Outside the Box With Interior Design

Instead of trying to fit their interior design style into a predefined aesthetic, these homeowners worked with their designer to craft something one-of-a-kind.

Much has been said about the importance of having good chemistry with your interior designer. After catching up with designer Jason Ng from Voila and his clients, Karen and Sen, we can see why they hit it off.

When we ask Jason about the toughest part of the project, he says it was “climbing three floors every day during the renovation period.” With a similarly dry sense of humour, Karen shares that she and her husband went for an eclectic style while the rest of the world seems obsessed with a neutral palette because “neutral hues are for innerwear.”

But it’s not just humour that brings these quirky individuals together. For starters, they both share a deep appreciation for the Tiong Bahru neighbourhood, where the project is located.

“The neighbourhood has a unique charm. It’s a melting pot of the old and new. We knew we wanted to keep some of the Tiong Bahru vibe. A little British, a little Asian. Rojak lah,” Karen says.

Jason, who fell in love with the space on his first visit, kept the iconic entrance intact to honour the neighbourhood’s culture and heritage. According to him, preserving the main door is an unspoken rule among interior designers in the area.

“I think anyone who is working on a unit in Tiong Bahru will always want to keep the main door for its history and charm. Our designers at Voila have worked on three projects in Tiong Bahru and we all kept it. I don’t think any other door would’ve fit better aesthetically.”

They were also on the same page about the beautiful French windows in the home, knowing they had to incorporate them from the get-go. Plain, clear glass was not in the cards.

Mid-century modern meets bohemian

Jason describes the overall theme as “a mix of boho and mid-century modern,” a tricky balance to strike given the colonial undertone of the space. But this wasn’t cast in stone from the outset. Instead, Karen and Sen treated their initial meeting with Jason as a brainstorming session.

“When sharing our ideas with most interior designers, they would go, ‘huh?’ Meeting with Voila was different. The ideas were bounced between Jason and us. He proposed an interesting layout, and we went with it and pieced the rest of the puzzle together,” Karen recounts.

According to Jason, the couple was pretty open to letting him work on their new home, especially the layout. But no cookie-cutter designs and definitely no cluttering of the space with built-in cabinets! For that mid-century modern vibe, clean lines and pops of colour also made their way into the home.

Meanwhile, the bohemian style was expressed through natural materials and intricate patterns. You can spot these in their carved furniture pieces from India and Indonesia, made of teak, oak and recycled wood. “We like designs that are different and handmade. Most importantly, they have to last,” Karen adds.

Going against the grain

It’s tempting to try and pigeonhole interior design projects into popular trends and styles,
but a home is so much more than that. This is exemplified by the odds and ends scattered around the couple’s flat, which are neither quintessentially mid-century modern nor bohemian.

“Most of the vases are from South Korea. We went to the antique market to find treasures that we wanted to place at home. The painting at the coffee nook is by Ohara Koson. The rooster caught my eye because the features are so beautiful,” Karen shares.

But the surprises don’t stop there. The bathroom, which was only conceptualised towards the end of the renovation, distinguishes itself from the rest of the house with its retro vibe.

“I felt that the place lacked colour. It was getting a little too dull for my liking, so I threw the idea out to the owners. I was hoping to do both the bathroom and bedroom doors in the same colour, but I guess they were more adventurous.”

In the end, this home is a product of one “eureka” moment after another and a shared love for the creative process. It wasn’t just a matter of hiring an interior designer to carry out a preconceived plan; Jason was deeply involved in the project, all the while ensuring that the couple had full autonomy.

“I love to remind the homeowners I work with that this is the place they will be calling home. Not anyone else. Not even me, the designer. So impress yourself and do whatever you want. The designer is here to give you an opinion, but as long as you love it, what else matters?