Saturday, January 19, 2008

Tiong Bahru Pre War Conserved Flats

The Straits Times
Jan 19, 2008

Life begins at 40

Mosaic tiles and vintage furniture combine with sleek fittings and industrial cement screed to give a fresh breath of life to this 40-year-old flat

WHAT LIES BENEATH: Roomy drawers provide storage space beneath the custom-made dining-cum-work table, which is matched with a coffee shop-style stool and vintage chair.

WITH its languid air of tranquillity and quaint walk-up apartments that have stood the test of time to become vintage cool again, Tiong Bahru estate has an attractive charm that young home owners seem unable to resist.

Mr Edwin Siew is one of them.

Unperturbed by the previously worn, dark and narrow interior of this 40-year-old flat, the bachelor in his 30s saw that the 1,098sqft space was perfect to house his collection of second-hand furniture, most of which are antiques from his grandparents.

So his brief to designer Diana Yeo of Design Channel was to create a 'retro vintage look' in line with the Tiong Bahru location and his furniture collection.

As it was vital to maximise the space in the flat's long and narrow layout and still keep its old-school charm, she kept the structural changes to a minimum. They consisted mainly of removing walls to let more natural light into the one-bedroom walk-up apartment.

SQUARES RULE: Original 1950s mosaic tiles have been retained in the corridor connecting the living room to the bedroom.

The original bedroom, previously located at the front of the flat, was moved to the back where the kitchen and the adjoining courtyard used to be.

The front of the home now has a more organised grouping of living and entertaining areas.

In addition, the open-concept kitchen flows seamlessly into the newly configured space.

With the bedroom now at the back of the home, the sleeping quarters enjoy a greater sense of privacy.

REST EASY: Sitting in part of the open courtyard, the newly created bedroom is covered by a polycarbonate roof and shielded further from the natural elements by folding doors.

The old kitchen door and wall have been removed, and folding glass doors are put up in the courtyard to create an additional section and double as a screen for the bedroom.

Ceiling beams combine with a sheet of polycarbonate to create a roof, while a wood-laminate platform has been fitted to make level the differing floor heights in the space.

The narrow bathroom, while retaining its layout, has its small door replaced with a two-door sliding glass panel to reduce the claustrophobic feeling.

To enhance the space visually, a length of wall is replaced with a big window that looks out into the courtyard while allowing plenty of natural light in.

The vintage feel of the flat is seen through, among other things, the original mosaic floor tiles.

In the kitchen-cum-dining area, the retro look is balanced with a customised kitchen counter and dining table. The 5m-long table in rustic wood-grain laminate also doubles as a food-preparation counter and work desk.

Under the table top, roomy drawers and seamless magnetic push-door cabinets store a myriad of things, from shoes and stationery to pots, pans and a slow cooker.

While the flat's signature white wooden window grille poles have also been retained to add to the retro feel, its formerly whitewashed walls and ceilings have been layered in cement screed for a modern touch.
LIGHTING THE WAY: The chandelier (above), like the vintage-style ceiling lamp above the dining table (main picture), was found in a lighting shop in Geylang.

Pipes, now painted a dark brown, and electrical wires have been intentionally left exposed to create an 'old, nostalgic look', says Ms Yeo.

The chocolate hue is also replicated in the new, sleek aluminium window frames so that they complement the antique wood furniture pieces scattered around the flat.

Last but not least, to complete the retro theme, vintage-style lighting fixtures that the owner bought in Geylang dot the cosy space.

Standing in the dimly lit flat, illuminated by track lighting and solitary vintage pendant lamps that cast moody shadows, it certainly feels like you've stepped back in sepia-tinted time.

This spread first appeared in this month's issue of Home & Decor, published by SPH Magazines.

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