Domed and whitewashed cave houses jut out from the cliffs of the Cycladic islands, providing a rustic and enchanting appeal to the whole of Greece. Ben Yeo and Winnie Chong stayed in one during their Santorini honeymoon, and they loved the place so much that they decided to have their 5-room HDB flat styled the same way.
"We went to Santorini for our honeymoon. We loved it. We took a lot of pictures of the place we lived in. We started our planning from there," says Ben.
After bookmarking Santorini-themed interiors, the couple began their search for an interior designer who would realise their dream. "We sourced for interior designers. We took a long time preparing for it. For nine months, we would just meet with different interior designers. Since early 2014, we have interviewed over 12 different interior designers," adds Ben.
One day, they stumbled upon a Greek restaurant in Bukit Timah called Blu Kouzina, whose Greek interiors thoroughly impressed Ben and Winnie. It was designed by Alvin Chua of Edge Interior, who was then hired to do the job. And what a good job it was, echo Ben and Winnie. "Our interior designer, he gave a lot of thought to the design. He was very straightforward. He did a modern Greek contemporary design in our house," says Winnie.
Vaulted caves, domes, and curves are popular features of Santorini architecture and interiors, which explains the presence of three arches against the living room wall. The couple wanted curved walls, but it would be costly, so they settled for the arches.
"We really like the arches," says Ben. "Plus, the living room is not blindingly white. It's soothing. It's not cluttered. There's a lot of space."
Light wood and blue details complete the Santorini look.
A refreshing palette of blue brightens up the living room. The sofa was sourced from Ikea, and the coffee table was custom-built. The couple consulted with the designer on what furniture pieces would fit into their interiors. "The structure was taken care of by the interior designer. The furniture and details, that's us. But we consult with him, so it makes things easier," explains Ben.
An all-white ensemble (white furniture against a stark white wall) doesn't look sterile when incorporated with blue accents and nature-themed elements.
A customised white bench with blue upholstery takes the couple back to Santorini's romantic resorts.
The couple's HDB flat features an open-plan layout that includes the dining area and the living room adjoined together.
Customised dining furniture made by "an online manufacturer from Alibaba" and blue-and-white details provide the space with a bright, breezy, and beach-inspired look.
The couple took a long time finding the perfect lights. "It was quite hard to look for a chandelier for this theme. Moroccan lights don't fit our theme," says Winnie. She eventually found a bird-topped white chandelier that looks at home in their Santorini-themed space.
The photo wall gallery features touristy spots and other lovely areas in Santorini. "We don't intend to change the photos. Initially, we wanted to change them to our travelling photos, but they quite look nice and complete the theme at the moment," says Ben.
Kitchen walls were hacked to make way for an all-white open kitchen. "I like it because it's clean and compact. One day my dad walked in and said 'This looks like an office pantry.' And I was like 'that's good, that's good'," says Winnie.
A portion of the wall was covered in white bricks to replicate the white stone walls of Santorini.
The custom-built circular feature wall gives the bedroom more depth and visual appeal. The designer and couple played around with different hues of blue to create contrast against the white furniture and furnishings.
The bed, like all the other major furniture pieces in this home, was customised. "I tried to find online furniture manufacturers, and I would give them designs and see if they could do it. Having the furniture customised can be cheaper. Plus you get the design and size you want. I've gone to a lot of places, but I didn't see a lot of things that I fancy, especially for our theme. I find that it's quite challenging to find furniture in Singapore," admits Winnie.
A classic combination of white and turquoise is pleasing to the eyes.
The customised wardrobe fills one wall of the bedroom.
Santorini colours and nautical accents are present in the en suite bathroom. A gold gilt frame mirror adds a contemporary glamorous touch.
A thick and whitewashed stone divider in the bathroom echoes classic Cycladic architecture.
A customised bookshelf, a wave-shaped desk that symbolises the sea, and a roller blind from The MG Wall Gallery featuring the Santorini landscape make the couple's workspace more unconventionally fun. "We spend a lot of time at home. We work from home, so we want our [workspace] to be comfortable," says Ben.
The couple reveals that while the renovation took a long time ("We really waited for three months. Usually one month it's done. We told the designer, 'Take your time.'"), the entire process was generally hassle-free and smooth. "He's a responsible person. He took over a lot of stuff, including the installation of aircon, which wasn't part of his job. The designs he proposed from the 3D to the real thing, they all matched. We're quite happy."
What do they like most about their home? "Our home is airy, bright, with lots of curves. A very relaxing place. When you're stressed and you come home, it's like coming home to vacation," the couple says joyfully.
Type of property: 5-Room HDB Flat
Total space: 112 square metres
Interior Designer: Edge Interior
Budget: $50,000 with furniture
Time to complete works: Three months
Ben and Winnie's tips for homeowners:
1. Find the right designer and don't be afraid to ask questions. "We found out during this reno journey that quotations are very flexible. Don't forget to ask and clarify. Sometimes our friends, when they talk to IDs, they take whatever the designers say. It's not like that. We asked a lot of questions. We negotiated a lot."
2. "Don't rush into making big decisions about furniture purchases. When people buy a house, they get so excited. They tend to shop impulsively. Impulsive shopping for clothes is not too bad, but when it comes to furniture, this is like commitment. Think through things. We use this app called Photogrid a lot. We just save a lot of furniture photos and compose them together and make them into a collage."
3. Budget wisely and know what to prioritise. "Prioritise when it comes to budgeting. What exactly do you want to do? What's your priority? Is it a nice bedroom? A nice kitchen? It's nice to have a big budget and prioritise everything but most of us work with a budget. Budget is the most important thing."