With their Build-To-Order flat on the second floor facing other Housing Board blocks, couple Vanessa Ong and Nigel Chan found that parts of their house could be quite dark.

In the original layout of the four-room flat, a few of the walls prevented sunlight from reaching the deeper recesses of the house, such as the kitchen.

Their solution: knock down some of the walls in the kitchen and replace the brick wall of one room with a sliding door.

Ms Ong, 31, who owns interior design company April Atelier, says: "Our priority was to bring natural light into the house. It gives you a feeling of warmth."

They also kept the walls mostly white. Besides making the home look brighter, this allows the furniture and decorative accents to pop.

Ms Ong suggests choosing just four to five colours or texture tones and playing around with different materials instead.

The main colours in this flat are grey, black and white. There are also brass accents from decor pieces such as lights and a table top. Plants provide touches of green.

Ms Ong, who is architecturally trained, says: "By restricting the palette, you get simplicity. Adding lots of things in doesn't mean better design."

The couple spent about $80,000 on renovations, excluding the furniture, fittings and appliances. They moved into the 990 sq ft apartment about three months ago. Mr Chan, 31, is a ship broker.

The couple picked up furnishings on their trips. These included tableware from Sri Lanka, taps from Australia and art from New York.

Ms Ong says: "We didn't stick to a particular style. We wanted our home to be a reflection of the things we like."


The first thing that catches your eye in Ms Molina Hun and Mr Sujono Lim's flat at The Pinnacle@Duxton is a 2.85m-long matte black table seemingly floating between two terazzo plinths.

The dining table is a multi-functional piece that dominates the 1,022 sq ft home. Besides being a spot where the couple work and eat, it separates the living room from the work nook and the bedrooms at the back of the house.

It is not the typical layout in which home owners play up the living room and segregate spaces more distinctly.

But Mr Lim says they started by looking at their lifestyle and taking stock of how they planned to use the space – something he encourages home owners to do instead of following a set layout template.

The couple run Sujonohun, a multi-disciplinary design practice, and Ms Hun uses the home as an office to meet clients.

Mr Lim, 28, the studio's principal director, says: "Dinner time is the most important part of our day. It is when we meet to eat after a long day and chat with each other."

The dining table takes centre stage because of these meals together. They also entertain friends around it, and Ms Hun sometimes discusses plans with clients there.

They found no need to install a television console in front of a sofa set. Instead, a rotational television is mounted on a wall facing the dining table.

The couple, who have no children, also opted for a smaller wet kitchen because they do not cook often and created a pantry that could be hidden behind doors – a quick fix for when clients come by and they want to hide the mess.

They shipped in products such as gold dimmer switches from London home fashion label Buster + Punch.

The resale flat is the couple's first home, and it took about 2½ months to complete the $80,000 renovation. The cost includes appliances, but excludes furnishings and fixtures.

To them, the furniture is an investment as they intend to keep it for a long time.

Ms Hun, 28, the creative director at the studio and an adjunct lecturer at Lasalle College of the Arts, says home owners should set aside a budget for good furniture pieces. "Instead of buying cheap furniture that may not last, choose pieces that can move with you to your next home."


Interior designers Yeo See Wee, 32, and JJ Yip, 28, of Wee Studio, try to push boundaries with their design proposals, at times including bold or untested ideas.

Conservative clients typically veto such suggestions.

So when it came to designing their five-room Housing Board flat in Sengkang, their unrealised concepts came in handy.

The 1,300 sq ft flat became a laboratory for the newly-wed couple to test out their unconventional ideas.

For starters, their home is a dramatic ode to a dark palette of grey and black hues, breaking traditional decor rules of choosing bright colours to create an airy space. This look, Ms Yip says, works for homes with lots of light coming through. But, she warns, interiors like this may mean more cleaning, as dust shows easily on dark surfaces.

In their home there is a mirrored ceiling above the sofa and coffee tables in the living room that creates the illusion of a higher ceiling.

The original master bedroom and another bedroom were combined to create a larger space that can fit more than just a bed.

A work desk was built in front of the window. There is a spacious walk-in wardrobe with a jewellery display island. The couple also drew inspiration from hotel rooms and included a small pantry.

And instead of a folding or sliding door for the bathroom, Mr Yeo decided to go with a large pivot door – a fixture not often seen in homes as the door is heavy.

Other bold touches include hand-drawn Italian tiles with busy patterns that line the communal floor area. These are also used to create a feature wall in the kitchen.

The remaining room is used as a guest bedroom.

Mr Yeo, who founded the studio about six years ago, says: "Not many people would go for this look. It's like a hotel for us – we don't spend a lot of time here. It's where we come to relax and hang out."

Still, there are ideas to steal from this sophisticated home.

For one thing, it is hard to tell that the couple have lots of stuff. Everything from clothes to appliances are hidden behind cupboards and drawers.

They also hide the bolts and nuts, such as sliding door tracks and do away with regular handles for doors and cabinets, so surfaces look seamless.

The couple decline to reveal the total cost of their renovation and say it is on the "high side".

Going by the result, they say it is money well spent. Mr Yeo says: "We're going to be living here for a long time, so we decided to invest in our home."


This article was originally published on The Straits Times