The Chic Apartment

DIY Scandinavian

Rather than hire an interior designer, this young couple watched YouTube tutorials and innovated accordingly

Watching YouTube videos helped married couple Terry Chang and Chen Xianhui, both 32, decorate and furnish their new home.

When they received the keys to their 1,302 sq ft, four-bedroom executive condominium apartment in Tampines in July, they did not want to spend on an interior designer to decorate and furnish it.

So they watched do-it-yourself tutorials on YouTube and "innovated from there", says Mr Chang.

The stylish couple, who are both senior managers in a pharmaceutical company, had also honed their aesthetic sense when they were overseas - Mr Chang worked in Stockholm, Sweden, for about six years, while his wife did her university degree in Tokyo, Japan.

The look and feel was left to Ms Chen, while Mr Chang took charge of the sourcing and measurements for the custom-made furnishings, such as the marble-top dining table and framed mirror.

His measurements were made based on a scaled blueprint of the apartment, which he "just had to trust that it would work".

The couple also did up the stuccoed walls in the living area and master bedroom, installed the gallery-inspired hanging rails along the hallway, and turned the balcony into a lush garden.

Their labour of love has resulted in a chic, spacious and airy home with a Scandinavian theme.

They did not change the layout and built-in furnishings, apart from replacing the white kitchen counter with a marble one.

As Mr Chang, an avid cook and baker, prefers to cook outdoors, the stove was moved to the open-air yard. He also paid about $3,500 for a local manufacturer to make a stainless steel counter for the yard.

For two days, he painted, scraped and waxed a wall in the master bedroom to achieve a stucco look. The black wall - the couple opted for the colour as a contrast to the other white walls so the room looks "chic and clean" - was then decked with a pair of brass night lights that were made-to- order in the United States, and a large white picture frame designed by Ms Chen.

As the couple, who have no children, entertain often, they wanted furniture that could accommodate a large group, so they custom-made a dining bench that could seat more people and leather sofas that can be pushed together to make a single sofa.

A large framed mirror, measuring 2.2m by 1.5m, was custom-made at a framing shop in Alexandra Road. It is placed against the wall to make the dining area appear bigger.

In the balcony, plants such as wild orchids and petunias grow, and the pinwheel jasmine tree fills the air with a light, pleasant scent.

Says Ms Chen: "This was the first area of the house that we discussed; I have always been obsessed with indoor gardens."

The couple, who moved in two months ago, spent about $60,000 to furnish their home. They had planned for a budget of $80,000 to $100,000.

The savings from not hiring an interior designer went to "big-ticket items", such as the Loop&Co leather sofa, which cost about $7,000, and a $6,000 Simmons bed. Ms Chen wanted the same type of bed used in the upscale Westin hotels.

So did they butt heads over the design of their home? Mr Chang, who left the design to his wife, says it would have been "a nightmare if two people are doing it at the same time".

"But there are compromises," Ms Chen adds. "No neon pink walls, for example."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2015, with the headline 'DIY Scandinavian '. Print Edition | Subscribe