AT HOME WITH The Toos

Permanent staycation: A Scandinavian aesthetic in a five-room HDB flat

Clean lines (right) and a woody palette (far right) give the flat of Ms Catherine Cheung and Mr Elvin Too (both above) an earthy touch. Sliding panels (left) let the home owners open or close off this nook when necessary. Souvenirs from their travels
Clean lines (right) and a woody palette (far right) give the flat of Ms Catherine Cheung and Mr Elvin Too (both above) an earthy touch. Sliding panels (left) let the home owners open or close off this nook when necessary. Souvenirs from their travels, such as a statue head (left below) carved out of a piece of wood from Tanzania, add a personal touch.ST PHOTOS: NG SOR LUAN
Clean lines (right) and a woody palette (far right) give the flat of Ms Catherine Cheung and Mr Elvin Too (both above) an earthy touch. Sliding panels (left) let the home owners open or close off this nook when necessary. Souvenirs from their travels
Clean lines (right) and a woody palette (far right) give the flat of Ms Catherine Cheung and Mr Elvin Too (both above) an earthy touch. Sliding panels (left) let the home owners open or close off this nook when necessary. Souvenirs from their travels, such as a statue head (left below) carved out of a piece of wood from Tanzania, add a personal touch.ST PHOTOS: NG SOR LUAN
Clean lines (right) and a woody palette (far right) give the flat of Ms Catherine Cheung and Mr Elvin Too (both above) an earthy touch. Sliding panels (left) let the home owners open or close off this nook when necessary. Souvenirs from their travels
Clean lines (right) and a woody palette (far right) give the flat of Ms Catherine Cheung and Mr Elvin Too (both above) an earthy touch. Sliding panels (left) let the home owners open or close off this nook when necessary. Souvenirs from their travels, such as a statue head (left below) carved out of a piece of wood from Tanzania, add a personal touch.ST PHOTOS: NG SOR LUAN
Clean lines (right) and a woody palette (far right) give the flat of Ms Catherine Cheung and Mr Elvin Too (both above) an earthy touch. Sliding panels (left) let the home owners open or close off this nook when necessary. Souvenirs from their travels
Clean lines (right) and a woody palette (far right) give the flat of Ms Catherine Cheung and Mr Elvin Too (both above) an earthy touch. Sliding panels (left) let the home owners open or close off this nook when necessary. Souvenirs from their travels, such as a statue head (left below) carved out of a piece of wood from Tanzania, add a personal touch.ST PHOTOS: NG SOR LUAN
Clean lines (right) and a woody palette (far right) give the flat of Ms Catherine Cheung and Mr Elvin Too (both above) an earthy touch. Sliding panels (left) let the home owners open or close off this nook when necessary. Souvenirs from their travels
Clean lines (right) and a woody palette (far right) give the flat of Ms Catherine Cheung and Mr Elvin Too (both above) an earthy touch. Sliding panels (left) let the home owners open or close off this nook when necessary. Souvenirs from their travels, such as a statue head (left below) carved out of a piece of wood from Tanzania, add a personal touch.ST PHOTOS: NG SOR LUAN

Clean lines and lots of wood create a Scandinavian aesthetic in a five-room HDB flat

Ms Catherine Cheung and Mr Elvin Too bought a standard five-room, 1,200 sq ft HDB flat in Ghim Moh when they were looking for a new home last year.

However, the married couple decided to use sliding panels to create a nook which can double as a cosy study, when the panels are closed, or an extended living space when the panels are opened. Working with interior design company AO Studios, they opted for these sliding doors, which are covered in a light wood laminate, instead of traditional swing doors.

Ms Cheung, 33, owner-founder of Small Space Sprouts, a start-up gardening company, says: "It's one of my favourite things about the house. We wanted a lot of space for entertaining and this was a perfect solution to making a small space bigger.

"It's also very flexible because, for example, I can hide the kitchen or close off the study if I don't want to be distracted."

The HDB flat - the first for the couple who have no kids - is a change from their homes in the United States where they lived together for about seven years.

They put up in various types of accommodation as they moved around the country, from New York to San Francisco and Seattle, for work.

Ms Cheung, who was born in Canada and is now a Singapore permanent resident, first met Mr Too when they were college mates at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Last year, they moved to Singapore to be closer to his family. They were drawn to Ghim Moh because Mr Too, 34, vice-president of post office products, services and network at Singapore Post, grew up in the neighbourhood.

In their previous homes, having a garden was a must as Ms Cheung loves gardening. She even put pots of plants in the outdoor stairwell, which doubles as a fire escape, in their home in Seattle.

While their current home does not have a balcony, she used her gardening experience to design "ladder-like" structures in the living room so that pots of soil can be mounted vertically on each rung.

Ms Cheung, who manages a 6,000 sq ft gardening plot at D'Kranji Farm Resort and has been gardening for 20 years, says: "Before this, we were living in a 400 sq ft studio in River Valley. It was a taste of what I could do, gardening-wise, in a tiny apartment. In this flat, though, there isn't a lot of sun indoors, so I've put in shade-loving plants such as the money plant and ferns.

"It doesn't take much to maintain them as they need watering only about once a week," adds Ms Cheung, who also grows chilli plants in her bedroom where there is better light and herbs and eggplant in the yard.

It seems like a bonus then that the couple's home has a serene view of greens. Instead of concrete slabs on top of the multi-storey carpark, grass has been planted to soften the harsh look of the space.

Before moving to Singapore, the couple, who used to work in management, quit their jobs and spent about nine months travelling. In part, their world adventure has influenced their clean design aesthetic, common in homes in places such as Japan and Scandinavia.

Mr Too says: "I liked how the Japanese and Scandinavians use wood in their furniture and they have such clean lines in their homes.

"Ryokans in Japan were constructed simply. We liked the way these places look and tried to have some elements of them in our homes," he adds, referring to traditional Japanese inns.

The influence shows in their clutter-free home. Magazines and books are hidden in an expandable coffee table, while cables for the projection system and audio gadgets are neatly tucked away.

Souvenirs collected from their travels, such as a totem pole from Alaska and a statue head carved out of a single piece of wood from Tanzania, add a personal touch.

Each piece has a memorable story behind it. For example, a decorative plate which they picked up in Turkey and shipped back to Ms Cheung's parents in Toronto had broken into pieces when it reached them.

She says: "It became a big jigsaw puzzle for my dad and sister to piece together. My dad offered to buy me a new one as he was going to Turkey but I said no as this one has so much more meaning now that they have spent so much time on it."

After almost a year away, the couple are glad to be close to family.

Mr Too says: "It feels good to be in one place. We'll be here for a while, which is why we put so much effort into making the house perfect. It's like a permanent staycation now."

natashaz@sph.com.sg

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