Beautiful HDB homes
FROM the outside, the five-room Housing Board flat at Pinnacle@Duxton (above) almost looks like a carbon copy of its neighbours.
But go beyond its unassuming metal grille gate, and you will find yourself in an airy, open-concept house that hardly resembles a typical flat.
The industrial loft-style apartment, set with wood finishes and cement screed floor, features a wide area with few walls - where the kitchen, dining area, living room, and workspace all meet.
"We wanted a lot of space and light in the house," explained homeowner Joe Tan, 34. "The idea was to have very clean lines, and as little clutter as possible."
The product designer pointed out that two rooms were hacked down, with HDB's approval, to create the open layout.
He and his wife, a user experience designer, spent six months coming up with the design, drawing from ideas in interior design magazines and online forums. They moved into the flat - their first - last June.
Other homeowners, too, are transforming their cookie-cutter flats into unconventionally styled homes.
Interior design firms MyPaper spoke to said they are seeing projects that require such extensive renovation jump by as much as 50 per cent, compared to about three years ago.
These clients usually comprise working professionals who are between their late 20s and 40s, from across various industries.
"Today's generation of homeowners are more educated, well travelled, and have better spending power," said division director of Fuse Concept Eddie Tay.
"Naturally, they have higher aesthetic expectations of their homes, compared to the 1980s, where every HDB flat used to look like it was designed using the same template."
Artistroom's project coordinator, Mr Mark Chen, said that more people are "willing to spend on designer furniture pieces with emphases on quality and detail".
For instance, 33-year-old Charmaine Low's five-room Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) flat in Tampines Central features gold trimmings, chandeliers, and even a faux fireplace - modelled after a traditional European home.
"I wanted a classic, timeless look for my house," said the co-founder of a photography company, who was inspired by her travels to Italy and Germany. The renovation works alone cost $120,000.
Said Mr Raymond Kua, design manager of The Design Practice: "Homeowners have different expectations now. They don't just want a place to live in - they want a home that is in line with their own lifestyles."
It can cost anywhere between $30,000 and $100,000 to do up a typical three-room flat, depending on factors like the materials used, and the labour required, said Mr Alvin Ling, design director of The Scientist.
Spacious New York-style lofts are all the rage among homeowners now, said Ms Rebeckka Wong, editor of interior design magazine Home & Decor.
This comes together with "raw and 'gritty' design elements such as exposed electrical tracking and wires, exposed brick walls, and even barn-like doors".
Chalking up such hefty expenses may mean that the homeowners have inflated prices in mind when it comes to selling their flats.
They can sell at a premium if they find a buyer "who has exactly the same taste, and can appreciate the renovation", said Mr Nicholas Mak, executive director of research and consultancy at property firm SLP International.
But he stressed that such situations may be "the exception" rather than the norm.
"It all boils down to the sticking point, which is the asking and offer prices."
Mr Tan has no intention of selling his flat for now, as he and his wife intend to start a family there.
"Maybe we'll have just one kid, since there's only one (extra) room left after hacking down the walls," he said.