SINGAPORE - Only 12 hours had elapsed since the social sciences professor had seen the Housing Board resale flat listing on real estate portal PropertyGuru and reached out to the agent, but he already knew this was the home he wanted.
After a quick viewing via a WhatsApp video call, the owner - now in his 50s - confirmed the purchase of the 1,818 sq ft maisonette. He had been based overseas for the last two decades and wanted to live near his siblings in the Sin Ming area.
Buying the flat at the start of the pandemic in 2020 meant that renovation was pushed back. It was eventually completed in November that same year, taking three months and costing about $170,000, with Mr Dess Chew of interior design firm Three-D Conceptwerke at the helm of the project.
The result is a bright and serene home, with communal areas and the master bedroom on the first floor, and the guest room on the second.
The two floors incorporate both Eastern and Western influences, with the owner's eclectic collection of mementos, furniture and art spread across the levels.
Most of the internal walls on the first floor have been removed, save for a structural column. Natural light streams in from specially fabricated arched doors that open out to a study and a terrace - the latter being a rare feature in a HDB flat.
Gently curving arches have been installed for an organic look, so the central column resembles a stylised tree with branches spreading out.
The first floor is inspired by the owner's trips to spiritual retreats around the world, so the space conveys the same feeling of peace.
In the interest of accessibility, the master bedroom has been moved to the first floor and everything has been levelled out. The owner has all the essentials on this floor and he wakes up to the view of the terrace beside his bedroom and study.
The second floor has a warmer, intimate feel with chinoiserie elements. Much of the owner's furniture collection, including full-height shelves for books and smaller mementos, resides here.
A set of old stools sits next to a vintage cabinet and a piece by the owner's favourite artist Wu Guanzhong. The sofa bed is shielded from view by an antique screen that belonged to a family in northern China more than a hundred years ago.
Most of the furniture pieces have a story. The tree-trunk base of the owner's dining table, for instance, is a purchase from Hong Kong. A lamp on his desk reminds him of Sichuan, where he worked for 12 years. Yet other bits and pieces recall a life spent teaching and helping people in different parts of the world.
This article first appeared in the July 2022 issue of Home & Decor, which is published by SPH Magazines. Get the August and latest issue of Home & Decor now at all newsstands or download the digital edition of Home & Decor from the App Store, Magzter or Google Play. Also, see more inspiring homes at Home & Decor's website.