The Chic Home: Pre-war apartment combines industrial edge with speakeasy and heritage elements

The exposed brick and black accents give the space a distinctly industrial vibe.
The exposed brick and black accents give the space a distinctly industrial vibe.PHOTO: SPH MAGAZINES

SINGAPORE - When Mr Jean-Paul Wu and his partner clapped eyes on the pre-war apartment in Tiong Bahru, it was love at first sight.

They visited almost every day before they moved into the flat in January 2019.

"I would come in here and just sit and visualise the place," says Mr Wu, a 37-year-old financial planner, with a laugh.

Today, the 1,700 sq ft walk-up apartment is home to the couple, their 13-year-old chihuahua Clover and Mr Wu's parents.

Much like the hip bars in the neighbourhood, it is a dimly lit, cosy crib that blends industrial and vintage speakeasy styles, with nods to their Singaporean heritage.

It sounds like a tricky mix, but the couple have pulled it off beautifully - with help from Mr Desmond Chew and Ms Serene Tan of interior design firm Three-D Conceptwerke.

The home has been mistaken for a bar a few times. "I've had people coming up for a party and wondering if this was the right bar," Mr Wu says. But it has not been much of a bother, as the couple loves to entertain.

Needless to say, having a large space for hosting gatherings was high on their list of priorities when renovating their home - a process which took about four months and cost $150,000 without furniture and appliances.

The communal area consists of a large den, a sizeable dining space and an open kitchen with an island bar that would look right at home in one of the restaurants nearby.

The couple's favourite spot is the den, which they call the gaming room. In the large, semi-circular space are a generously sized, squashy sofa and a television set, with their favourite video games lined up on the console.

Mr Chew says: "The layout was quite a challenge, but placing the furniture just so everyone can see the TV was crucial."

The den's statement piece is a steampunk-style barber's chair which Mr Wu purchased on Carousell from another interior design firm that was moving offices.

On the wall next to it is a pink neon sign that says "Glass ½ Full Since 2007". It is a tongue-in-cheek reference to optimism and always having a drink in hand. The year 2007 is also when the couple got together.


The den's statement piece is a steampunk-style barber's chair. PHOTO: SPH MAGAZINES

There are occasional pops of colour, such as deep green, amid the predominantly dark palette.

The furniture - a mix of splurges and value buys - was mostly sourced online from websites such as Taobao and Carousell.


The couple kept the large size of the bathrooms, which were said to be communal back in the day. PHOTO: SPH MAGAZINES

The resulting look is luxe with a quirky character. Even the flicker of the wall lamps - which the couple speculates is due to the building's age - adds a distinctive ambience.

The home is decorated with accessories and artworks which the couple has collected over the years.

For instance, Mr Wu loves animal figurines from gacha machines, which he places in different spots around the home - above the clock, on kitchen shelves and in the ventilation blocks.

Then there are the constant soothing tones of the Koshi wind chimes which he bought from France and which are hung just outside the window.

"I believe we should surround ourselves with things that make us happy in a home," he says.

The overall look is also a nod to local heritage and the character of the neighbourhood.

Architectural elements such as ventilation blocks, usually found outdoors, were incorporated indoors.


Ventilation blocks decorated with gacha figurines screen off the entrance from other features. PHOTO: SPH MAGAZINES

Mr Chew and Ms Tan also added textured glass blocks to the two bathrooms, letting in natural daylight to brighten them.

These heritage-inspired touches give the home a timeless beauty, says Mr Chew.


The breezy back room is where the laundry gets down, the potted plants thrive and occasional mahjong sessions happen. PHOTO: SPH MAGAZINES

• This article first appeared in the January 2021 issue of Home & Decor, which is published by SPH Magazines. Get the February and latest issue of Home & Decor now at all newsstands or download the digital edition of Home & Decor from the Apple Store, Magzter or Google Play. Also, see more inspiring homes at homeanddecor.com.sg