While most new launches that you’ll see today have pretty regularly shaped and efficient layouts (these are naturally easier to sell), some are truly quite the oddball.
If you’ve been shopping around in the resale market too, you might have come across even more awkwardly-shaped units. Everything else seems great on paper, it’s close to the MRT, freehold, and has the interior space that you need. But, it has bay windows and a really odd-shaped room — it’s a real head-scratcher of a decision!
As such, I’ve compiled some of these quirks and oddities found in local apartments of various shapes and sizes and smart solutions to work around them. You may even be surprised at how these can be made use of and accentuated into a cool design feature in your home instead.
First up, bay windows. Prior to October 2008, bay windows and planter boxes (which often make up around five per cent of a condo’s saleable area) had been exempted from GFA calculations. To say this was a exploitation was an understatement, as it allowed developers to charge buyers for these areas while reducing the average PSF cost of the development as these areas were not taxed.
As you can imagine with such a 'loophole', the addition of bay windows and planter boxes exploded, and developers were indiscriminately placing these features even in inconceivable places. Especially when bedrooms were already getting smaller, having bay windows sometimes just made it worse.
Today, I would say opinions on the utility of bay windows tend to be one of a nuisance more than anything. Most would deem bay windows difficult to work with and a waste of precious floor space.
Others wish to bask in romanticised living. While there is some truth to the concerns, they need not be so and can instead become a defining feature of your home. With some creative thinking, they can provide a cosy setup to even the most compact of units.
Here are a few workarounds that could work for you:
1. Reading nook with built-in shelf
One of the main attractions of a bay window is as a cosy reading nook. Bay windows are perfect for bookworms to curate a cosy and inviting reading space to dwell in. It’s a bit more work, but creating a custom made bench cushion plus a couple of fluffy pillows can instantly transform the space.
2. Multi-purpose dining bench
While bay windows in living areas are typically just used as a display or storage space, you could also look to use it as part of your dining setup.
Take this opportunity to have your bay seating act as an exaggerated dining bench that also serves as a spacious lounging space. Pair your dining table with additional loose seating for a stylish mixed look. Throw in some pillows and cushions for extra comfort while you are at it. In other words, make your bay window work harder for you and not against you.
3. A Modest Study with a View
With Singapore’s limited land space, high floor apartments that overlook the city’s skyline are becoming a norm. In view of this (no pun intended), what better way than to maximise vantages of the outdoors and set up a conducive study filled with natural light.
Keep things minimal with a simple built-in desk in place of where a typical bay window would be (of course, this is dependent on how high the bay window actually is). Include pull-out drawers in your table and add some open shelving to the side to maximise vertical space.
Some developers have tried to stray away from the norms, and while some developments have turned out well, for some others the weird layouts may not be worth the trouble of a differentiated exterior — no matter how pretty it may be.
While it may be hard to envision what it can possibly look like, here are some possible ways of overcoming an awkward layout.
1. Built-in or custom
Like the rounded balconies below, built-in-furniture or custom made is the easiest way to go even though it can be expensive as it ensures a near-perfect fit.
Whether it be for storage or seating, you can add usability to the space, and that additional cabinetry can cover up the awkward shape or wall that juts out impractically.
2. Creating a nook
Having a carved out space provides a neat enclave like experience that is ever so slightly segregated from the main living space. You can curate an all-in-one set-up by building a bookshelf with a stair-like configuration for that library look. Do also look to include a full-sized sofa cushion along with sheer curtains to soften the harsh midday light for a truly immersive experience.
For smaller nooks, it could also be the perfect spot for a set of shelves for a small study area. It doesn’t take much, but what had been an awkward area becomes a focal point, a space that frames and even becomes the highlight of the space.
3. Add plants
In some parts where the room becomes too triangular to do much, one creative option would be to add plants. A variety of plants in pots or trees placed in a corner can soften the room. It may have started out as an odd space, but they can also add a nice touch with their bright colours and textures. If you work from home often, having a little plant corner can be a very relaxing visual to look at as you work.
The rounded look is one that you can certainly tell the vintage of the apartment, it’s a look that is out of fashion today with many new launches adopting angular and sleek lines instead.
Interestingly enough, HDB actually tried it once with a Clover-shaped building at Ang Mo Kio.
