Stepping into Ms Jowel Foo Hui Li's home is like chancing upon a cosy vintage café while wandering down a side alley in Europe.
The 38-year-old restaurant manager is the proud owner of a two-room flat in Yishun, which she got on her first application in July 2013. She moved into the unit in May 2014.
The budget-conscious homeowner, who prefers a casual European style, put in a huge effort during the renovations to create her dream home.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO BUY A BUILD-TO-ORDER (BTO) FLAT? DID YOU CONSIDER OTHER OPTIONS?
Price was the main factor for me. I did not have to take a loan to buy this two-room BTO flat, but would need to do so for other types of housing. It was also the first time the Government was offering new flats that singles could apply for.
I was considering a resale unit in Ang Mo Kio for about $350,000, when I saw the launch of the Yishun flat. I could get the flat in two months. Also, it was near my parents' place in Bishan.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION OF YOUR NEW FLAT?
It was not as small as I thought! Compared to some of my friends' condos, I think mine is not bad. There is still ample walking space.
My friends and family think my flat is very cosy.
WHAT STEPS DID YOU TAKE TO TURN THE FLAT INTO YOUR OWN SPACE?
I decided on a "shabby chic" theme – casual and pleasantly worn out.
I searched online for worn-out furniture. I also called and visited some local furniture suppliers and interior designers to make price comparisons as I had a budget.
I consulted my best friend and parents with the furniture choices as well.
Local furniture shops and major furniture chains did not have what I wanted, so I went to Johor Bahru to shop around.
My dining table and bench, Victorian-style dressing table and chest of drawers in my bedroom are from there.
To save on costs, I also got the bathroom fixtures, bathroom accessories, flooring and wallpaper from four different suppliers.
As I mostly work at home, I need a workspace for my computer, storage for files and documents and a space to make calls.
I also created a cosy corner in my living room for entertaining friends and family.
WHAT PERSONAL TOUCHES HAVE YOU ADDED TO THE HOUSE?
I didn't want it to look like any other flat. It's my first home and I wanted something unique.
I decided to use wallpaper throughout the flat and even on the ceiling, as I like the wood design.
I got my wall pictures from Chatuchak Market in Bangkok and my wine glass holder from a local factory. I also installed my own wall shelves to hold my books and items.
MY FAVOURITE PART OF THE FLAT IS…
My sofa corner in the living room. I bought a leather sofa that was over my budget but I have no regrets.
I catch up on my drama serials and sometimes take my meals there too. It's quite romantic to look out of the windows during rainy days!
THE BEST PART ABOUT HAVING MY OWN HOME IS…
I finally have my own space and privacy and can invite my friends over without disturbing my family.
The shop owners and neighbours are very friendly. There is a mix of singles and the elderly. I'm quite close to the neighbours in three units and we even exchanged cookies during Chinese New Year. I love the heartland feel.
I WOULD ADVISE NEW BTO HOME BUYERS TO…
Surf the HDB InfoWEB. It's full of useful information. Use the Mobile @HDB app to check the whereabouts of new BTO locations and nearby amenities to see which suits your lifestyle.
Have a clear budget for your renovation and list what you really need to prevent overspending.
Compare prices between multiple suppliers and contractors to see which suit your budget.
(First published in The Straits Times)