SINGAPORE - Husband and wife Leonard Lam and Tham Peishan were strategic with their application for a Build-To-Order (BTO) Housing Board flat.
Mindful of the demand for the four- and five-room BTO flats, they balloted for a three-room flat instead and successfully secured a home near the Lavender area.
"We were very lucky since this area is hotly contested," says Ms Tham.
Mr Lam and Ms Tham, who are in their 30s, moved into the flat in June 2019. The renovation took three months and cost $30,000.
He is a graphic designer with a penchant for collecting toys and second-hand furniture, while she is a teacher who favours simplicity and practicality in her daily life.
Tasked with designing their new home was interior designer Keith Low of Wood Works studio.
"We loved Keith's collaborative design approach. He tried to understand what we wanted instead of imposing his own vision as a designer," says Ms Tham.
The result is a visually arresting home that captures the couple's personalities and lovingly showcases their shared history.
At the centre of the design is a fully glazed display window that took over the entire wall of a common bedroom. This showcases Ms Tham's collection of penguin plushies arranged on platforms.
"Leonard gave me the first penguin as a gift more than 10 years ago when we started dating," she says.
Mr Lam adds: "It became our tradition. We would buy one every time we visited a zoo or an aquarium around the world."
The display window in their home provides visual interest and a talking point. It also serves as a creative medium for Mr Lam, who loves to change the decor according to festive seasons.
One of the priorities in the couple's design brief was to have a sturdy table where Ms Tham can grade her students' work. She was also adamant about not having a television in the living area.
"We wanted the conversations to flow and real interactions to happen in the living area, undistracted by television," she explains.
In the end, they did away with a traditional sofa-and-TV-centric living room, assigning the dining room as the home's social hub.
At the centre of this dining room is a $3,000 solid wood dining table by Arthur Zaaro, a local brand specialising in sustainable tropical hardwood.
The tabletop was made with a felled angsana tree sourced from the site of Changi Airport's future Terminal 5.
The rest of the furniture is second-hand. "Most of them were impulse buys. I didn't really know how they all would come together in my place," Mr Lam confesses.
These purchases range from an art nouveau-style wall lamp salvaged from the refurbishment of The Raffles Hotel, to a vintage leather and timber office chair, to a giant timber wardrobe.
The wall lamp - restored to functionality - and chair served as an inspiration for a striking barbershop-themed feature wall next to the dining room. The interior of the wardrobe was altered to become a shoe cabinet.
The living area and the bedrooms are separated by a double door. Behind the display case is the entertainment room, which is also the designated room of the couple's grey British Shorthair cat Mochi, the newest member of the family.
At the end of the corridor is the master bedroom. Simple and sparsely furnished, it has no wardrobe. "We decided to turn the store into a wardrobe and just have more breathing space in our bedroom," says Ms Tham.
This no-fuss approach extends to the bathroom and kitchen. The former features an angled counter that rounds off an awkward corner, while the latter's open shelves let the couple find everything easily instead of searching through opaque storage cabinets.
All in all, this compact home has blended two separate lives while providing ample room for growth and flexibility.
This article first appeared in the March 2021 issue of Home & Decor, which is published by SPH Magazines.
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