Dungeons and drama

Home: Three-room HDB flat in Yishun

Who: An interior designer and her husband

Interior designer New Nyew was inspired by a "dungeon concept" when she started the $100,000 renovation of her three-room HDB flat - which explains the beams wallpapered to resemble stone, and dim lighting. But there's no need to be afraid of pitch-black spaces in the eclectically styled home the 35-year-old shares with her husband, Malcolm Tay, a 49-year-old safety professional.

Packed with opulent finishes, many from e-retailer Taobao, every room is an adventure in colour and one-of-a-kind style.

"I spend so much time working on contemporary or Scandinavian style decor for my clients, I didn't want to see something similar at home. I wanted something over-the-top, with lots of drama," she says.

She tells us how she did it with a limited footprint.

For small homes, space planning is especially important. Were there major layout changes?

We hacked all the walls, so it would feel more spacious. The kitchen used to be at the back of the apartment but, as we entertain a lot, I moved it to the front, where one of two bedrooms and an adjoining storeroom were originally sited.

Because there are only two of us, we didn't need the second bedroom. The original kitchen became a television area and workspace. We really thought about our priorities, and what we need and don't need.

Your apartment has a lot of furniture, but it doesn't feel cluttered. What's the trick?

The high ceiling helps. We removed the original wooden ceiling to uncover the pitched roof, which adds a sense of drama.

Also, the customised furnishings fit perfectly and there is no wastage of space. I designed the space taking into account its space constraints.

For instance, the bathrooms are tiny, so we put the washbasin in the master bedroom. A glassed-up wardrobe separating the bedroom and kitchen uses sliding doors, so there's no need for clearance space.

The base of the dining table and the island counter tapers inwards to appear less bulky, and they both incorporate storage to hide clutter.

Some furnishings do double duty - the TV is mounted on a swivel panel, so we can watch from either the bedroom or TV area. The use of materials such as glass and mirrors makes the apartment appear bigger, too.

You use a lot of wallpaper and colour. Were you worried that they might make the apartment look cramped?

While there's wallpaper on almost all the walls, I didn't use any on the ceiling, so the space doesn't feel claustrophobic. Wallpaper gives us the look we want, without the maintenance or bulk, whether it's natural stone for the beams or a wall covered with frames in the dining area. The right design, such as the vinyl flooring, can make the place appear larger. It resembles long wood strips and visually lengthens the space.

I love colour, especially gold. The bath flooring and fittings are gold in colour, and they keep the space from looking too dark. I don't think colour or opulent wallpaper necessarily makes the place look smaller. It's how you put everything together.

WHERE TO GO: New Nyew LLP, TEL: 8611-6677

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