is important, that should be higher up on your list of must-haves. I would advise putting a larger portion of the budget aside for an area like the living room as it’s the first thing guests see when they enter the home. 

With MOST BTO flats sharing similar floor plans, how can homeowners make their interiors unique?

I love reconfiguring layouts, so when you enter the house you won’t even notice that it’s a HDB flat. Hacking away the walls, creating a new entrance to a room… these are ways that make a layout unique.

For those ready to make a big change, we can move the master bedroom to where one of the common rooms is or create an open-concept study room adjoining the living area. Another thing we do is double doors. When you have an unusually big doorway, it no longer looks like a HDB flat.

What design trends do you think are here to stay? 

Although it’s been around for years, the Scandinavian trend will stay on in Singapore  because of its timeless appeal. However, I think its designs are evolving; some have adopted a colonial slant. A rising trend involves the use of pastels and dark shades to create a pop art feel. Also, arched doorways are becoming very popular.