THE CHIC APARTMENT

Singaporean-Dutch couple challenge perception of HDB flat with light-filled supersized home

A row of glass doors by the terrace allows sunlight into the home.
A row of glass doors by the terrace allows sunlight into the home. PHOTOS: VERONICA TAY
The art studio (above) features mosaic tiles and a worn-out work table, while the modern kitchen (below) has a black-and-white herringbone flooring.
The art studio (above) features mosaic tiles and a worn-out work table, while the modern kitchen has a black-and-white herringbone flooring.
A row of glass doors by the terrace allows sunlight into the home.
The art studio features mosaic tiles and a worn-out work table, while the modern kitchen (above) has a black-and-white herringbone flooring.

Singaporean-Dutch couple challenge perception of HDB flat with light-filled supersized home

When Singaporean-Dutch couple Cheryl Chen and Pieter Idenburg decided to uproot themselves from Abu Dhabi, they did not ship just themselves and their golden retriever here.

Over the years, the pair had lovingly curated an extensive, highly personal collection of furnishings, antique heirloom pieces and evocative artwork - some painted by the lady of the house herself.

While they lived in a two-storey villa in Abu Dhabi, their prized possessions had to be transplanted to their new, downsized abode: two three-room Housing Board flats in Ang Mo Kio that were already combined when they bought it.

Ms Chen, 32, who is an interior architect and artist, says: "Most people couldn't understand why we chose public housing. But the location is convenient and we wanted to challenge the perception of HDB flats."

The married couple have created a home that definitely breaks the mould of a cookie-cutter HDB unit - especially with its long, rectangular layout.

The common areas take up a disproportionately large space, bookended by a terrace on one end - this was formerly the common corridor between the two units - and four small rooms in a row on the other.

"That's how we live - with large, loft-like living spaces and small bedrooms. We're not into decorating spaces, but creating them," explains Ms Chen.

A row of glass doors by the terrace allows sunlight into the home, bringing the outdoors inside.

But the couple had to ensure that there were enough solid walls to hang their art collection on. To provide both storage and wall space, they built a long, narrow storeroom down one width of the common area.

Their enormous wood dining table, where they eat and work, dominates the common space.

Mr Idenburg, who heads a creative firm, says: "We live around the table - we love its size and clunky legs."

The home's new layout makes it easy to segue from the dining table to the seating area by the library for drinks, with plenty of chairs in a mix of styles throughout because "it's nice to see which ones our friends choose", he explains.

Ms Chen adds: "We try not to make it look contrived. We don't need everything to match."

So, each space has its own character. Fronted by sliding see-through glass panels for doors, the differences are stark. For instance, her art studio features mosaic flooring and a worn-out work table, while the modern kitchen is decked out in black-and-white herringbone flooring.

Ms Chen says: "We wanted each room to stand for itself. That's what's unique about this place. "


• This article first appeared in the August issue of Home & Decor, which is published by SPH Magazines. Get the January issue now at all newsstands and download the digital edition of Home & Decor from the App Store, Magzter and Google Play. Also, see more inspiring homes on www.homeanddecor.com.sg


• If you have a Housing Board flat or condominium apartment you would like featured, e-mail your pictures, with the header The Chic Apartment, to stlife@sph.com.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 02, 2016, with the headline 'TheChicApartment Breaking the mould'. Print Edition | Subscribe