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Inside A Cozy $45k Renovation Of A Tiong Bahru HDB: How A Couple Self-Designed Their European/Jap-Inspired Home – Property Blog Singapore

“Funny story about our furniture is that unlike most homeowners, we moved into our home with no furniture…just a bed.”

It takes a brave soul to move into a newly built home with virtually no furniture, but for Marcus and Beatrice (@stayhomenotice) this was born out of the delays from Covid-19, and not by choice.

Yet this turned out to be a blessing in disguise as you would see further down the line.

The couple’s home is a 4-bedroom resale flat located on Kim Tian Road at Tiong Bahru. Marcus said that the apartment was only completed in 2013, so it was only seven years old when they took over in 2020.

“We wanted a central location,” he said. “So we prioritized finding an apartment with a relatively young tenancy to give us flexibility. This way we have options to either make it our forever home or, if we ever want to, move to another property in the future.”

They also looked at another unit within the same block, but the one they ultimately chose was on a higher floor. It also had the advantage of minimal build-in, which they both knew would help them optimize their renovations.

He said the previous owners had mainly kept the original structure and interior. There were only a few extra built-in cupboards in the living room and bedrooms.

Currently, only Marcus and Beatrice live in their home. But since they love to host and invite their friends and family over for meals and board games, they created a home that could accommodate these activities.

Let’s explore further as the couple share how they created their home.

How the renovation journey went

The couple originally allocated a budget of $35K for their renovation. But since they had given the previous owners an extension of stay, they could not see the apartment again until six months after seeing it.

And so during this waiting period, the couple ended up changing their minds about some of their original design ideas. As a result, Marcus said they spent about $45K on renovations instead. He said the additional changes included overlaying some of the bathroom tiles. They also had to change the bedroom doors to better match the overall design of their home.

Their core vision for their home was to create a space that they would be comfortable in. It would be a space that would change, grow and adapt to their needs at different times and stages of their lives.

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“When we started conceptualizing our home, we originally started with a very minimal and Japanese-influenced aesthetic,” recalled Marcus. But as they continued to discuss ideas with each other, their home design began to take on a warmer and cozier feel with more European influences.

He said they considered two important factors for every design decision they made. One is that it must not be based on trends, and secondly, the design choices and principles must be sound.

“We ended up with a space that we like to think has the charm and character of a European apartment, and the functionality and simplicity of a Japanese home,” said Marcus.

To implement their design, they made two important changes to their home.

4 room point block

The first change involved combining their kitchen and service yard to expand the space. “When we first saw the apartment, the kitchen was one of the areas we were on the fence about. It was a bit of a tight space with structural walls around it.”

Since they both do a lot of cooking at home and love to host, they knew they would need a bigger kitchen. By leveling the service yard and removing the walls, they were able to redesign and expand the kitchen space. This move created a more open workspace for the couple.

The other key change they made was removing the wall between the master bedroom and bedroom #2. Their goal was to create a larger bedroom with a wardrobe and a work area.

“The original master bedroom felt small and quite separate from the rest of the home,” Marcus said. “By removing the wall between the two bedrooms, we were able to create an open and expansive bedroom that better suited our lifestyle.”

Let’s go ahead and visit their renovated home for a more visual experience.

Living room & Dining room

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Since the couple wanted to keep things flexible, you’ll notice that the living room has no built-ins. Everything is either modular or removable, so they would be able to easily reconfigure the space in the future if they ever want a new look.

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There was one thing they carefully considered: “Due to the square layout of the living room, we thought for a while before deciding on a round dining table. This helped to ensure that our living and dining areas did not feel separately bounded, but instead were spaces that were fluid and integrated with one another to facilitate and encourage conversation and socialization.”

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They also decided on vinyl flooring throughout the home to create a seamless and uniform flow between rooms.


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It was the same with the kitchen, where they removed all the previous built-ins.

This was the room that showed the biggest change. “We completely reoriented and redesigned the kitchen layout to create more space and allow us to move more freely around the kitchen,” Marcus shared.

