Pupil Office renovates a Tiong Bahru HDB flat by taking cues from Australian interior design
Ceremonies to officiate marriages are typically held in hotels or fancy restaurants but for the owners of The Tian Apartment, a five-room Tiong Bahru HDB flat, they decided to do it in their home. The reasons are clear: this is a couple who is incredibly house proud – and they have Amy Lim of Pupil Office to thank.
Soothing tones of beige and brown pervade the 1,200sqft unit located along Kim Tian Road, while floor-to-ceiling windows along its length let in natural daylight. The furniture is a mix of contemporary and vintage, accented by the use of natural stone and wood veneers. Overall, the vibe is one of tranquility, relaxation and comfort.
“Both of them really love traveling to Australia and like the style of homes there, so they kept referencing them,” says Lim, on the initial brief from the clients. In response, she used a variety of techniques to bring a little bit of Down Under to the apartment.
Keeping it natural
For starters, the original flooring was ripped out and replaced with parquet made from Burmese teak. On the walls, to give it texture, Lim proposed limewash paint from the green label Bauwerk Colour – which she also distributes in Singapore – in neutral beige tones, called Mykonos.
“They actually painted the walls themselves but had the ceiling done by a contractor. I helped them with some of the bedroom walls when I noticed they started getting tired,” she laughs.
The carpentry work is clad in different wood veneers, all stained with a brand called Rubio Monocoat that is environmentally friendly. Steering away from lacquer meant there was no assault on the senses during the renovation.
In fact, Lim says there was only a scent of linseed oil for a while, “Between the limewash and stain, what was nice was that you could walk in 24 hours later and it actually smelt good.”
Divergent views on what natural stone should be like led to two types being used. Travertine wraps the dry kitchen island and in the bathrooms and bedside table is the dramatic Cipollino Green marble.
Lim explains that the resulting darker-toned colour scheme is something she prefers, “I think it boils down to the direction your house is facing and what kind of light comes in. Even if you do choose moody or darker palettes, it doesn’t mean it is going to be like a haunted house. If you’ve got the right lighting, the place can feel very chill.”
She is also averse to introducing too many materials or colours into a space, especially when the clients are not ready to commit nor have a clear idea of what the end goal is. “I want to be able to create a space whereby no matter what you add to it, it’s going to work down the road,” she elaborates, on the brown and beige scheme.
Unique furniture and fittings
While minimal changes were made to the layout of the apartment, Lim did have to tweak the entrance to the wet kitchen to accommodate bifold doors to save space. To fulfil the wife’s dream of having an island, she managed to accommodate one without significantly compromising the living and dining spaces, and also fit a coffee bar behind it.
Another layout-related input was about the position of the sofa. “I did tell them I didn’t want their sofa to face the television,” she says. The rationale is that many apartments open into the back or side of the sofa or dining chairs and when the space is compact, it ends up feeling tighter and smaller. “With the sofa up against the window, when you walk in, you are greeted with openness,” she adds.
Entertaining is an important part of their social life, so the vintage dining set was a worthwhile investment, topped by a pendant light, Model 2065 White Diffuser, from Astep by Gino Sarfatti, purchased from The Beuro. Hanging over the island is a thin, tubular light the owners found on Etsy.
“They always checked with me first before buying something for their home. I used to tease them by saying, ‘I’m not your mom. It’s your home. You do what you want with it at the end of the day. I’m not going to stop you.’”
Two bedrooms are each used as a home office, with a cut-out made in the common wall, then glassed up, so the owners can keep in touch as they work. It also doubles up as a conduit to let light through.
In the master bedroom, the standout feature has to be the wardrobe doors. Resembling a large checkerboard, it is made up of squares of New Zealand pine wood that is also stained with Rubio Monocoat. “I did it myself and it has ended up looking very pretty,” says Lim. “We wanted to try something different, rather than just having a veneer panel on the door again. We were guided by how to make it look interesting without it being a flat panel.”
With the home tour completed, it is easy to see why the owners adore it enough to want to celebrate their wedding within its four walls. It certainly helps that they get along fabulously with Lim, who says, “It was a really fun project. They’re super, the nicest people ever and very easy going. We’ve become really good friends since.”