House Tour: A modern vintage-inspired four-room HDB home with a $50,000 renovation
Architectural designer Ching Hei has been living in Singapore since his family emigrated from Hong Kong when he was nine. He went back to Hong Kong to continue his post-graduate studies and worked there for about two years thereafter. He loved hanging out in Kennedy Town, an area that is undergoing gentrification. “Many of the old buildings in Kennedy Town are going through a renewal process. The tenement flats of the ’60s and ’70s are being taken over by hipster cafes and fine-dining restaurants,” he points out. When he returned to Singapore and bought a flat with his wife, Eng Yu Jia, a procurement manager, Kennedy Town’s blend of old and new provided the design inspiration for the home’s modern vintage concept. The decision to design his home came naturally. “as architectural designers, most of us harbour dreams of designing our own homes,” he confesses. It was also about being able to have full control, right down to the details. “Of course, being involved in the whole process would also allow me to exercise better budget control,” he adds.
As an architectural designer, how different is it working on a client’s project versus on your own home?
I know what I want without asking any questions or doing any guesswork. With a client’s project, you need to arrive at a final product. With my own home, I like it to be a perpetual work-in-progress. It should be complete enough to live in comfortably, yet allow room to add or make modifications according to changing tastes, lifestyle or family needs.
Tell us more about the chevron motif in your home.
I was inspired by Tai and Rosita Missoni who created the signature chevron stripe design in 1962. Its popularity peaked in the 1970s, so I decided to incorporate this motif into my design to reinforce the modern vintage theme.
What is your interpretation of modern vintage?
Modern vintage is the integration of old and new, but it is usually expressed in a very industrial manner, which I find too cold for residential purposes. My take on modern vintage is warmer and cosier, combining modern design with vintage motifs.
What aspect of overseeing the whole renovation project yourself is most challenging?
During the renovation, some things did not quite turn out as expected. Instead of making a contractor redo something, I prefer to resolve issues by making the best of the situation and exploring what can be done to salvage it. For example, the kitchen half-height wall was not constructed according to my specification, which had implications for whether I could use the granite I had ordered, which I intended to lay over the wall to form a countertop. In the end, I came up with the solution of adding an L-shaped timber capping over a smaller piece of granite.
Do you think you managed to exercise better budget control because you designed and managed the entire project yourself? Please share a few DIY cost-savings tips.
Definitely. I spent about $50,000 on the renovation and I also saved on the design fee. It would have been a higher figure had I outsourced the project. I know people in the industry, so I was able to get contractor prices. I sourced the teak flooring directly from a timber supplier and managed to get it at approximately 40 per cent off the market rate. I saved some money by ordering some items such as bathroom fixtures from Taobao. But it is not always about lower prices. I realised that with the same budget, I could get something of a better quality online, as compared to at brick-and- mortar shops. For example, the timber furniture that you get from stores may have just a veneer or laminate finish, but for the same price, I can get one made of solid wood online.