The Chic Apartment: Keep mine cool

Life kicks off this fortnightly column, featuring tastefully done up interiors, with three unique abodes

Home cafe

In the home of Mr Aeden Tang, there is a display chiller.PHOTO: YEO KAI WEN, IDEAL DESIGN INTERIOR

You might be tempted to call out: "Waiter!" when you visit Mr Aeden Tang's home.

His 4A HDB flat in Choa Chu Kang looks very much like a cafe, from the display chiller in his kitchen to the chalkboard menu hanging above it. Even his 10-seater dining table is furnished with mismatched chairs - a style much loved by owners of hipster cafes here.

His very maximalist home is an ode to his love of cafes.

As a student in Texas and Iowa in the United States in the 1980s, he worked for a catering business, where he became enamoured with the beauty of food display.

He opened a cafe in Siem Reap in Cambodia earlier this year, but closed it recently and returned to Singapore.

So, when it came to decorating his flat last year, "cafe" was very much the theme from the start.

The centrepiece is his $2,000 chiller, which acts as a divider between the dining room and kitchen.

The 57-year-old bachelor, who retired from his vice-president position in a bank seven years ago, says: "I was always fascinated with how nice food looks in a chiller. So when I had my own home, I insisted on having one."

In it, he keeps drinks, cakes, desserts and salads. He also has a regular fridge with a freezer.

He removed the walls of a third room to accommodate his 2.4m- long table - so large that two men had to carry it up six flights of stairs instead of taking the lift.

He decided to redo the interiors of the home after his mother, whom he lived with, died three years ago. He bought the flat, measuring about 1,000 sq ft, seven years ago.

On its previous design, he says: "It looked like an old folks' home because my mother needed grab bars and ramps to help her get around. And she didn't like fancy details around the home, so it was just plain and simple."

For the $150,000 overhaul - the price tag includes furniture - Mr Tang worked with Mr Ivan Ong, 40, from Ideal Design Interior to get the look. He completed the renovation last year.

By his own admission, Mr Tang was a "fussy" customer as he wanted specific designs he found on the Internet. Must-haves included a feature wall made of wood pallet pieces.

Another unusual feature are the kitchen shelves, which are partially covered with frosted glass panels on rollers. This open-concept storage style works for Mr Tang as he does not do heavy-duty cooking, but boils and steams food instead, so minimal cleaning is needed.

Mr Ong says: "His ideas were very special and some of the things he wanted were not available in Singapore. Other clients can be more easily convinced to change their plans, but not him. So we worked towards finding solutions."

Despite the complexity of the project, Mr Tang says: "I refused to compromise because I knew I wanted this look. But the contractors loved me - I helped them work on the flat like tearing up the pallets."

His apartment is a riot of colours, accentuated by his eclectic furniture and accessories. These include a bonnet of a tractor's head from India that he bought from a women's clothing store at Clarke Quay Central mall and has been turned into a bar counter table.

His flat has been a hit with friends. He hosts pot-luck dinners here every two to three weeks. A friend's daughter also used his home to shoot her wedding pictures in March. He says: "She came over once and fell in love with it instantly. The look of this home is something, I think, no one else has."

Chesterfield sofa sparks decor idea

Mr Ray Tay and his wife Janet Khoo bought a dark brown leather Chesterfield sofa and designed their industrial-classic retro home around it. PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

While most home owners start with an overall theme for their home, married couple Ray Tay and Janet Khoo designed their home around a Chesterfield sofa.

The dark brown leather beauty caught their eye when they started shopping for furniture about two years ago. It was the first piece they bought from furniture store Locus Habitat.

Mr Tay, 31, a recruitment consultant, says while most home owners shy away from buying a bulky sofa, the couple felt the piece, which cost about $5,000, fit in with the industrial-classic retro theme they liked.

"Not many would want to buy a Chesterfield because it's hard to maintain and is not a kid-friendly piece. But for us, it gave us ideas of how we wanted to do up our home. The entire design concept was done to fit in the sofa."

The couple, who have a two- year-old son Xander, worked with Mr Low Chin En, 24, from interior design firm Distinct Identity to renovate their four-room HDB flat in Tampines Central.

To create a retro industrial- classic look, various beams - arranged to look like a giant frame against a green chalkboard-paint wall - are covered in a laminate so they look like steel beams.

