Interior Design Lessons From An Industrial-Inspired Open-Concept Condo


While most people try to play it safe with their first property, married couple Paul and Cheryl defied convention with a truly odd-shaped apartment. The floor plan says it all. With rooms that fan out to soak up views of the outdoors, the layout presented a unique shape and an awkward disconnection between the communal zones and private bedrooms. The homeowners knew that they needed a designer who could step up to the space challenges and turn these oddities into shining features of the apartment.

Everything soon fell into place when they engaged Creative Director Dennis Cheok from UPSTAIRS_, whom they were confident could fully deliver on the design brief. He gamely ventured into the transformation with much ingenuity and foresight. He reveals, “In terms of spatial planning, each of the rooms were much too compact to the homeowners’ liking, and we were tasked to completely remodel the flow of the space to create larger spaces for entertaining, cooking, dressing and rest.”

A complete reshuffle to the configuration of the layout soon ensued. The design team started with a blank slate as they hacked away walls. “Having gutted the entire apartment, we reconfigured the spatial planning to flow seamlessly,” recalls Dennis. “We then created spaces and furnishings with multiple functions as to maximise efficiency.”

Taking multifunctionality to the next level, the open-concept communal zones boast a full-fledged island unit, which serves as a dining and bar counter. Aesthetically, it works as a centrepiece which is part of a striking ensemble of welded and spray-painted steel strips. Forming the main design basis of the apartment, Dennis arranged 312 of these steel strips in square hollow forms to create an installation of both functional and sculptural qualities. The impressive element is that it scales the double volume ceiling with an edgy industrial aesthetic and integrates the island counter with the loft seamlessly as one.

Dubbed as “sticks” by the design team, these 300-odd black sticks were stacked over one another to form an ultra-tall steel lattice bookshelf that measures 7m. At the same time, the structure forges vertical connection within the double-volume space.

It also sets the stage for the homeowners’ wishlist of design accents. “Paul and Cheryl shared images of industrial lofts, neon signs, monochromatic spaces and a watercolour ombre painting with us — setting a distinctive tone and lots of personality to this project from the onset,” reveals Dennis. A mix of neon signs, pink-tinted lights, floating light tubes, and amazing conversation pieces from Studio Toogood, EXPORMIM and District Eight were therefore custom-designed and curated, lending a distinctive edge to this urbanite loft apartment.

Another defining motif that the team employed to great effect is the series of spray-painted solid timber strips and it bridges the disruption between the private and communal areas. Dennis explains, “715 ‘grey sticks’ were arranged in precise rows to form a connective horizontal ribbon wall that flows throughout all interiors from the entryway to the private bedrooms.”

With these timber strips conveying a sleek warehouse aesthetic, it seamlessly conceals the entrances towards the private areas. One of which is the powder room, which has been lavishly swathed in pebble wash; thus offering a different sensory experience and a departure from the cool and stark-looking timber strips.

In fact, another sensory experience unfolds in the master bedroom which has been enlarged through the integration of another common bedroom. It is anchored by a stunning ombre watercolour wall covering which marries form with function. Dennis adds, “We custom-designed this watercolour wallpaper, and had it printed on canvas fabric wallpaper. It unifies the private spaces; functioning both as a bedhead and storage wall.”

Thoughtful yet tactile, the design features introduced by the UPSTAIRS_ team stimulate all senses. With that, Paul and Cheryl have not only achieved an industrial loft that breaks away from the norm, they come home to practicality as well and that makes all the difference in the long run.

This was adapted from an article originally written by Disa Tan published in the July 2019 issue of SquareRooms. Photo credits: UPSTAIRS_