The great transformation, Home & Design News & Top Stories

Home owner Candy Chen has always wanted a walk-up apartment, but finding one in a convenient and quiet location was not easy.

So when she and her husband found one above a quaint coffee shop in a tranquil area of Bukit Timah, they looked past its awkward existing design, focused on its potential and immediately made an offer.

The 40-year-old unit had four bedrooms and just a bathroom and a toilet as well as a narrow service yard. The living and dining areas shared one window that did not let in sufficient natural light.

The three common rooms with an underutilised triangular balcony wedged between them, on the other hand, hoarded all the natural light.

And the master bedroom, positioned more like a service bedroom, was tucked away at the end of a long corridor, accessible only from the kitchen – once you got past the toilet and the shower (each housed in a separate, snug space).

Today, the unit is a sun-drenched open-plan apartment with a dark and sleek material palette, thanks to the designers of home-grown interior design company UNO Interior, who were also behind the look of the owners’ previous home.

Ms Chen says: “We engaged UNO Interior again because we worked so well together before, and pretty much gave it free rein for the design.”

The brief was simple: The couple, who are in their 30s, wanted ample light, enough room and amenities for their five cats and lots of open space where the male home owner, who works in the design industry, could easily and quickly locate his things.

“This was a challenge for me because when everything’s out in the open, things clutter easily. Call it an occupational hazard, but I like to keep everything neat,” says Ms Chen, who owns a small boutique in Haji Lane.

UNO Interior had little trouble meeting both their needs and delivering a sweet spot that appealed to both their personalities. The couple declined to reveal the cost of the renovation. They moved into the apartment in May 2018.

Completed in 15 weeks, their new home has just one bedroom: the master bedroom. The other rooms and living and dining areas have been merged into one large, open space lined with storage and dotted with pocket areas for different activities.

While other walls were removed and fenestrations enlarged, the kitchen was left completely open. The dining counter, featuring Sensa by Cosentino granite top, segues into a working space.

The bedroom at the far end is now a sitting space, featuring a bookshelf that flips open into a spare bed that can accommodate overnight guests.

Separated by a glass wall, the shower and toilet are completely open to both the bedroom and walk-in wardrobe. PHOTOS: UNO INTERIOR

Brought indoors, the triangular balcony is now another sitting area with planters.

The living area consists simply of a sofa, a coffee table and a TV mounted on a pole that has the space visually seamless.

The entrance to the master suite has been moved to make space for a powder room and given a new, oversized pivot door that also leads to the walk-in wardrobe with rows of open racks with clothing neatly hung by colours. It sits in a space that used to be the kitchen.

Farther inside, the original layout of the shower and toilet remains, but all the fitting and finishes are new.

Now, there are no doors that separate the three areas in the master suite, leaving the visual and spatial flow entirely uninterrupted.

“We’d like to maintain the openness since it’s just us and the cats here,” says Ms Chen.

The cats, of course, helped shape the home’s aesthetic.

“One of the challenges was how to cat-proof the place without making it feel like a cage,” says the design team.

One of the many solutions: a custom black metal grille on the windows, giving the space a decidedly industrial feel where they can roam independently.

The pivot door to the master suite features metal mesh to allow them to climb up to the open shelving above the kitchen cabinet. Round openings in the carpentry provide hiding spots and hide litter boxes.

The couple’s previous home was a Housing Board unit dressed mostly in white. This new home shifts the material palette to the opposite end of the monochromatic spectrum, playing up grey and black shades accentuated by teak, plants and mirrored finishes.

“The walls and ceilings are clad in screed cement to give a neutral base,” says the team.

It goes with the grey terrazzo flooring containing white marble chippings, giving the entire home a subtle, rich texture.

Now, here is one fashionable home that is truly tailored for the home owners – all seven of them.

• This article first appeared in the November 2020 issue of Home & Decor, which is published by SPH Magazines.

• Get the December and latest issue of Home & Decor now at all newsstands or download the digital edition of Home & Decor from the App Store, Magzter or Google Play. Also, see more inspiring homes at

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