The Chic Home: Vintage charm in East Coast HDB flat

The retirees saved up for 14 years to buy genuine Eames lounge chairs. PHOTOS: SPH MAGAZINES
The window at the study can be slid open and pivoted to maximise the view and facilitate safe cleaning. PHOTOS: SPH MAGAZINES
The refurbished bathroom is accessible from the kitchen and the bedroom. PHOTOS: SPH MAGAZINES
This antique cabinet has been refurbished with LED lights to showcase its content. PHOTOS: SPH MAGAZINES
The hacking of one bedroom opens up the space and lets more light into the interior. PHOTOS: SPH MAGAZINES

SINGAPORE – In the 1970s, Mr Vince Tan and his sister bought this 40-year-old three-room Housing Board flat in the east for $55,000.

They both lived there for a while before moving out – Mr Tan moved in with a cousin, while his sister got married – and renting the flat out.

Last year, Mr Tan decided to renovate the 915 sq ft flat, which comes with a sea view, and turn it into a “retirement home” for himself and his cousin.

“I bought my sister’s share of the flat a while back. My cousin has also retired, so we decided to sell his condo and make this flat our home,” he says.

The pair – both retirees in their 60s who declined to state their former occupations – started looking for an interior designer in March 2021. Their design brief had three considerations: ample storage space, quality materials and ease of maintenance. They ended up going with SHE Interior Design, helmed by Ms Jess Loo.

“I tend to over-embellish everything, while Vince is the complete opposite,” quips Mr Tan’s cousin, who declined to reveal his name.

The space balances their different tastes with a simplified floor plan as well as details that are both functional and whimsical.

Cool colours, low-maintenance wood vinyl and Peranakan-inspired decorative tiles are paired with solid dark timber and brass. Antique and heirloom furniture co-exists with modern pieces and smart home elements.

One bedroom’s walls were removed to create an open living room that flows seamlessly to the dining and kitchen areas.

Presiding over the dining area is a display wall finished in sage-green laminate with brass trimming and LED strips, where Mr Tan’s cousin displays his vast collection of antique furniture, porcelain figurines, Limoges boxes, snuff bottles, jewellery and loose gemstones.

Design and travel books line cobalt-blue shelves, creating a dramatic backdrop to the two Herman Miller Eames lounge chairs in the living room.

The cobalt-blue photo wall pushes open to reveal a gallery that leads to the bedroom. PHOTOS: SPH MAGAZINES

The middle part of the photo wall – which displays framed pictures of Mr Tan from the time he modelled as a side job – is actually a concealed door that opens up to a passage leading to the bedroom.

The glass-encased wall on the other side houses a collection of knick-knacks from the pair’s travels. It also frames the hidden gallery, which opens to a window with a view of the sea.

The original flat’s shower and toilet were in separate areas, and the refurbished flat combines the shower, sink and toilet into a single bathroom accessible from both the bedroom and the kitchen. Ms Loo also created an archway that frames the toilet area and decorated it with antique prints.

The toilet area has been turned into a zone for reflection, thanks to the framed artwork. PHOTOS: SPH MAGAZINES

The renovation was done over six months during the pandemic and cost around $90,000 – with an additional $30,000 for special installations of the front door, the sliding and pivoting windows, and the electrical systems. Mr Tan and his cousin moved into the home in June 2022.

Cool solid colours pair well with wood in the entrance and dining areas. The furniture is a mix of old and new. PHOTOS: SPH MAGAZINES
  • This article first appeared in the October 2022 issue of Home & Decor, which is published by SPH Magazines.
  • Get the November 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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