Archive for the ‘Magazine Articles’ Category


Tiong Bahru Post War Flats

April 26, 2008

The Straits Times
April 26, 2008

Industrial’s strength

The beauty of this apartment’s raw look is found in the exposed wiring and unfinished walls. CALL it a case of more of the same.

STARK APPEAL: The living room is lit using 3D energy-saving bulbs, which are divided into groups of five to ensure greater lighting control. It is separated from the kitchen by a mosaic-tiled bar counter. The raw look is balanced with a homely touch from items such as slippers and a birdcage from Egg3, and cushions from Pluck. PHOTOS: DARREN CHANG; ART DIRECTION: NONIE CHEN; TEXT: REBECKKA WONG

When media professional Fenfei moved from her first home, a private apartment in Tiong Bahru, to her second, her new place was just a stone’s throw away.

‘We are used to the area,’ she says of the pre-war three-room HDB flat she and her husband bought.

At 947 sq ft, it is smaller than their previous 1,300 sq ft apartment and, therefore, easier for the couple to finance it – the reason for their move.

It is, however, no less a platform for the couple’s favoured theme. In fact, with the benefit of hindsight, this new place not only retains the similar raw look of their first home, but it has also improved on the couple’s earlier renovation decisions.

A REEL INSPIRATION: The custom-made iron grille divider replicates a pattern from a movie the home owner once saw. The design is also repeated on the grille at the flat’s main entrance. Folding doors close up space for privacy when needed.

Instead of using one of the bedrooms as a storeroom, which was what they did at their first home, the couple combined it with the living space to make the living room bigger.

SAME TILE STORY: The new, bigger bathroom is the result of combining the original two back-to-back bathrooms, and it features the same mosiac tiles used for the bar counter in the living room.

Ms Fenfei adds: ‘Before, we had things that weren’t practical, such as white mosaic floors that were difficult to maintain. Now, our entire living space is covered with dark homogenous tiles, which are a breeze to upkeep.’

It also helped that the couple got the same interior designer, Kelvin Giam of Intent, who did their first home. He not only enhanced the original raw, industrial theme, but also came up with new ideas, one of which involved a support beam in the dining area.

He says: ‘If we followed the line of the beam, the living space would be pretty small, so I used it as a support for the dining table instead.’

He also drew on the surrounds and architecture of Tiong Bahru, an area rich with heritage, for the home.

As a result, exposed wiring and bulbs on bare wires hang from the ceiling – recalling the austere times of the 1960s and 1970s – while cement walls have been deliberately left unfinished for a raw feel.

The three portholes in the newly built master bedroom wall also echo the motif along the stairwells of the apartment block’s structure.

That’s not all. A false ceiling clad with white aluminium strips – a look commonly seen in old shop fittings – hides the overhead beam above the bed while giving a retro feel to the master bedroom.
CEILING THE LOOK: White aluminium strips, reminiscent of old-school shop fittings, hide the overhead beam in the master bedroom and add texture to the space’s industrial feel.

Yet, despite the use of materials such as cement screed and metal, the home feels far from cold, thanks to the couple’s collection of posters, kitschy movie memorabilia and colourful accessories bought overseas.

Also adding character and warmth are some treasures they salvaged from the trash, such as a two-seater sofa, which has since been reupholstered, and an old television set from the 1980s.

ALL HOLED UP: Cubbyholes in the study display the couple’s vintage collection.

All of which goes to show, having more of the same can be a good thing after all.

This spread first appeared in April’s issue of Home & Decor, published by SPH Magazines.


Tiong Bahru Pre War Conserved Flats

January 19, 2008

The Straits Times
Jan 19, 2008

Life begins at 40

Mosaic tiles and vintage furniture combine with sleek fittings and industrial cement screed to give a fresh breath of life to this 40-year-old flat

WHAT LIES BENEATH: Roomy drawers provide storage space beneath the custom-made dining-cum-work table, which is matched with a coffee shop-style stool and vintage chair.

WITH its languid air of tranquillity and quaint walk-up apartments that have stood the test of time to become vintage cool again, Tiong Bahru estate has an attractive charm that young home owners seem unable to resist.

Mr Edwin Siew is one of them.

Unperturbed by the previously worn, dark and narrow interior of this 40-year-old flat, the bachelor in his 30s saw that the 1,098sqft space was perfect to house his collection of second-hand furniture, most of which are antiques from his grandparents.

So his brief to designer Diana Yeo of Design Channel was to create a ‘retro vintage look’ in line with the Tiong Bahru location and his furniture collection.

As it was vital to maximise the space in the flat’s long and narrow layout and still keep its old-school charm, she kept the structural changes to a minimum. They consisted mainly of removing walls to let more natural light into the one-bedroom walk-up apartment.

SQUARES RULE: Original 1950s mosaic tiles have been retained in the corridor connecting the living room to the bedroom.

