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What happens when your home lacks space? You follow the cue of the Lims at their compact 840 square foot apartment at River Valley Road. "What this apartments lacks in area, it makes up for it in volume," says teacher Reggie Lim, who lives with his wife and daughter.

Their interior designer, Kelvin Bing, from Renaissance Planners & Designers, created more useable space out of almost nothing. Take for example the apartment's false ceiling. "We were surprised to see that there was so much space that we could use when we took the ceiling down," says Mr Bing. With that extra space, he created a study, which is accessible by specially constructed steps, above the kitchen. The study is not big, but cosy enough for the family to use. Mr Bing managed to fit in a row of cupboards on one side, and a long table on the other.

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"Amanda does her homework there, and we do our work there as well," says Mr Lim's wife, Low Wan Hoon, who is a vice-president of a bank. The stairs to the study get a special mention. Some of the panels open on top and on the side to reveal storage space. "Kelvin has designed three of our homes, so he knows that we always like to have plenty of storage space," says Ms Low.

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The apartment's kitchen is tiny, with only a small induction hob but that suits the family just fine. Ms Low says they do only light cooking – "pastas and soups". She's more concerned about having her own baking space, where she makes bread. "Before, I had to use Amanda's desk to roll out my dough, but now I have a proper work space," she says.

Thanks to the double volume ceiling in the living room, this area looks much bigger than it is, but still, there isn't space for a dining table. So Mr Lim decided to do away with a dining area, and the family have their meals out on the balcony instead. "It is breezy out there, and we get to look out onto the neighbourhood. But if it rains, we simply move indoors and dine on the sofa," he says.

The balcony is also big enough for the family to have frequent barbecues. The couple say they chose this apartment for its location. It is within the one kilometre radius of Amanda's primary school, and close enough to Ms Low's parents. They also liked the apartment's layout, "such as the two bedrooms, which are on the same floor", says Ms Low. "Most of the other developments we saw had bedrooms on different floors."

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Again, the family didn't let the compactness of the bedrooms bother them. Amanda uses a loft bed, so she can have both a sleeping and play area. Just like with downstairs, Mr Bing built steps to the bed, which also double as storage space.

The couple's bedroom has space for only a bed and two side tables, and nothing more. "We used to have bigger bedrooms, so this bedroom took getting used to," says Ms Low. "It is strictly for sleeping, that's why we usually spend more time in our study."

Some may find the space small for three, but the family say they do just fine. "Since we moved to a smaller space than before, we could only keep what we really wanted. We got rid of a lot of books and clothes in the process," says Mr Lim. What they have kept and display proudly around the home, include artworks done by Amanda, as well as little decorative items, such as a pair of African teak hippos, and a pair of bronze elephant figurines.

While the apartment's size is just right for three, it has proven tough when the extended family comes over. For Amanda's birthday party last year, the family hosted 20 guests. "We had people all over the apartment, everyone had to spread out," Mr Lim chuckles. Asked if the family will move out to a bigger space, when Amanda is done with primary school, Ms Low quips: "Ask me again a few years later."

Photos: The Business Times
This article first appeared in The Business Times