The one-of-a-kind design of this home combines the concept and aesthetics of a Japanese izakaya and ryokan, two big loves of the homeowner.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

The one-of-a-kind design of this home combines the concept and aesthetics of a Japanese izakaya and ryokan, two big loves of the homeowner.

WHO A bachelor in his 40s and his mother 

HOME Three-bedroom HDB maisonette 

SIZE 1,590sqf

My Reading Room

“Almost everything in this home is bought or made in Japan,” says Melvyn Yap. His home might be located in a typical Singapore high-rise building, but step inside and you’re instantly transported to a traditional inn in Japan.

Eric Chua of Sync Interior gave the cookie-cutter apartment a radical makeover, with a look inspired by traditional Japanese interiors that’s based on the homeowner’s love of Japanese culture and style.

Besides making structural alterations to open up the home, the designer created customised built-in structures and furniture to bring out the theme. Light oak tones, platforms and shoji paper screens are some of the distinctive elements he included. Also, as the Japanese aesthetic is grounded on simple, functional beauty, the home’s overall design minimises the use of conventional furniture, or having defined spaces and fixed-purpose rooms.

Melvyn and his mother have been living here for 17 years, but only just decided to renovate it with a fresh look that’s imbued with charm and personality.

We find out more about his ideas for the home.

My Reading Room

Tell me about the concept of your home’s design.

It’s purely Japanese. A lot of people like a fusion style, but not me. I wanted it pure, so that the authenticity is retained. The look is traditional, but there’s modern technology incorporated. Furnishing-wise, I tried as much as possible to get everything from Japan and made in Japan.

Why a Japan-inspired look?

Maybe because of my love for sake! And my holidays to Japan… I like the concept and feel of the izakaya (a type of Japanese bar) and ryokan (a traditional Japanese inn), and I wanted to bring these back home. My interest in Japanese culture and aesthetics started probably about six years ago, when I started going to Japan for work.

How did you translate the look and feel into your space?

I combined the concept of a “drinking hole” and traditional inn. The key element is the idea of getting together with friends, just like how colleagues gather after work at an izakaya; so there are pockets of space with platforms everywhere for my friends to gather.

Look-wise, the idea was to replicate the elements of Japanese style – tatami mats, raised platforms, futons, light wood tones and shoji paper (a translucent paper made from Japanese mulberry trees or shrubs, sometimes called rice paper). Eric also got the carpenters to make the sliding screen doors and pasted the shoji paper with gold flakes on one side of the acrylic himself.

My Reading Room

In terms of the layout and function, what specifications did you have?

The drinking corner was very important! I wanted a comfortable area with a raised table, so hidden in the platform is an automated table that can be raised when I want to use it (in the living area).

I wanted the rooms on the second floor to have internal windows that look into the stairwell to allow more light in. Shoji paper is also used in the panelling.

The Japanese style is so functional and versatile, and I tried to implement this. For example, the drinking area in the living room can become a guest sleeping area, when the table is lowered into the platform and a futon is added. The whole interior was also reworked so I can use the space however I want; sometimes, I dine here, other times, there.

What other elements of Japanese culture have you included in your home and lifestyle?

It’s Japanese culture to have tableware of different shapes and sizes, with unique designs, so that each person can identify their plate and chopsticks at a glance. So I have many mismatched plates from Japan, rather than a matching set. Every time I go to Japan, I buy something different — like sake cups, saucers, plates; all made of ceramic.

In Japan, tatami is very expensive and was traditionally used only in the homes of nobles. Apparently, the younger generation prefers more modern styles – when I showed my Japanese friends pictures of my home with the tatami, they said that I am helping to preserve their culture.

I use futons on the tatami, instead of beds, so every morning, I pack it up and leave the space empty, just like how it’s meant to be done. I also have a Japanese black pine bonsai.

My Reading Room

Which is your favourite part of your home?

I like my bedroom with the tatami-finished platform and futon, but I think my favourite space has got to be the drinking corner, as I see it as my private sanctuary. There, I do my work, drink, watch TV, chill out and entertain friends. My friends are only so eager to come over – they say my home is even better than some restaurants’ private rooms! Recently, some friends took photos for Instagram and it looked so beautiful in the pictures. 


Sync Interior, TEL: 9179-6294