"The home comprises a mix of designer furniture, as well as pieces from Ikea. The dining table is a vintage Danish piece, complemented by Randers dining chairs from Noden."
Home owner, Christian Lam, collected the keys to this 44-year-old flat in January 2019. The walls and flooring were in their original condition since 1975. The unit was old and dark, and it had been used by the previous owner as a storeroom.
As a former oil trader who went back to school and made the career change to become an architect, it was natural for Christian to take on the interior design himself. “I knew what I wanted, and it was easier to communicate my ideas directly with the contractors,” he says. With a clear design intent, it took him just a week to come up with the interior design, which involved mainly material sourcing. Working with a firm budget and a team of experienced and honest contractors, the renovation took just over a month, with a slight delay due to the Lunar New Year public holiday and was completed in March 2019.
For Christian, the advantage of designing his own home was that he had almost absolute control and clarity over what he wanted and there was little disparity between his original design intent and the final outcome.
WHAT WAS THE EXTENT OF WORKS CARRIED OUT?
I set myself the challenge of renovating the flat without any alterations in terms of layout and zero cover-ups. There were no hacking of walls and no boxing-up of exposed pipes or wires to conceal them. This was partly due to budget and time constraints and also because I wanted to showcase the HDB as it was meant to be. I believe that it can still be beautiful.
WHAT IS THE OVERALL INTERIOR DESIGN CONCEPT?
The design centred on materiality and light. I wanted to bring light into the small flat in contrast to its former dark life. I love terrazzo and wood and wanted to create a canvas to showcase the furniture I have collected over time.
HOW DID YOU GO ABOUT CONCEPTUALISING THE WHOLE SCHEME?
The concept begins with material selection, followed by the lighting scheme and furniture layout. The flow of light and air is key in ensuring that the spaces are light-filled and functional.
TELL US MORE ABOUT THE CHOICE OF MATERIALS AND THE COLOUR PALETTE.
The key materials are terrazzo flooring, Burmese teak parquet flooring laid in a chevron pattern, and Italian porcelain tiles. The colour palette is neutral. White is the predominant colour, complemented by other neutrals such as shades of grey and black in the background. Primary colours such as deep marine blue, blood red and plant green are used as accent colours.
HOW DOES YOUR HOME REFLECT YOUR TASTE AND COMPLEMENT YOUR LIFESTYLE?
The minimalist look reflects my lifestyle. I am also an organisation freak, so simplicity works for me. I love Danish design and I have incorporated some of the pieces that I have collected over the years.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR FAVOURITE SPACE IN THE HOME.
The kitchen is my favourite space. I am very much taken by the Italian porcelain tiles with an organic finish. They were very reasonably-priced because most home owners prefer a whiter and cleaner finish, which is a shame because the off-white colour and irregular surface is what makes it special and natural. Each tile gives the impression that it is hand finished. Together with the black grout, it creates a gridded space where everything is framed and flows together in a very organic fashion. It turned out surprisingly better than what I had imagined.
One of the most shocking things to most of my visitors is that the kitchen has no built-in cabinetry, just a standalone La Germania cooker as the centrepiece. This is consistent with my approach that all furniture pieces should be able to fit into any space rather than be custom- made for it. It is not easy keeping the kitchen clutter-free without any built-in cabinets, but it works for me.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST CHALLENGING ASPECT OF DESIGNING YOUR OWN HOME?
Budget is often the most challenging aspect. Even with a clear design intent in mind, it is hard to exercise absolute control over the budget.
SHARE SOME OF THE LESSONS THAT YOU LEARNT FROM THIS WHOLE EXPERIENCE.
Do not agree with any changes or additions unless the cost implications are presented upfront. Be prepared for design changes due to unforeseen site conditions, even if the intent is clear.
WHICH ASPECT OF THE PROJECT ARE YOU MOST SATISFIED WITH?
I think the standard of the workmanship delivered by the various disciplines is very good and it brings out my design intent and the qualities of the materials. The actual execution is very close to what I had conceptualised in the beginning. That, to me, is quite satisfying.
The white door and black metal gates evoke a colonial colour palette. Christian retained the original windows and grilles to instil a sense of familiarity and comfort
The terrazzo flooring flows from the living room to the dining and kitchen area.
The use of frosted glass helps bring in light to smaller enclosed spaces such as the toilet in the kitchen, while maintaining privacy.
The terrazzo flooring is an expression of Christian’s love for the material.
WHO LIVES HERE
An architect in his 40s HOME A three-room HDB in Marine Parade SIZE 700 sq ft
The living room is a light-filled space with seating that has been laid out to best frame the views of the surrounding greenery.
"I SET MYSELF THE CHALLENGE OF RENOVATING THE FLAT WITHOUT ANY ALTERATIONS IN TERMS OF LAYOUT AND ZERO COVER-UPS... I WANTED TO SHOWCASE THE HDB AS IT WAS MEANT TO BE."
The second bedroom is a play room that also doubles up a a guest room.
A pop of red stands out against a monochromatic backdrop.
Christian adopted a minimalist approach when designing the bathroom and toilet due to their small sizes. The white tiles with white grout are a cleaning nightmare, but they make the spaces appear larger than they actually are.
The alcove between the bedrooms is one of Christian’s favourite, with a terrazzo wall lit by a brassplated bulb.
The deep blue wall in the master bedroom adds a sense of calm.
photos FINBARR FALLON