From Drab To Fab: How A Resale HDB Home Got Its Stylish New Look


With its uncluttered appearance, neutral palette and uncomplicated furniture and fixtures, this 1,205-square foot Tah Ching Road HDB flat is the model of a contemporary chic abode. But it took the homeowners, a young family of four, and their interior designer Darren Tee of WHITE a while to get the look right.

Darren reveals that the couple approached him with a rather straightforward request for a timeless look – something that will stand the test of time without looking dated. But after a few rounds of discussions, the principal architect and interior designer of the home-grown interior design company discovered that the family did not like the usual design elements associated with a “timeless look”.

He elaborates, “They did not like ‘safe’ colours like grey and beige. Instead, they wanted ‘happy’ colours like orange, yellow and red to be included in the design proposal.”

To solve this conundrum, the interior designer came up with a solution to incorporate bright colours by way of loose, replaceable furniture into a predominantly monochromatic base. For visual interest, textures, like high gloss acrylic finishes and textured walls, were included to elevate the basic look of the foundation.

One such unique feature can be seen in the dining and living area. Running the length of the communal space is a short false ceiling, which adds some visual interest to the space while allowing for additional high-level indirect lighting to be installed. This was visually grouped together with the adjacent wall with dark grey borders to give the feature a graphic effect. The rest of the living and dining area was kept simple with oak vinyl flooring and a selection of loose furnishings sourced from brands like Castlery, IKEA and MUJI as well as at online marketplace Carousell.

Another interesting feature found here that seems to enhance the look of the neat-looking living space are the short walls framing the windows. Because the homeowners wanted 0 per cent light pollution from the windows, Darren devised a way to create portal frames – more commonly seen in hotel rooms – to house the curtains. Darren explains, “These short walls will cut down the amount of daylight filtering into the home. Visually, they also tidy up the edges of the curtains and make them appear neater.”

Also keeping things neat is the built-in cupboard near the entrance, which contains a shoe cabinet and household shelter door. The panels may look unobtrusive but with their spray paint finish and slatted design, it adds an interesting visual texture to the dining area.

The uncomplicated look continues in the study and two bedrooms. Built-ins in the form of bookcases dressed in white laminates and finished in white acrylic keep things neat in the home office. Other furnishings here, such as the desk and chair, were chosen specifically to suit the potential changes in functional needs of the family.

The master bedroom, with its unsullied appearance, was also designed with the family’s needs in mind. Darren explains that the platform base for the bed was constructed because the couple wanted the option to expand the sleeping zone to accommodate their young children. The couple can simply add mattresses next to their bed so that the children can sleep at the same level as them.

To level the columns and beams found in the bedrooms, the architect constructed a false wall and created an opening centered to the bed. The sides of the niche were then painted over in dark grey to echo the bold lines found in the living room. This opening works as a way to prop up artwork and small decorative objects all while adding visual interest to the sleeping quarters.

Also sporting some clever tweaks are the home’s two bathrooms. With their strictly monochromatic looks and ultra-modern appearances, the bathrooms are relaxing spaces for the inhabitant’s daily routines. One of the major amendments in the master bathroom is to neaten up a complex system of conduits and beams typically found in HDB units. To tidy these up, Darren designed an additional wall to hide the beams and pipes. And because a false wall was constructed, the interior designer was also able to create a niche covered of faux terrazzo tiles to allow the users to store some toiletries.

These thoughtful tweaks that marry form and function is what this renovation is all about. And it proves that with a solid foundation and an enduring design, a family home can evolve with the needs of its inhabitants.

This was adapted from an article originally published in the October issue of SquareRooms. Photo credits: Khoo Guo Jie for WHITE