Master Bedroom & Bedroom 2

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The couple wanted a larger space for their bedroom, and combined two bedrooms into one large bedroom. The existing fitted wardrobes were hacked, but they kept a wardrobe in the bedroom from the previous owners. They also changed the doors to keep the room more cohesive.

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They chose to create an open wardrobe and shelving design from IKEA, as it helped make the room feel larger. As a by-product, this also means that you are forced to keep the place tidy as everything is visible!

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Bedroom 3

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Since the couple didn’t have a need for the final bedroom at this point, it’s been turned into a hybrid of a home workout area and a room for what appears to be a growing collection of plants.


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For both bathrooms, they decided to overlay floor tiles and walls in the bathing area. Like most bathrooms, the sink was built in with cabinetry for more storage too.

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They also changed the bathroom doors and initially considered fluted glass for some texture. In the end though, they ended up using the wired glass as it was a cheaper alternative and still allowed us to achieve the effect we wanted.

Bringing the vision to reality

Marcus said the final result was mostly what they had envisioned. They were able to achieve that by reducing the number of built-ins. Instead, they focused more on updates they could make to the home’s structure and core foundation, ensuring it was consistent with their vision and design style.

Both Marcus and Beatrice are designers, so they already have a good idea of ​​what they want for their home. As such, they chose to look for someone who can provide more project management and contractor services.

“We hired Brandon from Conception Studios to help us with our renovations,” said Marcus. Brandon was recommended to the couple by a friend. In addition to matching their budget, he proved to be very quick to respond and was also great with communication.

“He was able to make useful and practical suggestions, which was an added bonus. He also helped compensate for our lack of experience in certain areas.”

The pandemic and renovation delays made it difficult for the couple to fit in furniture purchases at the same time. He said delays in production and shipping made the timelines even longer. As a result, their living room and dining room were empty for a month.

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They both wanted to choose pieces that not only suited their style, but also worked well in their space. But in the end, Marcus admitted it was a blessing in disguise. “We were able to live in the space before we bought our furniture. This really helped us understand our needs and how we used the space in our daily lives.”

So when the time came for them to start selecting pieces, they were able to balance their ideal design with their budget. They were looking for items that were not only well-made and unique, but also practical for their daily lives.

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Marcus said they went on trips to the Tan Boon Liat building and visited local brands. They also reviewed some designer products in stores to gain a better understanding of the differences and balance between function and design.

“What helped us make our final decisions was finding a balance between elements that were easy to maintain and that were built well.”

For products that cost a little more, he said they made sure they were items that would work well even in a future home if they ever decide to move.

When it comes to the best part of their home, the couple both agreed it would be their living and dining area. “We took a chance with a cement screed wall and it has become a feature of our home.”

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While considering whether to take a bet on it, it all came together once their furniture and other items were in place. As Marcus puts it, the wall helped bring the whole room together and added charm to the area.

Experiences from a successful Reno trip

Marcus and Beatrice’s reno journey happened just as phase 2 of the pandemic started. Delays and the struggle to meet their original timelines were inevitable. It became even more difficult for them to plan and design their homes without being able to see and feel materials first hand.

“Most of our design discussions had to happen under the power switch,” Marcus recalled. “That meant we weren’t able to meet each other to also discuss our ideas and source materials.” As such, they had to rely on most of the recommendations from their contractor and were very grateful for Brandon’s suggestions that fit their needs and budget.

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But if there is one mistake they vowed never to repeat again, it would be to pay more attention to their cabinets – they would be more detailed and think more about heights and shelves for their cabinets. Marcus said that while they are functional, small adjustments based on their specific needs will definitely help optimize the space better. Still, they have no regrets.

Marcus offers this excellent advice for homeowners starting their reno journey.

“You definitely need to take your time with the process! Don’t feel the need to have the perfect home right away when you move in.”

He added to take the time to figure out what you really need, find pieces you really love and things that can help tell your story over time.