Japanese ryokan? No, it's a 3-bedroom HDB maisonette

Japanese ryokan? No, it's a 3-bedroom HDB maisonette
PHOTO: Home & Decor

The one-of-a-kind design of this home combines the concept and aesthetics of a Japanese izakaya and ryokan, two big loves of the homeowner.

WHO: A bachelor in his 40s and his mother

HOME: Three-bedroom HDB maisonette

SIZE: 1,590sqf

"Almost everything in this home is bought or made in Japan," says Melvyn Yap.

Step into this 3-room HDB flat that looks like a Japanese ryokan

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    Melvyn's drinking corner in the living area, where he frequently entertains friends, is his favourite part of the home. It features a customised table with a retractable system that allows it to blend into the platform. His love for sake is exhibited here, too.

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    Internal windows were created in the walls of the two rooms on the second floor, so that they look into the stairwell. This promotes ventilation and introduces more natural lighting into the space.

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    The home's design minimises the use of conventional furniture, with the dining table and chairs being the only pieces.

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    Melvyn's love of Japanese culture and aesthetics grew around six years ago, when he went to Japan for work. "It's the respect for each other, for things, and for nature, that I like," he says.

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    As Melvyn and his mother share the home, privacy was a consideration in its design. Custom-made panelled sliding doors separate the living area and the front part of the flat, where the entrance, kitchen and staircase leading to the bedrooms upstairs area.

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    The home has a palette of white and maple and oak wood tones, as seen in the kitchen.

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    The bold blue front gate with adesign inspired by Doraemon is a playful touch that references Japanese pop culture.

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    Melvyn visits Japan frequently and has sourced various objects, from ornaments and tableware to furniture and rice paper lamps, for his home.

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    To create the platforms with hidden storage within, tatami finished panels that were custom-made in Japan were ordered from The Tatami Shop. Pictured is Melvyn's drinking corner, with the automated tables lowered and concealed.

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    In the front part of the house, visitors can admire the homeowner's extensive collection of Starbucks mugs in the glass showcase.

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    "Once I remove the futon, it's just another space. I can work here on a little table," says Melvyn of his bedroom, which has a platform with storage underneath. This demonstrates the concept of simplicity and functionality, key aspects of Japanese aesthetics.

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His home might be located in a typical Singapore high-rise building, but step inside and you're instantly transported to a traditional inn in Japan. Eric Chua of Sync Interior gave the cookie-cutter apartment a radical makeover, with a look inspired by traditional Japanese interiors that's based on the homeowner's love of Japanese culture and style.

Besides making structural alterations to open up the home, the designer created customised built-in structures and furniture to bring out the theme. Light oak tones, platforms and shoji paper screens are some of the distinctive elements he included.

Also, as the Japanese aesthetic is grounded on simple, functional beauty, the home's overall design minimises the use of conventional furniture, or having defined spaces and fixed-purpose rooms.

Melvyn and his mother have been living here for 17 years, but only just decided to renovate it with a fresh look that's imbued with charm and personality.

We find out more about his ideas for the home.


It's purely Japanese. A lot of people like a fusion style, but not me. I wanted it pure, so that the authenticity is retained. The look is traditional, but there's modern technology incorporated.

Furnishing-wise, I tried as much as possible to get everything from Japan and made in Japan.


Maybe because of my love for sake! And my holidays to Japan… I like the concept and feel of the izakaya (a type of Japanese bar) and ryokan (a traditional Japanese inn), and I wanted to bring these backhome.

My interest in Japanese culture and aesthetics started probably about six years ago, when I started going to Japan for work.


I combined the concept of a "drinking hole" and traditional inn. The key element is the idea of getting together with friends, just like how colleagues gather after work at an izakaya; so there are pockets of space with platforms everywhere for my friends to gather.

Look-wise, the idea was to replicate the elements of Japanese style - tatami mats, raised platforms, futons, light wood tones and shoji paper (a translucent paper made from Japanese mulberry trees or shrubs, sometimes called rice paper).

Eric also got the carpenters to make the sliding screen doors and pasted the shoji paper with gold flakes on one side of the acrylic himself.


The drinking corner was very important! I wanted a comfortable area with a raised table, so hidden in the platform is an automated table that can be raised when I want to use it (in the living area).

I wanted the rooms on the second floor to have internal windows that look into the stairwell to allow more light in. Shoji paper is also used in the panelling. The Japanese style is so functional and versatile, and I tried to implement this.

For example, the drinking area in the living room can become a guest sleeping area, when the table is lowered into the platform and a futon is added. The whole interior was also reworked so I can use the space however I want; sometimes, I dine here, other times, there.


It's Japanese culture to have tableware of different shapes and sizes, with unique designs, so that each person can identify their plate and chopsticks at a glance.

So I have many mismatched plates from Japan, rather than a matching set. Every time I go to Japan, I buy something different - like sake cups, saucers, plates; all made of ceramic.

In Japan, tatami is very expensive and was traditionally used only in the homes of nobles. Apparently, the younger generation prefers more modern styles - when I showed my Japanese friends pictures of my home with the tatami, they said that I am helping to preserve their culture.

I use futons on the tatami, instead of beds, so every morning, I pack it up and leave the space empty, just like how it's meant to be done. I also have a Japanese black pine bonsai.


I like my bedroom with the tatami-finished platform and futon, but I think my favourite space has got to be the drinking corner, as I see it as my private sanctuary.

There, I do my work, drink, watch TV, chill out and entertain friends. My friends are only so eager to come over - they say my home is even better than some restaurants' private rooms!

Recently, some friends took photos for Instagram and it looked so beautiful in the pictures.

WHERE TO GO: Sync Interior, TEL: 9179-6294

This article was first published in the AUGUST 2017 print edition of Home & Decor.

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