Reconfigure then layer with thoughtful details was the direction of Apartment Serif by UPSTRS_
Most people who buy a unit in a newly developed condominium will avoid making significant changes to it. Not Sonny Hu and Gladys Lin though. At the urging of their interior designer, Dennis Cheok of UPSTRS_, they gamely went along with his direction and have ended up with a 1,200sqft home that is a vast improvement on the original.
In fact, the couple even named the project, calling it Apartment Serif. A serif is “a slight projection finishing off a stroke” and Cheok says it aptly reflects the nuances of textures, materials and shapes that lend a somewhat neutral space a distinct identity.
The original layout was not optimised. It had a foyer inside the entrance that led to a long and narrow corridor. This ran parallel to the kitchen and back-of-house, before opening up into the main living area, including an awkward counter that stuck out obtrusively from the kitchen.
“The discomfort was that we had to share the space between dining and living,” explains Cheok. A “big move” he made was to get rid of the counter and install a new one at a position 90-degrees clockwise, effectively turning the space into the dining area. In doing so, it freed up space for the living room.
“It wasn’t what Sonny and Gladys signed up for but they are pretty pleased with the end result,” adds Cheok.
That much is obvious. During the visit, both husband and wife were comfortably ensconced at the dining table working, and were equally enthusiastic about showing off their home and sharing their thought process.
“It was a little bit like ‘oh my gosh, I’m buying this place and I’m knocking everything down’. But we decided let’s just do it and design it as what we really wanted,” says Hu.
Other major layout changes were made too, such as the resizing of two bedrooms. One became larger than the other, with sliding doors instead of a wall separating them, so they can be merged to create a big room.
The smaller room is now the home office and the larger one can be converted into a guest room. It also doubles up as a space for their collectibles. On their walls is Vitsoe’s 606 Universal Shelving System, a classic designed by Dieter Rams, holding everything from a Mac computer to a record player.
In the rear of Apartment Serif, Cheok had the door to the master bedroom dismantled and shifted towards the living room. This creates a large suite at the back that saw the fourth bedroom converted into a walk-in wardrobe.
“We were very surprised that the owners were open to these reconfigurations. It helped that they were very much into optimising the potential of the living room and being given flexibility in the other spaces that they were not so sure about how to use,” says Cheok.
Given the luxury of space within the apartment, it presented him with the opportunity to overlay the furniture and fittings with intricate and thoughtful details that he is known for and gave the home its name.
In the dining room, the walls are clad with a combination of Hikari Ash laminate and stained solid wood but rather than keeping them uniform, there are sections that are smooth and also arranged in strips to give them a composition. The set of sliding doors that can close off the kitchen are fluted and translucent for a lighter touch.
Tucked under the ceiling is an ingenious feature: storage space that also conceals the air-conditioner. It is hidden behind intricately designed, hexagon-patterned doors privy only to insiders.
Cued by them is the door that leads to the master suite, which has its own triangle pattern laser-cut into aluminium, with a frosted backing for privacy. The three-sided shape was chosen because six of them make up a hexagon.
In the walk-in wardrobe, an organically shaped mirror is mounted on a support pole flanked by cubby holes on either side for Lin’s leather bag collection and hair and makeup accessories. Because it is set in front of a window, and to ensure the latter can be accessed to be opened, the mirror can pivot.
The master bedroom has pendant lights that hang down over each bedside table, which itself was custom-designed with the same American Walnut that is used on the flooring and topped with a piece of marble.
Adds Cheok, “As clients, what Sonny and Gladys have effectively done is push us to really sweat the details. Through the whole process, they have been great both in terms of design acumen and personal character; it really made us want to give them more.”
And from the looks of it, he certainly has.