A Self-Made Home

Better known by his online persona @mayiduo, Kelvin Tan also moonlights as an interior designer, and now he’s taken the next step and designed his very own abode. We caught up with the multi- talented ID, talking bold design, compromising with your partner and financing a dream home for your family.

You may recognise homeowner Kelvin Tan from his comedic skits posted on his popular TikTok and Instagram accounts as @mayiduo. But what you may not know is that he’s also an accomplished professional interior designer. After understudying at an interior design firm for just nine months, Kelvin branched out to set up SG Interior KJ in 2020, and in just a short span, his firm has been lauded as one of the nation’s top 50 interior design firms by the Singapore Prestige 100 Award 2023/2024.

His private dwelling, which he shares with his wife and young son, is a 1,001 sq ft home chosen for its waterfront locale. “We had no money to buy a seaside bungalow, so we bought a seaside HDB,” he tells us. “This was the best option we had for our queue number, avoiding the west sun.”

Just like his online personality, Kelvin wasn’t afraid to be bold when it came to designing his flat. He wanted a fully black colour scheme, while his wife wanted to go all white. “We came to the middle and did full grey,” he reveals.

“The toughest client for an interior designer is their own partner because there are definitely conflicts when it comes to making joint decisions,” the designer admits. “Eventually, I let my wife have her way for some items and vice versa.”

Warming up the interiors

Since the overarching grey hue can come across as “quite cold,” Kelvin decided to use paint with a limewash effect on all the walls and ceilings. For further dimension, he added curved elements throughout furnishings and surfaces to avoid making the space “feel like a morgue.”

“There was no particular inspiration from anywhere,” he tells us about the concept for his home. “I knew exactly what I didn’t want because as an interior designer myself, I have designed quite a number of houses over the years so I know my likes and dislikes.”

Tailored for hosting

As the couple often hosts team meetings at home and invites friends over for meals and play dates, they needed a gathering space that would accommodate at least 20 people. A bedroom was thus hacked to expand the living area, making space for a modular sofa from Castlery, one of Kelvin’s favourite pieces in the home.

“It’s damn comfortable and even when my wife kicks me out of the room when we quarrel, I can get a good sleep there.” Unfortunately, the rug underfoot, sourced from Taobao, wasn’t as good a buy, Kelvin tells us. “It has a lot of milo stains and is not easy to maintain, but it adds another level of feel to the space so it cannot be removed.”

Nearby, a four-metre-long island cum dining table constructed with a sintered stone top from Hua Khian and flanked by chairs from Taobao is another favourite gathering spot for the family and guests. “It really functions as a good space to host friends and meetings, and it’s my workstation at home,” Kelvin shares.

A nook was crafted across the table to fit the TV and break up the flat surface. A niche located to the right, closer to the floor, holds the karaoke machine and a larger speaker while allowing Kelvin to run LED lights.

A hard-wearing kitchen

“My wife cooks every day for my kid, and my mum comes over twice a week and sometimes whips up a home-cooked feast as well,” shares Kelvin. To hold up to these demands, the designer required a kitchen that would be easy to clean and functional yet still look good.

Arova Supreme Lite laminates clad the cabinets, chosen for their anti-bacterial and anti- fingerprint properties, while hardy sintered stone  from Hua Khian was used for the countertops and backsplash, ensuring a low-maintenance kitchen.

Convenience and accessibility were also big considerations. “Instead of using casement doors, I used drawers in almost all my storage areas for easier access,” Kelvin reveals. “I also designed huge drawers to store big pots and pans at the bottom.”

A dry kitchen positioned outside displays dining ware and decor, while alcohol and other drinks are stored inside the cabinets. On the counter is the IGLOO from Hydroflux, an ice- making water purifier. “I wanted a water dispenser nearer to my rooms and sofa,” Kelvin tells us about the placement of the machine. “I chose this model for the ice dispensing function because I hate refilling the ice tray in the fridge.”

“I love this house. It is designed for aesthetics and comfort and I always wanted a space of my own.”

Bathrooms with a luxe feel

Elevating the hotel vibe of the main suite, the side walls of the primary bathroom were replaced with glass doors. Here, the owners pulled a move that may raise some eyebrows—they took out the WC, then added a large bathtub from Lucky Khoon and a long, integrated sink.

The common bath evokes a similarly upscale feel but focuses more on function. “The only WC is here,” Kelvin tells us. “We wanted a small storage area right behind the mirror for toilet rolls, shaving cream and refills. We removed the panel that HDB provided and did a curved false ceiling to make the space look bigger.”

In good light

While working on the house, Kelvin relied on a go-to expert move to take his space to the next level—good lighting. “You can have a house that is renovated with a budget of $200K, but if you put in lousy lights, your entire place will look flat,” he advises.

He worked closely with Sol Luminaire for his lighting needs, adding recessed ISA V3 dim-to- warm downlights to the common areas, kitchen and bathrooms, as well as Globula Mini spotlights in the bedroom. In spaces where a little more interest was desired, such as above the curved sofa, sculptural Gypsum spotlights were installed.

“We recommend Sol Luminaire to all of our clients because lighting makes or breaks a space,” Kelvin tells us. “Their warm white lights instantly uplift the aesthetics, even if the area is quite plain.”

Renovation costs

If you’ll be renovating your home, Kelvin shares that costs are rising, but suggests these numbers as a guideline:

3-room BTO flat: $30–40K

4-room BTO flat:$40–50K

5-room BTO flat: $50–60K

Executive or maisonette:$80–100K

If your HDB flat is a resale unit, factor in an additional $10K. If you want your house to be super unique and luxuriously renovated, add another $30K on top. Don’t forget to budget for a sofa, appliances, toiletries, lights etc. These can easily add up to $20–30K.

Financing it all

For home seekers starting their house-hunting journey, Kelvin strongly suggests reading up about loan eligibility, particularly if they are self-employed. “I have a lot of friends around me who are in the sales line or are business owners,” he says.

“In such scenarios, there is actually a ‘haircut’ of approximately 30% for the maximum loan that those who are self-employed can take, versus those who work as an employee of an organisation. On top of that, many are not aware of the debt servicing ratio, where banks factor in your monthly repayments for insurance, car loans, etc.”

While Kelvin saved on costs as a designer, he estimates his home upgrades would be valued at $130K. Though the overall bill was still considerable, the expenses have been worth it, he shares: “I shifted in right before Chinese New Year to host my family and friends. I love this house. It is designed for aesthetics and comfort and I always wanted a space of my own.”