The Chic Home: Total turnaround for walk-up shophouse unit in Serangoon Garden

The home has lots of space for its 30-something owners and their cat, who loves watching the world go by from the front window. PHOTO: SPH MAGAZINES; ART DIRECTION: KRISTY QUAH

SINGAPORE – A walk-up apartment above a row of nondescript 1950s shophouses, which was later used as a workers’ dormitory, would have deterred most house-hunters, but not this couple.

The pilot and public servant in their 30s were looking for a property in Serangoon Garden and were thrilled when they found this 1,600 sq ft unit.

The $350,000 revamp was handled by home-grown studio Prozfile, whose principal designer Cadine Lim had worked on similar units.

As the building had not been gazetted as a conservation property, the owners and designer did not have to contend with conservation guidelines for the structure. However, they still had to secure endorsement from the Building and Construction Authority.

Due to the unit’s age, piping and plumbing works were also fairly extensive.

The couple like the warm aesthetics of Australian homes. While they were not going for that specific look, their layout has a similar spatial flow. PHOTO: SPH MAGAZINES; ART DIRECTION: KRISTY QUAH

The couple were adamant that there would be no stark metallic or vinyl surfaces in their home, as they wanted natural materials in muted and matt hues, and had already decided on parquet floors.

As a former workers’ dormitory, there were many partitions that made the interior feel cramped and dark. With these gone, light from the windows makes the spaces feel bright and welcoming.

The living area is now filled with earthy tones and wood furniture with fabric upholstery, as the couple wanted the furniture to be able to sustain wear and tear, as well as scratches by their cat.

To one side of the living room is a pair of his-and-hers study rooms so the couple have their own spaces. Each room has plenty of built-in storage, since the unit does not have a household shelter or store room.

The wishbone legs are an interesting detail in this 12-seater dining table. PHOTO: SPH MAGAZINES; ART DIRECTION: KRISTY QUAH

The double-volume space, exposed-brick party wall, pitched roof with exposed rafters and an overhead beam all add to the spatial complexity of the dining room. A 12-seater dining table, made of untreated wood upcycled from a railway track, is perfect for when the couple have friends over.

Everything has its place in the kitchen, including the husband’s knife collection and a knife rack that he crafted himself. PHOTO: SPH MAGAZINES; ART DIRECTION: KRISTY QUAH

As an avid cook, the husband had specific requirements for the kitchen, such as separating hot and cold elements like the oven and the refrigerator. The overhead shelves also had to accommodate his knife set and handmade knife rack.

A long island counter runs almost the entire length of the kitchen. It is the couple’s favourite place to hang out at, as it is cosy enough for the two of them and the perfect size to entertain small groups. Even the cat enjoys sitting on the high chair.

The kitchen is a favourite hangout for both the human and feline residents. PHOTO: SPH MAGAZINES; ART DIRECTION: KRISTY QUAH

The home’s spiral staircase, which can be found at the rear of most shophouses, also gets an interesting twist. It is concealed underneath a timber deck that allows access to the rear terrace. With the panels lifted out of the way, the spiral staircase leads down to the back door, which opens out to the back alley.

This hidden spiral staircase at the rear terrace leads to a back door at street level. PHOTO: SPH MAGAZINES; ART DIRECTION: KRISTY QUAH

Above it all is the loft level for the master bedroom. Another exposed-brick wall, paired with a pitched roof and exposed rafters, conveys a serene, almost chapel-like quality here. The skylight windows above the walk-in wardrobe and attached master bathroom brighten the space as well.

The brick wall, pitched roof and exposed rafters give the master bedroom an almost chapel-like quality. PHOTO: SPH MAGAZINES; ART DIRECTION: KRISTY QUAH

The couple moved into their new home in February 2022 after a five-month renovation. The space reflects both their tastes, and it evokes a relaxed and chill vibe that complements the quaint neighbourhood.

  • This article first appeared in the February 2023 issue of Home & Decor, which is published by SPH Magazines.
  • Get the March 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

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