How the couple achieved the Japandi look with a $90,000 renovation budget in an old HDB apartment, Lifestyle News

If there is anything that Singaporeans love in common, it is anything Japanese. Even when it comes to home, this simple Muji look is a much needed look.

But for some, this simple look can be too timeless and cool. As such, there is a modern look called Japandi which is a mixture of ‘Japanese’ and ‘Scandinavian’.

Japandi is all about combining chic and elegant Japanese design with a modern and warmer Scandinavian approach. While they may seem very contradictory, both are rooted in their simplicity and nature. Wood materials and neutral or muted color palettes dominate the interior of the house.

Both SL and JL (bright_hill_haus) aimed for this type of interior for their home, and were able to remove it almost flawlessly. Their apartment, located on Sin Ming Street, was built almost three decades ago – in 1987.

“We purchased it in 2016 after it was announced that a new subway line, now East Coast Thompson, with the MRT entrance is just below the block,” SL said. She added that another reason for their decision was that it was near her parents’ home in Marymount.

Their Jabandi-inspired home is currently occupied by only the two of them. Let’s take a look at the Renault journey they took.

How did the journey of renewal turn out?

S. admitted. to. She and her husband were still naive at the time, so initially they allotted $50 thousand only for the entire renovation. “After speaking to at least eight identity and renewal companies, we realized it wasn’t practical given that we wanted a complete makeover.”

Thus, they ended up spending about $90,000 on the renovation. They also had to spend an additional $40,000 on furniture and appliances such as air conditioners, lighting, electrical wires, etc.

“It was the living room and kitchen that captured the bulk of the budget, mainly because it’s the largest space in the house,” she said. These spaces required more of Reno’s work, including hacking and dividing walls, creating built-in cabinets, and installing a quartz table top.

The couple already knew what they wanted but didn’t really impress her in any particular design direction. Fortunately, their identity was well aware and able to translate the style they were aiming for.

“Our ID suggested a very unique design that we hadn’t thought of,” SL said. “We wanted to use a soft muted color scheme and something that wasn’t too loud or colorful. He hooked us up and suggested we go to Japandi.” In addition, the identifier suggested combining curves and fluted panels to create a cohesive pattern.

Aside from incorporating curves and fluted panels for a cohesive style, their ID also suggested a larger living room and open kitchen area. It coincided with what the couple wanted for their kitchen – an island table.

Compared to the original floor plan, they had to break into almost every wall in the house.
“I redesigned our identity and re-planned the space for us according to our daily routine,” SL said. Depending on the design, they had to break into almost every wall in the house and demolish it. “All the walls between the three rooms, the pantry and the door to the shared toilet,” she added.

Let’s continue with the visual tour of how their Renault journey has evolved.

Living room

The living room has a very clean look, perfectly balancing clean lines with soft curves. The muted white and warm wood tones make the space feel elegant and calm at the same time.
Half of what was previously bedroom number 2 now serves as an extension to the living room and an entrance to the kitchen. You can see the plush effect of the curved arch that the couple specifically requested (watch this video on why we’re so infatuated with curves).

Dining and kitchen area

Here is a great app for an open kitchen. The island table creates a clear separation from the living area without impeding the smooth flow between the three spaces. In addition, this design allows the couple to entertain their guests even while they are in the kitchen.
The combination of closed cabinets and open shelves helps emphasize clean lines. It also creates the illusion of making the built-in kitchen space appear larger than it actually is.
Adding soft lighting under the cabinet also helps set the mood for the space. Especially in an open kitchen setting like this, it’s a subtle but really nice entry.
Below is a view that a couple can experience while preparing food and having conversations with their guests in the dining and living area at the same time.

master bedroom

The master bedroom retains a Japandi look with its fluted headboard and wood furnishings.
Compared to its original size, it is larger because it now houses the other half of bedroom #2 SL and her husband has converted this extra space into a large walk-in wardrobe.
To create more space in their master bathroom, they decided to move the bathroom sink into the master bedroom.


