Dream Home at Last

With resourcefulness and a hands-on approach, Kat and Ian turned this 4-room HDB flat into their very own dream home, incorporating unique elements like a Filipino-inspired rattan ceiling, a poker setup and hand-poured epoxy floors.

When Kat and Ian first met at university, they both knew they weren’t gonna get rid of each other anytime soon. Ian remembers being taken by Kat’s bold and vibrant personality as they chatted over the food counter. Now they’re not only married but also just moved into their fully renovated home, documenting their journey on their @madeinchaichee Instagram account.

Before they got to embark on their home ownership and renovation adventures, the couple started out renting various homes once they got married. This wasn’t always easy, but it allowed them to get a pretty good idea of what they liked and disliked and how they wanted to structure their future living space. By the time they purchased a home of their own, they knew exactly what they wanted.

When browsing units, for instance, they knew that their preferences went against the grain—while most people are willing to spend more to stay on a higher floor, Kat and Ian specifically sought out a flat on a low floor, ending up almost on the ground level.

They didn’t want to feel isolated up on the higher levels, preferring to connect with the community and hear children playing outside.

The neighbourhood itself, on the other hand, was a rather random choice. The couple didn’t know much about the area when they first chose the flat, with budget being their main priority. Thankfully, they have since discovered that Chai Chee offers a plethora of food options, as well as yummy delivery from the wider Bedok area.

Once they’d finally settled on their dream unit, they got to work, crafting an extensive and detailed renovation brief, which they later discovered most designers were rather intimidated by or simply couldn’t be bothered with. Finding a designer who would take the time and care to digest the brief and work with the couple’s requirements was a long and gruelling process with many ups and downs.

It was pure serendipity that they eventually ran into Sofea Nasir from Art + Design. Originally looking to engage her for a single project in the house, they were so impressed when she volunteered suggestions and gave recommendations for the rest of the space that they asked her if she would consider being their interior designer for the entire renovation. Suffice it to say, she happily came on board.

Rattan ceilings and poker chairs

One of the most distinctive elements Kat and Ian had their eyes on from the start is the rattan ceiling now sheltering the living and dining, undoubtedly the highlight of the renovation and something we’ve never seen in a HDB flat before.

This upgrade was majorly inspired by Kat’s Filipino background; while rattan has gained popularity in Singapore through chairs and wardrobe panels, Kat tells us that it’s more intrinsic to home design in the Philippines, something the couple wanted to emulate in their new abode. The ceiling now makes for quite the statement piece and lends the home something warm and earthy as soon as one steps in.

Kat is especially enamoured with it, pointing out that walking down the corridor from the bedroom every morning makes her feel like she’s in a resort, as the rattan ceiling begins to peek through and finally comes into full view.

Another area of the home these two were extra particular about was the dining setup. This space had to accommodate friends and family because the couple loves to host, and also make room for their favourite hobby: playing poker. Having an extendable dining table that can seat a large number of guests and transform into a poker surface was a top priority.

Of course, good chairs were a must-have too, Ian taking special care to ensure that everyone  would be comfortably seated during longer gatherings and poker games. In fact, the couple visited multiple furniture shops to test out countless chairs in person, spending time lounging in them for a thorough assessment.

The final winners are a mix of the Sloane Cane and LeatherChairs from Castlery and a set of lovely cross-back wood and rattan chairs they picked up from Woody Antique House. Mixing them up is perhaps a more unconventional choice, but one they’ve been very happy with!

It helps to be resourceful

Resourcefulness is a handy quality to have during a home renovation, and Kat and Ian certainly have plenty. The nifty couple was heavily involved in sourcing, shopping and keeping an eye on things at home, which allowed them to bypass some hefty quotations by finding their own contractors and suppliers instead.

This is how the guest bathroom came about, for instance. The couple knew they wanted pebble- style epoxy flooring but were quoted an exorbitant fee for the work, so they did their own research and came across an independent contractor who had done epoxy flooring for landed houses.

He had good reviews and quoted a much more reasonable price for their HDB bathroom, so they took the leap—and ended up with gorgeous, textured bathroom floors without overshooting their renovation budget.

Many other items and elements in the home were sourced by the owners themselves, ranging from the textured washbasins to the various knobs and handles around the house. It was an intensive process that required time, hands-on work and lots of dedication, but it all paid off in the end.

As they sit on the sofa and take in the space, they can’t help but feel proud of the home they’ve created, making every second of work absolutely worth it.