SINGAPORE - Having spent the better part of my 20s staying in backpacker hostels to stretch my dollar, I am delighted to find that ST Signature Jalan Besar, which opened in May, has given communal living a leg up.
At the co-living hotel, guests share a kitchen, lounge and public spaces such as a meeting room, outdoor patio and various nooks and crannies where they can curl up with a book or a cup of tea.
Some rooms come with en suite toilets, while others share a communal, unisex bathroom and showers. No dingy, hair-sodden floors here - the bathroom's decorative lamps, Peranakan tiles, warm lighting and panelled mirrors make it one of the hotel's most Instagrammable spots. There are even Dyson hairdryers to boot.
So it's cheap, but is it comfortable?
Loft living is a delightful concept and my Cabin M Double Ensuite with no window is compact yet cosy. The lower level fits a writing desk, open-concept wardrobe and a spacious bathroom with a rain shower.
Steep stairs lead to a queen-size bed bedecked with four pillows and a plush quilt.
Senior operations manager Ng Xin Fang says mattresses are firm on one side and soft on the other, and can be flipped at guests' request. In line with Asian preferences, the default setting is the firm one, which is just nice for me.
A smart TV at the foot of the bed comes with Netflix, Amazon Prime and Spotify, though guests must log in with their own accounts.
Abroad, it feels like a waste of precious vacation time to rewatch episodes of Friends. Here, I hunker under the covers and let the banter of Phoebe, Joey, Rachel, Ross, Monica and Chandler lull me to sleep.
What else is there to do?
Like a resort, the hotel runs in-house activities so you do not have to schlep out of its premises for the duration of your stay.
I rouse early for a yoga class at the hotel's open-air patio, run by instructor Lynette Ng, who is also the owner of Sweatbox Yoga. A class costs between $20 and $30, depending on the number of students - about the same as drop-in rates at boutique studios in town.
I also join a clay art workshop by social enterprise Tinkle Arts, which collaborates with the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore and employs staff with special needs.
During the hour-long session, founder Charlene Chan walks us through crafting a mini kueh platter, where we shape clay into ondeh ondeh and kueh cara (pandan sponge cake).
Despite my butter fingers, it is a fun and forgiving process. Squished a piece too flat? Just pop it back into the mould for another go. Misshapen kueh? Tuck it behind the others when gluing them down.
The result is a delicate, cute-as-a-button decorative platter that makes us all hungry by the time we are done. Workshops start at $50, depending on the materials required.
You've saved on a stay, now indulge in a good meal.
Head to Sideways, a five-minute walk away in Rowell Road, for sourdough bread and pizzas baked in a wood-fired oven. Pair the food with piquant dips such as avocado pesto ($12), a refreshing blend that includes basil, mint, parmigiano and feta cheese.
Or order up a storm at any of the dim sum joints nearby, including supper institution Swee Choon along Jalan Besar, known for its crispy mee sua kueh.
Other worthy contenders include Sum Dim Sum and Dim Sum Haus - the latter is just round the corner from the hotel.
Verdict: Hidden gem or budget disaster?
Definitely a hidden gem. From reading nooks to co-working desks, the youthful hotel brims with personality. Netflix in bed is a treat, especially at this price point.
If you are the bar-hopping sort, look out for ST Signature's other branches in Chinatown and Tanjong Pagar, which will be reopened soon.