In anticipation of his retirement, 59-year-old civil servant Phil Lam decided to downsize from a five-room flat to this three-room Margaret Drive HDB BTO.

With just him, his wife Cynthia Lee, and their 32-year-old son, the two bedrooms suited them just fine. They prefer not to hire a domestic helper as they value their privacy, so the unit’s modest size also makes it easier for them to clean and maintain.

The decision for a pre-emptive move to a smaller home worked out well for these homeowners.

Who lives here? A couple and their adult son
Home? A three-room HDB BTO flat on Margaret Drive
Size? 668 sq ft
Interior Designer? Ovon Design

The greatest challenge with any downsizing exercise is finding room for all t­he things that used to belong in the larger home. “We had quite a fair bit of things from our previous home, many of which hold sentimental value, so maximising the storage areas in our new home was one of the biggest challenges,” Phil highlights.

House Tour: Three-room Margaret Drive BTO with sprawling Bukit Timah & Johor Bahru views (Photo Veronica Tay, Art direction Nonie Chen)
A low sofa and coffee table minimise any obstruction to the unblocked view from the unit located on a high floor.

He trawled numerous social media platforms to suss out various interior designers and looked through client reviews before approaching the few firms he had shortlisted.

One of Ovon Design’s projects with a Muji-style design appealed to him as he felt that it would be very appropriate for a small home, so he decided to engage their services.

House Tour: Three-room Margaret Drive BTO with sprawling Bukit Timah & Johor Bahru views (Photo Veronica Tay, Art direction Nonie Chen)

As a plant lover, it comes as no surprise that the tiles with plant motifs caught Phil’s eye, which he decided to use for the kitchen backsplash.

By proposing to hack the kitchen and yard walls, Ovon Design’s chief designer, Leon Leong, opened up the existing spaces and made the transition between the dining, kitchen and yard more seamless. The three areas now read as one connected space t­hat continues to flow into the living area.

House Tour: Three-room Margaret Drive BTO with sprawling Bukit Timah & Johor Bahru views (Photo Veronica Tay, Art direction Nonie Chen)

Demolishing the kitchen wall also allowed it to incorporate additional storage cabinets, open display shelves and counter space.

“A peninsula island counter perpendicular to the kitchen counter not only visually extends the space but also provides some spatial definition between the living room and the kitchen without completely cutting off the spaces from one another,” Leon explains.

Apart from being used as a dining table, the peninsula island also doubles up as a desk when Phil works from home.

The living room is kept simple with the most minimal of furniture. They even dispensed with a television console to free up space since they do not have any set-up boxes. All the wiring is concealed within the television wall to achieve a sleek appearance.

House Tour: Three-room Margaret Drive BTO with sprawling Bukit Timah & Johor Bahru views (Photo Veronica Tay, Art direction Nonie Chen)
House Tour: Three-room Margaret Drive BTO with sprawling Bukit Timah & Johor Bahru views (Photo Veronica Tay, Art direction Nonie Chen)

To maximise the storage area within the master bedroom, Leon designed a platform that doubles up as a bed base for storage, maximising spatial efficiency.

The wood finishes, cool colour tones and absence of clutter create a Zen-like atmosphere that makes the master bedroom feel absolutely restful and serene.

House Tour: Three-room Margaret Drive BTO with sprawling Bukit Timah & Johor Bahru views (Photo Veronica Tay, Art direction Nonie Chen)
Downsizing meant decluttering, but sentimental keepsakes like these old photos have been lovingly kept and displayed.

The two bathrooms within the home – one common bathroom and one attached to the master bedroom – are small but efficiently laid out to make the most of their limited areas. The original tiles in the bathrooms were overlaid with tiles that are more to the homeowners’ liking.

House Tour: Three-room Margaret Drive BTO with sprawling Bukit Timah & Johor Bahru views (Photo Veronica Tay, Art direction Nonie Chen)
House Tour: Three-room Margaret Drive BTO with sprawling Bukit Timah & Johor Bahru views (Photo Veronica Tay, Art direction Nonie Chen)

Leon even managed to incorporate overhead shelves where they could display some of their travel mementos.

House Tour: Three-room Margaret Drive BTO with sprawling Bukit Timah & Johor Bahru views (Photo Veronica Tay, Art direction Nonie Chen)
Phil selected plants that would act as a screen from the common rubbish chute.

Since moving into their new home in June 2022 after a two-and-a-half-month renovation, Phil has put together a plantscape corner outside the home’s main entrance.

House Tour: Three-room Margaret Drive BTO with sprawling Bukit Timah & Johor Bahru views (Photo Veronica Tay, Art direction Nonie Chen)

It welcomes visitors to the home and showcases the plant lover’s creativity and expertise. He even incorporated some of their travel collectibles, such as the giant pine cones from their trip to Lake Tahoe.

For Leon, this project is about “creating a functional design that maximises storage capacity without compromising comfort and cosiness”.

Despite the small footprint, the high floor and unblocked views all the way to Bukit Timah and even Johor Bahru makes it feel more expansive than its 668 sq ft.

The family’s previous home had a darker colour scheme with a black ceiling, but Phil decided to opt for lighter colours for this $50,000 renovation as he felt a pastel palette would complement the smaller footprint better.

House Tour: Three-room Margaret Drive BTO with sprawling Bukit Timah & Johor Bahru views (Photo Veronica Tay, Art direction Nonie Chen)

“I love how the home turned out and am glad I still have space for all my travel memorabilia and my plants,” he concludes.