A bachelorette pad designed to be a kitschy homestead

PHOTO: Athirah Annissa

The central point of A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf is that every woman needs a space to call her own, and in this modern era, many now not only have their own rooms, but also their own homes. In this three-part series, three women share how they created abodes that reflect their personalities.

Jo Soh, deputy director of the Industry Development Office at DesignSingapore Council, has been living in her three-room HDB flat for the past six years. Her home is "very much" a reflection of her personality and interests, which is industrial-meets-vintage-kitsch.

But that doesn't mean practicality is out of the equation. In fact, it is exactly because it is also a primary consideration that she has an industrial kitchen "direct from Geylang". And all the walls are painted white so that the place can always go back to being a blank canvas, and every piece of furniture in the house was brought in only when she was sure of its usefulness.

"The approach I had when it came to living here wasn't to buy everything at one go and move in. Instead, it was to live with what I had first, before deciding on the pieces to buy as I discovered my usage of the space," explains Jo, who's in her 40s.

"The fundamental pieces are kept as neutral as possible, but because I love kitsch items, which are usually colourful, there are also pops of colour everywhere," she says.

The design philosophy of her living space? It was simply to be a place that is a safe haven and that lifts her mood.

"When I first moved in, the windows were tinted, which I understand was practical because it helped to keep the heat out, but this also gave a heavy effect. I introduced as much natural light as possible because I wanted to go for a lit-up, lifting effect. The visitors to my home say it best: It is cosy and fun, but also has a lot of joy in it because of the vintage pieces I collect," she shares. 

PHOTO: Athirah Annissa

The dining area features this wooden table she picked up from The Salvation Army. It was stripped of its original colour - a darker brown - and left raw, before being finished with varnish.

PHOTO: Athirah Annissa

The home's centrepiece is undoubtedly this shelf that displays her collection of fashion books (Jo used to own the fashion label Hansel), an assortment of childhood toys and trinkets, and a box that holds her late grandmother's wedding gown - a relic from the 1920s.

PHOTO: Athirah Annissa

"Because I always wait before making purchases for my home, whenever I buy something, it is because it really suits my lifestyle. For example, I didn't get the sofa till one year ago, so any guests I had before that just had to sit at the dining table. I didn't get the TV till one year ago too - the pandemic highlighted the need for more comfy areas," she explains.

PHOTO: Athirah Annissa

Jo calls the shelf in front of her bed her "happy shelf" because it invokes a fuzzy feeling within her whenever she wakes up. It showcases both her own artwork and pieces she has collected.

PHOTO: Athirah Annissa

The "happy shelf" consists of paintings by Jo and other artists.

PHOTO: Athirah Annissa

An art enthusiast, she has an easel at home and often spends her nights with a brush in one hand and a drink in another while listening to music.

PHOTO: Athirah Annissa

The former fashion designer also has a sewing machine at home and sews many of her pillowcases from vintage apparel herself.

This article was first published in Her World Online.