Cupboards within the frame resemble crates with their wood-like laminate.

Across the room stands a half- finished exposed brick wall which serves as a backdrop to their Chesterfield sofa. Ms Khoo, 31, a civil servant, says: "The wall has become a conversation piece among our guests. They joke that we had no money to finish the wall."

Jokes aside, the raw look fits in perfectly with the industrial theme of their home, which cost them about $45,000 to do up. They did not change the layout of the 90 sq m Built-To-Order flat, which they moved into last October.

Another unique feature of their home: concealed storage and hidden doors.

A wall running the length of the hallway to the master bedroom is covered in wood laminate, with black lines outlining the doors to the storeroom and toilet.

In the couple's bedroom, their queen-size bed sits on a platform that conceals more storage space in the form of drawers that pull out from the base of the platform as well as a trapdoor-like handle that opens at the foot of the bed.

Mr Low, who is Distinct Identity's assistant manager in the innovation division, planned the storage spaces by working out what items the couple needed to stow away.

He made clever additions, too, such as the half-height cabinet near the window which does double duty. "As their room is too small to have a study table, they can sit on the half-height cabinet to read if they want to."

Explaining their desire for concealed storage, Ms Khoo says: "We wanted a lot of space for our bags and knick-knacks, but we didn't want them to be on display."

The couple bought lights and home accessories such as clocks and decals from Taobao, the mega online Chinese shopping website. They also turned wine crates into a CD storage rack for Mr Tay's large music collection.

For their child's room, the practical parents chose furniture such as cupboards and a convertible double-decker bed from Ikea that would accommodate two children in the future.

The couple say they were excited to see their home when the renovations were completed.

Says Ms Khoo: "To us, this industrial style will always be evergreen."

Look, there is the TV set and an oven too

Interior design firm Artistroom created a singular 3m-long white console that runs the length of the open-concept living room and kitchen.PHOTO: ARTISTROOM 

Placing a steam oven near a television set makes for an odd pairing. But for this three-room HDB flat in Serangoon, it works.

Interior design firm Artistroom created a singular 3m-long white console that runs the length of the open-concept living room and kitchen.

Mr Mark Chen, 33, the project consultant on the design team, looked at the home owner's needs and suggested this design to "suit her lifestyle and personality".

He says: "She doesn't cook often and prefers to use a steam oven when she does. So there was no need for much countertop space. This open layout makes her home look bigger too."

The resale 73 sq m flat is owned by Ms Cindy Teo, a regional operations planner, who is single and in her 30s.

It's rush hour for the bathroom in the morning, so this was a good solution instead of us having to wait for our turn. We can also keep our things separate.

MS CINDY TEO on the two vanity counters. She rents out a room in the three-room HDB flat

It underwent a massive redesign including removing walls to open up the space.

Ms Teo says: "I wanted the interiors to be simple and easy to clean. For example, I didn't want hanging ceiling lights which I would have to clean regularly."

To make the flat look bigger, larger Italian tiles measuring 75cm by 75cm were used. Regular tiles usually measure 60cm by 60cm.

During the design stage, both client and designer communicated via WhatsApp, with Mr Chen sending her pictures of tiles and furnishings for her approval. However, there were times when she was unsure of his suggestions.

For example, Mr Chen suggested using green translucent tiles as a feature for the wall above the stove. But Ms Teo felt they were "too old-school".

She says of the mosaic tiles: "I wanted something vintage and I wasn't sure this green would fit that look. But I decided to go with his choice."

Ms Teo rents out one of her rooms. She and the tenant have to share the one toilet in the flat, which is why Mr Chen installed two vanity counters there.

Ms Teo likes that feature, saying: "It's rush hour for the bathroom in the morning, so this was a good solution instead of us having to wait for our turn. We can also keep our things separate."

The home, which was completed last July, cost about $70,000 to design and renovate. The bulk of the costs went into reconfiguring the space, reworking the toilet and hacking the floor. The design also incorporated a storeroom, which the original layout did not have.

Ms Teo loves the way her home looks, given that she was not particularly impressed when she saw Mr Chen's initial plans.

"When I saw the 3-D renderings, I felt the designs were just all right. But after everything went into it, it turned out so well."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 18, 2015, with the headline 'KEEP MINE COOL TheChicApartment'. Print Edition | Subscribe