Although there are no wood tones here, the master bathrooms and shared bathrooms were simple. But with the right lighting, it still gives an elegant feel. To save more space, they also decided to take the sink out of their shared bathroom, which is next to the kitchen in the courtyard.

Turning a vision into a reality

When we asked SL if the result was what it envisioned before Renault, it answered “no” – but in a good way. “In fact, it was much better. Our knowledge understood our requirements and needs, and struck our minds with a design proposal that no other identifiers suggested.”

Their renovation contractor was Ascend Design, and it was the company’s design proposal that convinced the couple to hire them. “We were impressed by their suggestion,” she added.

“Other identifiers suggested having the island table right in the middle of the kitchen, which would occupy our master bedroom, or having the dining table right in front of the main door.” But the couple said they didn’t want these design proposals.
They were able to communicate what they wanted, and their knowledge was able to produce a design based on the couple’s preferences. “We initially wanted to combine two rooms to create a larger master bedroom. But after discussions with our current ID, we realized we didn’t need such a large space in the master bedroom after all.”

SL said she and her husband like to spend more time in the living room when hosting people. So what they really wanted was to have more living and kitchen space. As such, their acquaintance suggested an open kitchen. This way, they can still leave at least half of the other shared bedroom to expand their master bedroom.

Their unique proposition wasn’t the only reason they chose Ascend Design. “We also thought the proposed costs were reasonable, given the amount of work we have to do,” she said.

Here’s a sample of the 3D rendering that captured the couple’s hearts. This show already includes other designs they wanted to add, such as the arch entrance to the kitchen.
When it came to sourcing their furniture, SL said they were mostly Taobao, with the exception of some pieces that came from Blafink.

“We used the 3D rendering as a reference but it was clearly not possible to find the exact same pieces.” Design was their main priority because they wanted to maintain the proposed look. Quality came second, and they relied on online reviews posted by those who purchased items from Taobao.

SL said they tried to source furniture locally, but it was very difficult to find the right pieces. “Most of them don’t fit the style we were looking for,” she said.
The living room and kitchen are their favorite parts of their home. “This is where it makes the biggest impression, the first thing most people see, and it’s where we hang out a lot,” SL added that this is also the most comfortable and spacious area.

Lessons learned from Renault’s successful journey

If they were to choose the biggest challenge they faced during the Renault ride, the SL said that would calm their neighbours.

“Because it was a large-scale project, neighbors around us asked us to stop at certain times due to their young children’s bedtime or working adults on a meeting call at home.”

To get around this, they contacted some of their neighbors to understand their concerns and try to find the best solution for both parties.

Communication was key, and they ended up agreeing on the exact time frame for Renault’s restart. It is an underrated part of Renault’s smooth operation, and also helps maintain a good relationship with your neighbors even after the business ends.
There were several mistakes that they will not repeat. “Buy an apartment with a higher ceiling,” she said. It will also make sure to reduce the size of the store next time. “In hindsight, we should have done some built-in lockers in the study as well,” she added.

SL shares these two practical scripts for homeowners planning a home renovation.

One is to visit the site regularly. The couple told us there were several instances when it might have been too late to correct the flaws if they hadn’t.

“We have noticed that some of our vendors will work outside the permitted hours which may lead to complaints from our neighbours.” She was also worried that they might forget to turn off the lights after work.

During one of their visits, they noticed a hole in one of the dividing walls. She added, “The plumber also initially installed the water heater directly above the rain shower which was rather unsightly. We asked for the water tank near the window but we had to replace the tiles.”
Her second tip applies to most new homeowners who are usually very excited about their next Reno trip. “Keep an open mind and don’t accept the first identity you meet.” Home renovation is an important investment, so you shouldn’t rush into making decisions before your actual Reno trip.

ALSO READ: Tour a 1,001-square-foot HDB flat house conversion: How a couple bricked up walls to create a bright, open plan

This article was first published on Stackedhomes.

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