A rchitectural designer Ching Hei has been livingin Singapore since his family emigrated from Hong Kong when he was nine. He wentback to Hong Kong to continue his post-graduate studies and worked there for about two yearsthereafter. He loved hanging out in Kennedy Town, an area that is undergoing gentrification. “Many of the old buildings in Kennedy Town are going through a renewal process. The tenement flats of the ’60s and ’70s are being taken over by hipster cafes and fine-dining restaurants,” he points out.
When he returned to Singapore and bought a flat with his wife, Eng yu Jia, a procurement manager, Kennedy Town’s blend of old and new provided the design inspiration for the home’s modern vintage concept.
The decision to design his home came naturally. “as architectural designers, most of us harbour dreams of designing our own homes,” he confesses. It was also about being able to have full control, right down to the details.
“Of course, being involved in the whole process would also allow me to exercise better budget control,” he adds.
AS AN ARCHITECTURAL DESIGNER, HOW DIFFERENT IS IT WORKING ON A CLIENT’S PROJECT VERSUS ON YOUR OWN HOME?
I know what I want without asking any questions or doing any guesswork. With a client’s project, you need to arrive at a final product. With my own home, I like it to be a perpetual work-in-progress. It should be complete enough to live in comfortably, yet allow room to add or make modifications according to changing tastes, lifestyle or family needs.
WHAT IS YOUR INTERPRETATION OF MODERN VINTAGE?
Modern vintage is the integration of old and new, but it is usually expressed in a very industrial manner, which I find too cold for residential purposes. My take on modern vintage is warmer and cosier, combining modern design with vintage motifs.
TELL US MORE ABOUT THE CHEVRON MOTIF IN YOUR HOME.
I was inspired by Tai and Rosita Missoni who created the signature chevron stripe design in 1962. Its popularity peaked in the 1970s, so I decided to incorporate this motif into my design to reinforce the modern vintage theme.
WHAT ASPECT OF OVERSEEING THE WHOLE RENOVATION PROJECT YOURSELF IS MOST CHALLENGING?
During the renovation, some things did not quite turn out as expected. Instead of making a contractor redo something, I prefer to resolve issues by making the best of the situation and exploring what can be done to salvage it.
For example, the kitchen half-height wall was not constructed according to my specification, which had implications for whether I could use the granite I had ordered, which I intended to lay over the wall to form a countertop. In the end, I came up with the solution of adding an L-shaped timber capping over a smaller piece of granite.
DO YOU THINK YOU MANAGED TO EXERCISE BETTER BUDGET CONTROL BECAUSE YOU DESIGNED AND MANAGED THE ENTIRE PROJECT YOURSELF? PLEASE SHARE A FEW DIY COST-SAVINGS TIPS.
Definitely. I spent about $50,000 on the renovation and I also saved on the design fee. It would have been a higher figure had I outsourced the project.
I know people in the industry, so I was able to get contractor prices. I sourced the teak flooring directly from a timber supplier and managed to get it at approximately 40 per cent off the market rate.
I saved some money by ordering some items such as bathroom fixtures from Taobao. But it is not always about lower prices. I realised that with the same budget, I could get something of a better quality online, as compared to at brickand-mortar shops. For example, the timber furniture that you get from stores may have just a veneer or laminate finish, but for the same price, I can get one made of solid wood online.
IS IT POSSIBLE FOR HOMEOWNERS WHO HAVE NO DESIGN BACKGROUND TO TAKE ON THEIR HOME RENOVATION?
It is definitely possible, but working with a good contractor is key because he can guide the homeowner along the way. While price is an important consideration, it is crucial to work with a contractor who appreciates design.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE?
You need to know what you must have and what you are willing to forego. Do not get too hung up about an idea because there is always an alternative to achieve similar results. Try to appreciate what exists and think about how you can build on it, instead of demolishing everything.
Plants soften the look of a space and, here, they take many forms, from actual plants and terrariums to art depicting plants.
Ching Hei went for darker wood tones, such as walnut, to create a cosy environment. He chose sustainably sourced natural wood, over engineered wood.
WHO LIVES HERE
A couple in their 30s and their 15-month-old baby HOME A four-room HDB apartment in Depot Road SIZE 990sqf (converted from 92sqm)
Ching Hei’s home reflects his aesthetic tastes, and was designed to be child-friendly. The foldable sliding glass door to the kitchen has galvanised steel frames for a slim profile, and to achieve a ’70s look.
Ceramic tiles laid over existing floor tiles give the kitchen a vintage look.
This depiction of rolling hills in the master bedroom not only speaks to the homeowner's love for hiking, but also adds a relaxing vibe.
“I WAS INSPIRED BY TAI AND ROSITA MISSONI WHO CREATED THE SIGNATURE CHEVRON STRIPE DESIGN IN 1962.”
A feature that Ching Hei is proudest of is this movable chevron wall. It is many things in one: feature wall, storage space and display.
Black bathroom fixtures against a marble backsplash add a touch of industrial chic.
This chevron composition of glossy and matte wall tiles was painstaking work, but the effect is well worth the effort.
VERNON WONG ART DIRECTION LIM YI LING