Plywood forms the design foundation of this HDB flat in Telok Blangah Heights by The Monocot Studio
When The Monocot Studio did not immediately respond to their email about renovating their home, the owners of a HDB flat in Telok Blangah Heights personally went down to their office to look them up. So keen were they on Monocot’s style that they even signed off on the first proposed design.
“It never happens,” says Kim Han, who worked on the project with Mikael Teh, Principal of the firm.
“They basically came to us and told us to design ‘something Monocot’,” adds Teh.
This is precisely what has been done. Favouring the generous use of plywood accented by stainless steel and pops of colour, the studio’s direction is a creative combination of these elements. All have been used in the four-room, 81sqm apartment, lived in by a couple who are also art collectors.
Had the previous owners visited, they would not have recognised their former home. At Teh’s suggestion, the apartment was almost completely overhauled, save for the flooring in the living room and bedrooms. Two of the bedrooms were combined into one to create the master suite, while the third was converted into a study.
Just inside the front door, a linear section of the living area was carved out and differentiated using pebble wash as the flooring to become an indoor garden. It runs the breadth of the unit and has a floating ledge crafted from plywood, where the owners can have their morning coffee, while admiring the view of Keppel Bay and the sea in the distance.
“We tried to accentuate the effect of the space by cladding the ceiling of the indoor garden with plywood. This helps to emphasise the indoor garden,” says Han.
In fact, raw-finish plywood plays a dominant role throughout the apartment, for instance framing doorways and forming the base material of the storage units, doors and wardrobes. This serves to give a strong sense of coherence to the entire project – a good technique to adopt when the spaces are not large.
Layered upon it are highlights like the use of a slate-blue colour on the wall against which the TV console is set; a contrast to the original reddish-pink granite on the floor. “We thought it was quite a special detail and decided to keep it in the living room,” says Teh.
In the study, grey, hollow bricks are used to cover the wall that the table is pushed against, selected for their neutral, earthy hue. Above it are half-height windows – again framed with plywood – that look into the indoor garden and views outside the apartment.
In the rear are the dining room and kitchen, separated by a pair of French doors partially made from fluted glass to let daylight pass through. Stained plywood is used for the kitchen cabinetry, matched with stainless steel countertops and backsplash. Underfoot, grey mosaic tiles cover the floor. The common toilet rounds up this space.
The other interesting section is the master suite. Because the bathroom is too small for more than the shower cabin and WC, Monocot created a vanity area made with stainless steel in the bedroom itself.
Yet, rather than insert it awkwardly, it is attached to a standalone structure made from the same hollow bricks used in the study. “It almost has the feel of a walk-in wardrobe,” points out Teh.
On the opposite side, randomly arranged plywood shelves are mounted onto it displaying books and tchotchkes. The aperture where the dividing wall between the two rooms used to be is lined with plywood to “frame” the view to the structure. In the master bathroom, mustard-yellow mosaic tiles cover the walls and floor to complement the plywood tones.
Lending a personal touch to the home is the art collection amassed by the owners. Wall space was specifically set aside by Monocot for them to hang the paintings, such as above the sofa in the living room. Their obvious penchant for good design means the Flos 265 Wall Lamp by Paolo Rizzatto accompanies that particular piece, as well as the round Dots wall hook from Muuto.
“The owners are very happy with what we have done for them,” says Teh. “They really like our work and their home reminds them of our style. We’re glad we were in when they came looking for us at our office.”