Reluctant to wait for a HDB BTO flat, homeowners J. and Q. went for the resale market and found their ideal home in this 20-year-old HDB resale flat.

“We like that the unit was not too old, and it was spacious compared to new BTO units,” J. says.

The couple, a financial consultant and a social worker, also saw the potential in the layout. One of the bedrooms faced the living area, meaning they could take it down completely to expand the living area.

Who Lives Here: A couple in their 20s
Home: A five-room HDB flat in Buangkok
Size: 1,200 sq ft (111 sqm)
Interior Design: Mu Design Studio

Wabi Sabi Interior Design

They had the Japanese concept with tatami-style platforms in mind for their five-room HDB home but resonated with the idea of wabi-sabi.

“Towards the end, they discovered that they preferred the wabi-sabi style, so we changed the design concept and picked materials that fit the theme,” senior creative consultant Jas L. from Mu Design Studio says.

“What we wanted was a home with a Japanese vibe, but not too clean and white like Muji,” says J., referring to the popular Japanese lifestyle brand. “We wanted something more raw.”

Japanese aesthetics are not only made up of how something looks, but they also consist of principles that underpin its culture and what is considered beautiful. These ideals could be regarded as part of daily life that guide one’s approach to life.

What is ‘Wabi Sabi‘?

Wabi-sabi, for one, is a worldview that honours the acceptance of imperfection, simplicity, and impermanence. The matte and textured finishes were chosen to convey these ideals. Concrete effect paint and tatami-textured wallpaper add to the wabi-sabi concept.

Inspired by the Japanese entryway, they opted for rustic floor tiles in varying shades of grey for that lived-in feel. A bike rack for the couple – they are avid cyclists – and storage solutions that hide away the household shelter entrance fill this space. The matte and rustic finishes set the tone for the rest of the home.

“The whole floor area was divided into many rooms, making it a little crowded. The common area, especially the dining area, was quite dark and felt dull,” Jas says.

Intending to bring more natural light, Jas removed the bedroom wall closest to the living area. The couple wanted the room to be converted into a study. Aside from extending the kitchen, the design team left the rest of the layout intact.

The renovations took three months, and the couple moved into their home in April 2022.


Jas removed all the dated finishes and refreshed the home with new kitchen and bathroom tiles and vinyl flooring for the rest of the home.

The larger kitchen suits the couple, who both enjoy cooking. The design team extended the kitchen and enclosed it with a half-height black-framed glass divider.

“We wanted a semi-open concept kitchen, but the home layout didn’t permit it. So, we went with the framed windows, which make the kitchen more appealing and less cold,” J. says.

The former kitchen before renovation.

The result is a bold focal point and more natural light from the kitchen to the foyer. The team kept to a palette of light wood finishes from the kitchen and the rest of the home.

The kitchen tiles are similar to the ones in the foyer but in one light grey tone for a uniform look.

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Living Room

Here, a raised platform in the living room doubles up as extra storage space.

“I designed the tatami platform at the window area as it has good natural light,” Jas says. A short flight of stairs at one end was placed at an angle to accommodate the sofa.

Living room of this HDB resale pre-renovation

The couple wanted a corner for crafts. So, Jas conceptualised a taller television console, where one end would serve as a table. Like the cement textured countertop and backsplash in the kitchen, the effect paint in the living area produces a similar appreciation for imperfection.

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Dining Room

To meet their storage needs in the dining area, Jas placed a low cabinet between the dining area and the foyer. It also serves as a divider to mark the zones. The extended kitchen and the low cabinet also provide more privacy from the entrance.

Former entryway to the kitchen in this 5-room HDB resale flat

Jas says, “Instead of a clean, solid colour, the finish has some ‘imperfections’ to create the traditional aged feel.”

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Master Bathroom

A bathtub was on the couple’s wishlist, so the idea was to convert it into a traditional Japanese spa room with rich-coloured wood-looking tiles and concrete-looking wall tiles.

Former master bathroom before renovation in this HDB resale 5-room flat

While Jas initially had the idea to use natural pebbles on the bathroom floor, she found pebble-like floor tiles that would be easier to maintain.

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