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Transforming a 759 sq ft HDB flat into a colourful retro-modern wonderland

CNA Lifestyle’s Making Room series looks at small homes with big transformations. This week, we visit a three-room resale flat in Ang Mo Kio with playful vibes using colour, patterns and accents.

Transforming a 759 sq ft HDB flat into a colourful retro-modern wonderland

This 3-room HDB flat in Ang Mo Kio is a blast from the past with its colourful mid-century modern aesthetics. (Photo: The Moving Visuals Co)

When homeowner Edward purchased a resale three-room HDB flat in Ang Mo Kio, he wanted his home to be a technicolour showcase of the mid-century modern style.

Aside from appreciating the sensibilities of the modernist era – where form follows function, and which favours sleek, uncluttered lines with both organic and geometric forms – he also noted that “most mid-century furniture pieces are very small, so it’s much easier to fit them into a small space”.

“I’ve always loved colour,” said the bachelor. “I like to experiment with different colour combinations; the mood that I wanted was something that makes me feel relaxed and happy when I come home.”

Homeowner Edward turned to a retro mid-century modern style for his 759 sq ft HDB flat. (Photo: The Moving Visuals Co)

Other items on his wish list? Clean lines, a retro feel, a spacious master suite, lots of shoe storage as “I have a lot of shoes”, an interesting dining area, lots of built-in furniture, and a kitchen that “ties in with how I dress – I like to mix graphic prints with textures”.

So he engaged interior design firm Karpentree Studio to help him create “a modernist-inspired retreat tailored for a dandy who celebrates life in simplicity with a bold statement”.

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To make the 759 sq ft flat feel more light and open, the wall between the living/dining area and the kitchen was removed, creating a long rectangular space from the front of the apartment all the way to the back.

The floor of the expanded space was redone in pale grey terrazzo for a light, airy feel imbued with elegant modernist vibes.

Splashes of colour abound in this 3-room HDB flat. (Photo: The Moving Visuals Co)

In the living area, a salmon pink floating shoe cabinet and a trio of matching floating shelves stand out against pale grey walls, providing storage without eating into the footprint of the apartment. Opposite, a streamlined deep blue sofa, a circular rug in medium brown, and mismatched cushions add further pops of colour.

Retro-modernist chairs such as this ensure a nice throwback element in Edward's HDB flat. (Photo: The Moving Visuals Co)

A selection of carefully curated home decor accessories which are 1950s iconic designs – such as a Louis Poulsen Panthella table lamp in shiny chrome, a green Vitra Eames elephant figure and a bright yellow Eero Saarinen puppy sculpture – as well as dried floral arrangements, add a personal touch to the space.

A green Vitra Eames elephant figure is one of many decor accessories to underscore the mid-century modern look of the house. (Photo: The Moving Visuals Co)

A round gold-toned side table and a wall-mounted sconce featuring circles of different sizes complete the living room setup.

This segues into the dining area, which is demarcated by a built-in concrete arch painted in the same shade of pink featured in the living room’s floating cabinetry.

That's his salmon pink shoe cabinet in the living area. (Photo: The Moving Visuals Co)

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Aside from serving as the main focal point of the dining area, the cosy recessed nook houses a cushion-strewn bench that’s not only totally Instagram-worthy but also a clever space-saving hack for providing extra seating space for when he has friends over for meals. 

The size and colour of the round wooden dining table echo that of the living room rug, offering a sense of design continuity.

Note the recessed nook in the dining area, a clever space-saving hack for extra seating space when guests come over. (Photo: The Moving Visuals Co)

The pale blue hues of the two dining chairs and the Verpan Hive suspension lamp overhead form a visual link to the matching Smeg fridge, which marks where the dining area ends and the kitchen begins.

“I wanted to create some kind of interest in the kitchen, which also ties in to how I dress, where I like to mix graphic prints with textures,” Edward said.

Kitchen cabinets in electric blue laminate pops against the salmon pink and grey subway-tiled walls. (Photo: The Moving Visuals Co)

As such, a single row of kitchen cabinets in electric blue laminate pops against the salmon pink and grey subway-tiled walls. Black-and-white patterned tiles on the backsplash provide even more of a playful contrast. 

Homeowner Edward loves his blue, which is the main colour theme in his kitchen. (Photo: The Moving Visuals Co)

Matte black countertops, a black glass induction cooktop, stainless steel appliances and a monolithic, dark grey kitchen island add a touch of sophistication.  

Black-and-white patterned tiles on the kitchen backsplash (Photo: The Moving Visuals Co)

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By sacrificing the storeroom, Edward was able to create a spacious master suite with ample room for rest and work.

As a counterpoint to the bright, expansive feel of the living/dining/kitchen area outside, the master suite is a calm, intimate, cocooning space with deep blue walls and ceilings, and dark drown wood laminate flooring.

Edward's cosy bedroom. (Photo: The Moving Visuals Co)

“Blue is my favourite colour,” Edward said. “The moment I step in, I feel so calm and serene that I just fall asleep naturally.

The master bed is flanked by a built-in side table on the right, and an extra-long built-in work desk on the left, both in grey wood-grained laminate.

The washing-up station at the corner of the bedroom, right outside the bathroom. (Photo: The Moving Visuals Co)

Edward opted for a washing-up station at the corner of the bedroom, right outside the bathroom. Black-and-white hexagon-patterned tiles demarcate the area where the sink, mirror and floating bath cabinet are located, and extend into the bathroom as well. 

Black-and-white hexagon-patterned tiles in the bathroom. (Photo: The Moving Visuals Co)

Custom-made wood-framed bifold doors with pleated glass panels channel a kind of “colonial or old school coffee shop” feel, while letting in more light.

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The second, smaller bedroom is simply furnished, with a small guest bed, and a built-in wardrobe in the same electric blue colour as the kitchen cabinets.

“When you only have 700 sq ft to play with, you have to be very specific. With built-in furniture you get the luxury of customising it for your flat and then not having to worry about whether it fits or not,” Edward noted, concluding: “You can live in a very small space, but still be very complete.”

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Source: CNA/mm