Don's Studio of Design
A custom- designed wall with lightbulbs (above) forms the backdrop for the flatscreen television set in the living room.

Visitors would have no problem finding interior designer Don Lin's home in the Tampines HDB block he lives in. They just have to look out for a neon-green door.

The 32-year-old co-founder of interior design company Don's Studio of Design says: "It's big, bright and stands out from the other HDB units around."

Step inside the 173 sq m five-room flat and you may feel like you have entered a boutique hotel. After all, that is what Mr Lin based his design on. The bedroom doors even have room numbers on them.

He lives here with his 33-year-old wife of eight years, who is a graphic designer, and their three-year-old daughter.

Inspired by boutique hotels they stayed at in Malacca and Penang, Mr Lin's house combines the modern with the retro – vintage telephones, for instance, sit next to his 65-inch flatscreen TV.

The television set is mounted on a custom-designed wall, which Mr Lin personally scratched at with a cement scraper to create a unique pattern.

The wall is also lined with lightbulbs half dipped in black paint to reduce glare. Their wiring runs along an exposed pipeline incorporated into the wall's design.

"At first, my wife and I wanted a five-star hotel look, but it doesn't suit our lifestyle," Mr Lin says.

"Having stayed at boutique hotels, we thought they were homely yet sophisticated. We like the idea of having different themes in the same apartment."

His design has not only produced a dream home, but this year also won him an A-Design Award, organised by Italy-based design consultancy OMC Design Studios SRL; and an honourable mention at the International Design Awards, which aims to uncover emerging talent in fields such as interior design and fashion design. It is organised by the United States- based Farmani Group.

Don Lin
Mr Don Lin (above).

One of his biggest inspirations was the award-winning New Majestic Hotel in Bukit Pasoh Road, designed by Ministry of Design's Colin Seah. Mr Lin also admires the work of British architect Norman Foster, who designed South Beach Residences in Beach Road.

"Of course I don't copy their designs. I take their work ethic and design process and apply it to my own work," Mr Lin says.

For his own home, he says he wanted to "showcase the range of things you can do to an apartment and prove HDB flats can be as luxurious and fancy as any condo".

"Nine times out of 10, when I ask a client what he wants in his design, he can say only 'modern'. I have to probe for specifics and, still, all he can add is 'sophisticated'," he says with a laugh. "You need to be specific when asking a designer to help you out."

Each of the three bedrooms in his home has a specific theme: The master bedroom (marked room 302) has a clean, minimalist style; his daughter's room (room 303) is painted pink and filled with toys and playful furnishings, such as a lamp shaped like a cat's face; and the spare bedroom (room 301) takes on an industrial theme, with grey walls, dim lighting and vintage-style switches.

Mr Lin's mother-in-law sleeps in the spare bedroom when she stays over.

He bought the resale flat in June last year after asking his real estate agent to find him the biggest flat in the area. The renovation cost about $80,000 and took three months to complete.

A lot of work went into changing the structure of the apartment – many walls were removed and rebuilt in different spots.

The size of the unit gave Mr Lin much room to play with the interior. For example, he converted the balcony into a study and built a new wall and door to separate it from the living room.

Most of the furniture was sourced from places such as Guangzhou in China and Thailand as they cannot be easily found in Singapore.

One of his favourite pieces is a bench from South Korea, displayed beside his front door. It is made of what looks like a piece of driftwood and has half a wooden backrest.

Says Mr Lin: "It's not just a piece of furniture – it's a piece of art that serves as a conversation starter."

In the master bedroom, a low king-size bed rests on a platform and is backed against a wall plastered with a decal picture of two kids on a swing.

The built-in white wardrobe (above) in the master bedroom. 

An opening in the wall of the master bathroom (above) allows the user in the shower area to reach for toiletries on the washbasin.

The design of the full-height built-in white wardrobe resembles a chest of drawers, but when Mr Lin opens the door, it reveals his wife's dressing table – adorned with lightbulbs, much like a vanity counter used by a movie star.

He decorates his home with his huge collection of Iron Man toys and limited-edition bottles of Absolut Vodka. The movie buff also displays his limited-edition poster prints of Jaws (1975) and Chinese movie The Warlords (2007).

How does the couple keep their home, with its many white walls and floors, clean with a young child there?

Mr Lin says: "We are particular about cleanliness – we vacuum the flat every few days. My daughter puts her toys aside after playing, though, of course, we still have to arrange them nicely for her."

Written by Richard Neo for The Straits Times. Photos: The Straits Times