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Home tour: This lovely Ang Mo Kio apartment can shrink and expand in a jiffy

Home tour: This lovely Ang Mo Kio apartment can shrink and expand in a jiffy

By Aditi Gaitonde Fernandes

Turquoise old school grills at the door got us excited. We stayed wide-eyed as homeowners Shyan and Joy walked us through their stunning 4 bedroom HDB conversion home. Local interior designers Lam Jun Nan and Jax Tan of Open Studio were enlisted, taking only six months to conceptualise and deliver the couple’s first home.

We chatted with all four of them to understand the design plan and what it feels like to live there.

Open Studio Ang Mo Kio homeowners Shyan and Joy
Left: Homeowners Joy & Shyan; Right: Interior designers Jax & Jun of Open Studio

At a glance

– The proud residents: Shyan, a freelance cinematographer and Joy, a civil servant 
– Who designed it: Jun and Jax of Open Studio
What kind of unit: 4-bedroom 1,377 sqft HDB resale in Ang Mo Kio

Boulevard loves

Personalities last longer than trends. And Open Studio managed to imbibe the homeowners’ habits and character-traits into the masterplan. It’s so evident that the couple’s family and friends can easily recognise it. And that’s a testimony to a job well done!

It’s a unique home that feels larger than it actually is. It can just as easily shrink on demand. Walls were hacked and multiple entries were carved out. Just like that, spaces became less rigid and more exploratory.

Boulevard: For starters, what does home mean to you?

Homeowner Shyan: Home to me is… a place where we can be 100 per cent ourselves. Apart from being a retreat, it’s also a place that reflects our personality. When our friends came over after the renovations, their first reaction was ‘Wow, this house is sooo you!’” 

Open Studio Ang Mo Kio home living room and lookout

Blvd: What’s so ‘Shyan’ about this home? 

Shyan: The Command Centre (home office) is so me as well as the mismatched colours… and the lights. As a cinematographer, I work a lot with lights. For our home, I wanted the light design to be cinematic, especially at night.

Blvd: Where can we see ‘Joy’?

Homeowner Joy: The bathrooms! I wanted a tub and a particular terracotta colour. The decor accents in the house are all me as well as the brighter pops of colour – the tiger rug, the pink table and the pink shelf in the Command Centre.

Blvd: Walk us through the Command Centre.

Shyan: I didn’t want entirely closed spaces in our home. I work from home and I didn’t want to feel isolated. That’s why my home office or as I like to call it – the Command Centre – is designed that way. We can see each other and feel connected even when we’re in different rooms. 

Blvd: Jun and Jax, tell us about your process. How do you work?

Open Studio’s Jun: We started this project in December 2018 and it took about six months from the design stage all the way to the completion. When we got this home, it looked nothing like this. We hacked walls and changed the entire layout. 

Open Studio’s Jax: We always try to understand the client’s vision for the place. Ultimately, it’s their home. Shyan and Joy are a young couple and this is their first home together.

There are a lot of habits that they will form in the future as a couple. So we started out by understanding how they imagined their future. From there comes a plan, followed by a 3D design. After that, the aesthetic details are added to the picture. 

Our strength lies in dissecting the plan – how does the space work, how do they go around their everyday lives, how do they relax. We pay close attention to those things and then sprinkle ingredients of their personality. 

We don’t really impose on the client. We get a sense of who they are as people and cohesively tie everything together. 

Jun: We choose to believe that we have an approach, not a style. We’re all about design thinking. Whatever problems we come across, we solve it with design… not trends.

Blvd: Evidently, you’ve changed the layout drastically. Talk to us about the spatial planning

Open Studio Ang Mo Kio home lookout area

Jun: Yes, if you notice this apartment has fewer walls and several sliding doors. This allows the couple to control the scale of the apartment. They can make as big as they want by opening all the doors and connecting the spaces. And they can reduce the size of the apartment as well.

That flexibility and freedom to control the layout is one of the biggest highlights of this project

Jax: That’s right. The space feels quite open because of the multiple entry and exit points. It’s almost a continuous loop. Shyan travels a lot for work. In a romantic sense, we thought the house could increase or reduce in size depending on his presence. When Joy is alone at home, she can shrink the spaces so that it doesn’t feel so empty.

Blvd: How about the spacious open-plan living room – an L-shaped space featuring a TV area, dining table, breakfast bar with a lookout and a wet kitchen 

Joy: Our family and friends love to hang out at our home because of this living room. That exactly was what we wanted! For our loved ones to feel comfortable enough to come home anytime. 

Shyan: It’s great. Jun and Jax even managed to create a hamster tunnel-like space that connects my Command Centre, the living room and our bedroom. I have my morning tea at the breakfast bar and watch the construction work on the houses in front. When our friends come over, we usually have drinks there too. 

There are all these small groups that break out – they hang out at the dining table or kitchen island. It’s amazing.  

Jax: Also, Shyan is a cinematographer so he was very involved in the lighting design. For him, shadows were just as important as the light itself. If you notice, there’s no direct downlighting anywhere, unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Open Studio Ang Mo Kio home sofa seater

In the living room, there’s nothing on the ceiling. We’ve put in only accented lights recessed into the walls. It’s diffusing, casual and warm. Apart from accent lights, there are feature lamps to help curate those small moments in small spaces.    

Blvd: Can we talk about that gorgeous wet kitchen for a moment?

Joy: Initially, we thought we wouldn’t be cooking so much and it wouldn’t matter if it was an open plan with an induction cooktop. But now we actually do cook quite a bit. But once we close the door to the bedroom, the aromas don’t spread. 

Jax: Yes, wet open kitchens are not for everyone. Some cuisines are not as forgiving. But it’s designed to work here. 

The kitchen is centred around a 5-metre marble counter and was built on-site. It’s our favourite part of this house. We tried to bring in different materials into this home. So for the wet open kitchen, we got in a stainless stain body to reflect the natural concrete flooring. 

We wondered if stainless steel would be too ‘cool’ (colour wise) for the house. So to add some warmth, the drawers are wooden on the inside. 

Blvd: The master bedroom is like a suite, complete with a walk-in wardrobe and his and her vanity sinks. How was this private sanctuary conceptualised? 

Jax: We converted two bedrooms into one big master bedroom. There are multiple entry and exit points here too. When one of them wakes up, they can slip out without disturbing the other. 

We worked with the existing window and placed the bed in such a way that the morning sun fills the room with the nicest light. 

Joy really wanted a bathtub but in an HDB, the bathroom size is limited. Luckily, the original layout of the bedroom had a niche area by the window. That allowed us to bring out the sinks and conceal the plumbing. It freed up space in the bathroom for a bathtub. 

Blvd: And finally, let’s talk colour and your thinking behind it.

Jun: Joy’s personality is more bubbly compared to Shyan’s who is more reserved. It’s all about finding the fine balance of who they are. 

The new walls are a moss-ish green with tonality, not too bright. Materials have their own characteristics. When we add colour to stain it, it takes on with an interesting tonality. It’s not forced.

Because of that, it goes well with the concrete flooring. There’s a stronger terracotta colour in the bathroom for contrast. And there are pinks and blues in the house too.

Jax: I love that the concrete flooring has wavey patterns. We went with these natural materials because we wanted the space to feel organic and not false. 

Decor spotting

– Round dining table, yellow bar stools: Comfort Design
– All lamps: Northstar Lighting
– Sofa, TV console, red stool: Commune
– Most planters: Tumbleweed
Also read: Dennis Law of Tumbleweed’s tips on growing a green thumb

Where to now?

Grafunkt’s Nathan and Jefery on the art of curation and making space for oddity

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