You’d still find these in older developments like The Trillium, and Mandarin Gardens, as well as a few at Tiong Bahru.
Many are apprehensive due to the limitations presented by rounded layouts, requiring greater care when planning. In reality, many design principles that are present in most regular shaped balconies are still applicable when tackling rounded spaces.
1. Built-in fixtures
If purchasing the right furniture fit for a rounded balcony turns out to be too much of a hassle, perhaps it is a sign to pause and find another solution. Instead of forcing in furniture that might sit oddly in the curved space, consider built-in alternatives. While it is more expensive, it allows you to really utilise the full space.
One workaround would be a functional ledge that extends throughout the curved wall, allowing you to display antiques and knick-knacks. This concept is no different from built-in bar tables found in dwellings with more standardised balconies. In fact, the curved nature of such a feature will help celebrate the unique character of your home rather than fight it.
2. Extend your living space
Still unsure of what to do with your rounded balcony? Try turning it into an extension of your existing living space. Having a rounded profile can be advantageous as it helps to soften living spaces that might otherwise feel rigid and boxy.
Given the opportunity, enclose your balcony with semi-permeable materials such as appropriate meshing for a good balance of openness and privacy. Invisible grille systems work well with more organic balcony shapes too. Alternatively, child-proof netting would be a good choice if you have young children. Consider using similar-looking tiles or finishes that extend from the living room to the balcony for a seamless look.
3. A simple lookout
While tempting to match the quirkiness of the rounded balcony with equally interesting furnishings, consider keeping eye-catching pieces to a minimum. The curvature of the balcony is a feature in itself and this provides much-needed breathing space for it to shine.
Keep the area uncluttered with minimal furniture, while maximising viewing angles provided by the curved design that opens up to the outdoors. Throw in a few potted plants and curate a modest outdoor garden. Pair this with some simple furniture for a relaxing, easy-going lounging experience.
4. Turn into a study area
With an abundance of light and fresh air, and an amazing view, the balcony is the perfect spot to turn into a study area. Opt for a foldable table that could be stowed away when not in use.
In 1996, the inclusion of household shelters in HDBs became mandatory. Even if you are an owner of a resale flat, there is still a high chance that your unit is equipped with one.
As it’s not a structure that can just be removed, the inability to modify the structure of the household shelter has undoubtedly become a pain point for many. This is especially prominent for units where it is positioned awkwardly. Still, there are solutions to maximise this space or at the very least, make them less of an eyesore.
1. Conceal it
Concealing your bomb shelter is probably the go-to solution for many. In a nutshell — out of sight out of mind. However, it is by no means the last resort solution nor a cop-out.
Modern panelling solutions can be rather compact and do not take up that much additional floor space. Additionally, certain designs act as neat accents for space, providing much-needed contrast for some homes.
Louvred panels help to conceal their own door openings and are thus a great choice for a truly seamless look. Consider extending this design language by having the louvres wrap around the ceiling above as well.
Some are done so well, you’d never even know there was a space behind at first glance.
2. Extra storage inside-out
Apart from concealing, seize this opportunity to include practical storage solutions into your panelling. Take this one step further by curating a built-in storage solution around the bomb shelter for a storage haven inside-out.
Doubling up your panel as a hidden shoe rack is one great option for bomb shelters located near the entrance. For kitchens, a neat spice and condiments rack could do the trick. This makes for efficient use of limited space that is practical and aesthetically pleasing. Moreover, this resolves existing storage needs and does away with the additional effort and space that would otherwise be required.
3. A specialised hobby room
Everyone needs a healthy dose of 'me' time and space to engage in their hobbies every now and then. However, a conducive environment is not always easy to come by, especially when the expanse of others are at stake.
If not to engage in, household shelters still make for a compact space to collect and store hobby related items. Photo and video enthusiasts, for example, can consider turning the place into an elaborate equipment cum display room.
On the quieter side of things, a small scale library could just be as desirable for avid readers with an extensive collection. To kickstart your hobby room, opt for flexible shelving solutions that can cater to a variety of needs and work from there.
Quirky but unique
Finding the right property that ticks all the right boxes can sometimes be challenging. Given the state of the property market, it is also rather unrealistic to completely disregard a potential unit just because of some quirks. Instead, consider turning these supposed limitations into unique design opportunities.
This article was first published in Stackedhomes.