Turning a 650 sq-ft HDB flat into a spacious, streamlined home with a glass 'foyer'
CNA Lifestyle’s new series Making Room takes a look at small homes that have been given big transformations. This week, a bachelor pad that doubles as an office.
When interior designer Roystern Goh went house-hunting, he deliberately looked for a fixer-upper and ended up with an old, tired-looking three-room HDB flat.
“I wanted a house that was very rundown so I could hack everything away and redo it in line with my design philosophy: Simple luxury,” he said. “Every inch of space must not be wasted, that is the ultimate philosophy.”
The concept he had in mind? Goh wanted it “open, streamlined, minimalist” – a goal that, at first, seemed totally at odds with the condition the flat was in.
One principle he bore in mind was making the space “work for him”. So the first step he took to translate his vision to reality – and make the 650 sq-ft area look more spacious – was to take down the walls.
Arriving at his doorstep, visitors are greeted not by the usual metal gate/wooden front door combo, but by a padlocked glass door that opens onto a small foyer.
“I built a glass ‘gate’ because I want sunlight to come in. And I still want the air-conditioning to fill my entire space,” he explained. What’s more, when he’s not around the accept parcel deliveries, he can provide the padlock number to deliverymen, who can then leave the parcel, lock up behind themselves. The glass ‘gate’ also affords a view of lush greenery of Goh’s potted plants along the external corridor.
Inside the apartment, a sophisticated backdrop of dark and light wood panels and mirrors is punctuated starkly yet strikingly with Zen accents such as a bonsai tree and a Japanese lantern.
The highlight is the living room, which is dominated by a 3.8m-long dining table, instead of the usual sofa/coffee table/TV console setup.
The reason this works for the interior designer? Goh works from home, and needs the space to lay out his blueprints and drawings during client meetings. “I use it to host my clients and friends. I draw here, too,” he said.
Goh also incorporated a recessed cable management system within the table so he can charge his laptop – or plug in a hotpot for parties.
To keep noise out, the windows are double glazed and fitted with blinds, which provide privacy while also serving as a projector screen for Goh to showcase work to his interns.
Cushioned benches placed near the windows provide meditative, light-filled nooks for reading or quiet contemplation.
Goh also kept his pet beagle in mind by choosing flooring that was easy to maintain yet scratch-proof.
“I didn’t use timber flooring because if you have a pet, that will cause maintenance problems. So I used Italian granite-look tiles with a little bit of texture for a natural look.”
It’s hard to imagine this is anything but a work space, as there doesn’t appear to be any doors that might lead to bedrooms, or cupboards to store any accoutrements of daily living.
But one clever space-saving hack Goh employed was to “hide everything” – and here’s where he exercised his special powers of concealment.
“How to conceal is based on the carpentry detailing,” Goh shared. Some panels along what seems to be a wood-clad feature wall, turn out to conceal wardrobe and storage space, and not one but two pull-down Murphy beds. “The bed heads even have storage on top,” he pointed out.
Another ingenious solution was to use curtains to demarcate spaces, since he had removed all the walls. The precise placement of the curtains and curtain tracks meant the open-concept layout could be quickly and effortlessly reconfigured into one featuring a master bedroom and a guest bedroom.
This offered him the flexibility of enjoying a roomy studio space for the most part since both “bedrooms” can be hidden away when not in use, while allowing for privacy as and when needed.
As further proof that smart storage solutions and aesthetics can go hand in hand, the kitchen features a well-concealed sink, hob and hood in dark tones to match the cabinetry and counter space. “I keep everything flush and clean,” he said.
Even the bathroom – a posh, boutique hotel-worthy space – is unobtrusively tucked away.
“A lot of my friends will ask me where my toilet is,” he said, as he gestured towards a wood panel. A gentle push revealed a concealed door which opened into the bathroom.
And even when he’s not at home, Goh has even ensured that his home works for him. “I built a smart home system that can control the lights, the sound, the music, the aircon,” he shared.
Goh even spared a thought for his plants – by installing UV lights that can be activated remotely. “So my plants can survive when I travel!” he quipped.