The original bedroom, previously located at the front of the flat, was moved to the back where the kitchen and the adjoining courtyard used to be.

The front of the home now has a more organised grouping of living and entertaining areas.

In addition, the open-concept kitchen flows seamlessly into the newly configured space.

With the bedroom now at the back of the home, the sleeping quarters enjoy a greater sense of privacy.

REST EASY: Sitting in part of the open courtyard, the newly created bedroom is covered by a polycarbonate roof and shielded further from the natural elements by folding doors.

The old kitchen door and wall have been removed, and folding glass doors are put up in the courtyard to create an additional section and double as a screen for the bedroom.

Ceiling beams combine with a sheet of polycarbonate to create a roof, while a wood-laminate platform has been fitted to make level the differing floor heights in the space.

The narrow bathroom, while retaining its layout, has its small door replaced with a two-door sliding glass panel to reduce the claustrophobic feeling.

To enhance the space visually, a length of wall is replaced with a big window that looks out into the courtyard while allowing plenty of natural light in.

The vintage feel of the flat is seen through, among other things, the original mosaic floor tiles.

In the kitchen-cum-dining area, the retro look is balanced with a customised kitchen counter and dining table. The 5m-long table in rustic wood-grain laminate also doubles as a food-preparation counter and work desk.

Under the table top, roomy drawers and seamless magnetic push-door cabinets store a myriad of things, from shoes and stationery to pots, pans and a slow cooker.

While the flat’s signature white wooden window grille poles have also been retained to add to the retro feel, its formerly whitewashed walls and ceilings have been layered in cement screed for a modern touch.

LIGHTING THE WAY: The chandelier (above), like the vintage-style ceiling lamp above the dining table (main picture), was found in a lighting shop in Geylang.

Pipes, now painted a dark brown, and electrical wires have been intentionally left exposed to create an ‘old, nostalgic look’, says Ms Yeo.

The chocolate hue is also replicated in the new, sleek aluminium window frames so that they complement the antique wood furniture pieces scattered around the flat.

Last but not least, to complete the retro theme, vintage-style lighting fixtures that the owner bought in Geylang dot the cosy space.

Standing in the dimly lit flat, illuminated by track lighting and solitary vintage pendant lamps that cast moody shadows, it certainly feels like you’ve stepped back in sepia-tinted time.

This spread first appeared in this month’s issue of Home & Decor, published by SPH Magazines.


Singapore’s Next Big Hot Spot : Tiong Bahru

September 1, 2007


Tiong Bahru Pre War Conserved Flats

July 5, 2007

Tiong Bahru Pre War Ground Floor

Home & Decor Magazine (June 2007 Edition)

Media professional FenFei’s new home is chock-full of personality. The pre-war abode in Tiong Bahru estate has bits of history mixed in with film and travel memorabilia, not to mention a neighbourhood visitor in the form of an insistent cat.
“I used to live in a similar type of home before I got married, and I like how the pre-war houses have this raw and minimal type of design,” Fenfei narrates. The bare, industrial feel is also a good canvas for her colourful furnishings, which include art film posters, retro furniture and quirky accessories.
Fenfei and her husband moved in just a few months ago, after a three-month renovation by interior designer Kelvin Giam of Intent. “We were shopping for a designer because my previous designer had become too expensive,” Fenfei laughs. The search ended with a copy of Home & Decor and one appointment. “Kelvin’s project was featured in one issue. We liked his work, so we gave him a call. We decided to work with him as we established an instant connection in our first meeting.”

Paying homage to the 1930s housing estate, Kelvin’s interior renovation incorporated a clear visual differentiation between the old and the new. The original, load-bearing walls were given a smooth finish, while the new walls have rough surfaces. The coarsely finished walls with their curved windows and arched doorways are reminiscent of adobe homes in the Spanish Mission style of architecture, but a glossy white coating keeps it looking industrial. Textured floors demarcate some spaces like the kitchen, dining and living area from the hallway to the bedrooms, so there are fewer walls and hence more light and ventilation to go around. Interior windows were cut into the walls too, making the cavernous house brighter despite the brick, cement screed and bare concrete finishes. The finishing and lighting fixtures are mostly from Fenfei’s previous house and her existing collection. “I asked Kelvin to keep it spare because we were bringing in lot of our of things.”

Feifei says there is a lot of room for growth in the 1,100 sqft residence – a spare bedroom should the in-laws choose to move in and a study area that can be turned into another bedroom “when we decide to have children” are already in place. With the fun vintage pieces and the subway station look, it’s easy to imagine children having a blast growing up in and running around this house. Of course, the stark white walls would be a convenient and tempting canvas for a child’s crayon doodles, but they would simply add even more character to Fenfei’s home.

Interior Design Services by Kelvin Giam of Intent
(HP : 9022-0690)

To own a home in the Tiong Bahru Estate, please contact Alvin Yeo at or Call (+65) 9100-0001