The Monocot Studio renovates a small apartment in Mackenzie 88 to be multi-functional
OCTOBER SPECIAL | Small apartment interior design series, story 1 of 3
There is something outrageous about paying a high six-figure sum for an apartment and then needing to do an extreme makeover for it. This was the challenging situation the owner of this apartment in Mackenzie 88, near Little India, found himself in. Compounding it was its size of only 44sqm, that meant an abundance of creativity was required to figure out a solution to suit his lifestyle. Fortunately, he found a willing ally in The Monocot Studio, which has no shortage of small condo design ideas.
The keyword in the brief was multi-functional. As a full-time, home-based tutor, the owner not only has students come over during the day, but has aspirations to be a yoga instructor eventually too. The one-bedroom-plus-study unit also had to have pockets of spaces for him to relax and unwind, while also preparing for the tuition sessions he offers.
“Being trained as an architect, I focus very much on the spatial experience and how to enhance it,” explains Mikael Teh, Principal of Monocot, on how he responded to the owner. “This is important because there are a lot of very poorly designed condo units, even among the new ones.”
Practical solutions for storage and capturing the view
Probably the biggest contribution Teh made was to introduce a full-height TV cabinet that doubles as storage space. It swings out on hinges and castor wheels in a 90-degree arc into the main living area. Standing at 2.4m tall when it is extended out from the wall that it is usually embedded within, it splits the room into two.
“This was something that he requested for as part of his home classes,” says Kim Han, who worked on the project with Teh. “We spoke with the builder and carpenter for quite a while to come up with something satisfactory.”
What also made this solution possible was how the owner did not need a sofa to lounge on in his downtime (there is a provision for this but more later). Additionally, he opted to have an extendable table that is movable, so he can use it for everything from communal lessons to dining at.
An advantage of the apartment is the view. Because it is on the third floor of the condo, and faces leafy Mount Sophia, the perspective is of the tree canopy. “He actually bought this apartment because of this,” adds Han.
To be able to maximise the views from the living room, Monocot successfully sought permission from the condo MCST to change the balcony doors from sliding to bifold. The area immediately before it is wide enough to fit a yoga mat and it is easy to imagine the owner practising, while maintaining a strong connection to nature.
“Our concept is to blur the indoor and outdoor boundary. Sometimes, he tutors so many students at a time that he ends up using the entire space, so our solution works well for him,” explains Teh.
The kitchen also went through a makeover. Originally designed with oddly positioned windows, Monocot reorganised the space so that it comfortably fits the necessary appliances and their complements. As a testament to how good a job they did, when they visited the owner after he moved in, he started to cook – something he had never used to do in the past.
“It’s very interesting how our clients actually change their lifestyle after moving into a place we’ve designed for them,” quips Teh.
Rooms to read and rest
Adjacent to the living area, through a fluted glass sliding door, is the study. Under-lit floating shelves above a cabinet line one wall, and an L-shaped table occupies the rest of the room. Half of the latter hangs above the original bay window, once again cleverly maximising the space so that the owner gets a sizeable desk to work at.
On the opposite end of this small apartment is the bedroom. Several unusual considerations had to be made. Firstly, since there is only one bathroom located inside, it had to carefully balance public use and the owner’s privacy. A structural column stands awkwardly one-quarter of the way along the length of the room by the window. A second one is located at the bed head.
To work around all these, Monocot devised a platform bed backed with floating shelves and a pendant wall light. At the foot of the bed, beyond the column, a daybed was installed that doubles as a sofa. There, a movable screen slides along the breadth affording him privacy.
“Elevating the bed allows the owner to enjoy the view of the trees outside the window as well as creating storage space underneath,” says Han.
A second screen was also installed, this time by the head of the bed but immovable, to shield from the potentially prying eyes of visitors. Set at right angles to it is the bathroom with a sunken bath that recalls those found in a Japanese onsen.
Design intervention was needed too as the original bathroom had its false ceiling lower than the top of the door. “It was terrible,” says Teh. To prettify the space, they used a combination of kit-kat and grey granite tiles. The effect is at once soothing and hip at the same time.
Consistent throughout the apartment is the use of oak laminate to wrap around the cabinetry. This is complemented by a white colour palette, resulting in a contemporary Japanese feel. It is a common technique used in small spaces to take the edge off their size.
Clearly, Monocot knows what it is doing and thanks to its creativity, has probably elevated the value of the Mackenzie 88 unit clear into the seven-figure range.