This is one of the homeowners’ favourite spots in the living room with a view of the roof and brick wall where they can “interact” with the space. Photography AKIHAUS DESIGN STUDIO & VERONICA TAY Art Direction NONIE CHEN

Passers-by may not give this nondescript four-storey walk-up apartment block that is over half a century old a second look, but when the new owners of this unit met with Lawrence Puah, design director of Akihaus Design Studio to discuss the renovation project, he could scarcely contain his excitement.

“When I first saw the plans and photographs, I could already visualise the possibilities,” he recalls. His enthusiasm, the profusion of ideas and professionalism were what sealed the deal.

Who Lives Here: A couple in their 30s
Home: A four-turned-two-bedroom walk-up apartment in East Coast
Size: 1,604 sq ft (149 sqm)
Architect: Akihaus Design Studio

The design for the coffee tables echo that of the dining table, which helps to tie the two spaces together. The homeowners opted for a three-seater King Living sofa with a recliner over an L-shaped one for greater flexibility.

Walk-up apartment

As the walk-up apartment block has a pitched roof and the unit is located on the top floor, Lawrence instinctively recognised the potential of opening up the ceiling to make the apartment feel loftier and somewhat like a landed home.

However, it is a drastic move which the clients may not readily accept, so he actually came up with two other alternative proposals that are slightly more conservative for their consideration.

Non-full height kitchen cabinets were a deliberate move by Lawrence to create a more relatable human scale.

Hacked entire ceiling

They were convinced eventually and decided to proceed with removing the ceiling.

Lawrence embarked on a thorough study of the as-built drawings and worked closely with a structural engineer to ensure that the existing roof was structurally sound. It was no mean feat – some of the rafters had to be made good and new waterproofing, insulation and plasterboard had to be added as a result of doing away with the ceiling.

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The existing columns were disproportionately slender. Lawrence had them boxed up or clad over to bulk them up so as to be more proportionate relative to the whole space.

White pitched roof

To heighten the effect, all the roof elements were painted white while the light wood built-in carpentry and wall cladding stopped short just below the roofline to better relate to the human scale.

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The custom-made dining table has a terrazzo top and base supports that were thoughtfully designed so as not to get in the way of the legs of people seated at the table.

Dining Room

Spatially, the dining and living areas almost feel like one seamless entity. A curved beam connecting two columns defines the threshold between the two. An open, lattice screen in-between the pair of columns provides some degree of physical separation without cutting off the two spaces.

The side of the screen facing the living room also doubles up as a television console and movable panels at either end offer the flexibility of creating more privacy when desired.

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There is plenty of built-in storage all around the home, such as in the open-concept study, kitchen and under the solarium banquette.
The solarium is such a bright and welcoming space which feels like part of the outdoors that even the birds come to visit when the windows are opened.
At night, the solarium glows like a beacon when viewed from the main road.

Balcony area

Running alongside the dining and living areas is a solarium that is light-filled and welcoming. This used to be an outdoor balcony that the previous owner had enclosed.

“I had initially wanted to reinstate the balcony so that the couple could enjoy some outdoor reprieve, but after discussing with the clients, we all agreed that the extra indoor space would better serve their needs, especially since they love having friends over,” says Lawrence.

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The view up there is no less awe-inspiring as the one below.

Hacked 4 bedrooms into 2 bedrooms

Using the pitched roof rafters as reference points, Lawrence introduced aluminium frames on the solarium roof eave that mimic roof rafters. These are infilled with mirrored panels that reflect the external greenery surrounding the apartment, which create the illusion of a glass enclosure of an actual solarium.

The apartment originally had four bedrooms, but the previous owner combined two bedrooms into one larger master bedroom. When the new owners took over, they had Lawrence hack the walls of one bedroom and convert it into an open-concept study and bar, leaving just one master bedroom and an additional spare bedroom.

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The bar is ideally located between the open study and kitchen to bridge the two spaces across the corridor.

Kitchen island

Besides being used as a study, the open-concept space is flexible enough to serve multiple purposes. The bar at one end makes it well-appointed as an entertainment space too. Facing the kitchen, the bar and the peninsula kitchen island opposite establish a programmatic synergy.

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Curved beams and rounded wall and column junctions help to soften the hard lines of the roof structure.
The combination of pitched and flat profiles for the master bedroom ceiling provides the opportunity for an interesting play of light and shadow.

Master bedroom

Compared to the rest of the interior, the master bedroom is decked out in slightly darker wood tones to achieve a cosier ambience.

The entrance to the attached master bathroom is concealed within the walk-in wardrobe. Large format, wood-like wall tiles continue a similar theme from the rest of the home whilst being bathroom-friendly.

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The wall tiles in the master bathroom stop short of going full-height, similar to other elements in the house such as the built-in wardrobes and laminate panels around walls.
Doors concealed into the walls complement the clean design language.
The home has been transformed into a light-filled space with plenty of natural light.

6 Months renovation

The couple moved into their new home in 2021 after a 5, almost 6 months renovation that saw the unit entirely gutted. The apartment has witnessed many significant milestones in the homeowners’ journey as a couple.

This was where their marriage proposal and solemnisation ceremony took place. And they can definitely look forward to making more memories in this bright and cosy home that has been totally transformed to realise its full potential.

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