High expectations

Mr Nicholas Teoh and Ms Chew Ru Shan purchased this three-bedroom apartment in a condominium development that is more than two decades old.

They instantly saw the potential of the unit in spite of its age. It had a rather dated look, but the loft layout – with two bedrooms and a study spread over two storeys, complete with double-volume windows and a spiral staircase – provided the perfect canvas for a New York City industrial loft concept.

“It is one of our favourite interior styles as it is classic, timeless and aesthetically pleasing and just has a certain je ne sais quoi,” says Mr Teoh, an architectural associate.

Having experience in interior design – Mr Teoh trained as an architect while Ms Chew, a marketing manager, had taken a part-time course on the subject – the pair decided to design their new 1,200 sq ft home on their own.

This was no mean feat, as the works carried out were extensive, involving new finishes for most of the floors and walls, replacement of doors, sanitary fittings and light fixtures, and reconfiguration of the kitchen and master bathroom.

The three-month renovation cost $79,000 excluding furniture. The couple, who are in their 30s, moved into the apartment in August 2016 and live with their pet dog and cat.

How did you go about conceptualising the whole scheme?

Mr Teoh: We sat down to discuss some of our favourite interior design styles and soon realised we have very similar aesthetic preferences, which is fortunate.

Thereafter, we started populating a shared Pinterest board with the ideas and inspirations we liked. Ru Shan created a mood board for each space, while I translated those ideas into actual technical drawings.

I took those drawings to a contractor and took care of everything related to the renovation, while Ru Shan was in charge of sourcing and purchasing the lights, furniture, soft accents and decor items.

What was your approach in terms of adhering to the concept?

Mr Teoh: Although our main theme was industrial chic, we did not limit ourselves to fittings and furniture styles that are typically considered industrial, which can sometimes be rather impractical and uncomfortable.

Our furniture and decor accents are a mishmash of different styles and were chosen not just for their aesthetics, but also for comfort.

In one corner, you will find a large Persian or kilim rug; yet, on the other, you will find a hand-painted Oriental Chinese stool.

Despite this, they seem to come together really well because we tried to stick to the same colour/material as much as we could. In fact, we find that some of these elements help to take the hard edges off the oft-considered cold and masculine industrial style.

How does the home reflect your tastes and complement your lifestyles?

Mr Teoh: We love to cook and host family and friends, so our large dining table and well-equipped kitchen are necessities. We really need the space to keep all our equipment and the large open-ended countertop also allows our guests to help out in the preparations.

Fortunately, our home is split across two levels, which suits our home dynamics. We have a dog and a cat and they do not get along. The dog is afraid of going up the open riser spiral staircase and the cat hangs out mostly in our bedroom upstairs, sparing us the inevitable “war”.

What was the most challenging aspect of designing your home?

Mr Teoh: Having to juggle full-time jobs and also spending time designing, sourcing furniture and finishes, and meeting the contractor to solve any issues that arise.

What are the advantages?

Mr Teoh: Complete design freedom. We get to decide everything, not what our interior designer dictates. Also, no one understands how we intend to use our home and the spaces as well as we do.

What are lessons you have learnt?

Mr Teoh: There will always be issues that come up, regardless of how well-thought-out the design is. Being flexible and understanding is crucial to making it work for all parties.

Is it possible for home owners who have no prior design knowledge or training to design their interiors?

Mr Teoh: Not really. Some home owners think they have the whole house figured out and have designed it on their Pinterest boards. They feel they can skip the link (interior designers or architects) and head straight to the builders.

Drawings are still the universal language the designer uses to speak to the builders.

Ideas and mood images can sometimes be translated wrongly and the end product may not be what the owners originally had in mind.

Can you share tips for those who want to try designing their own home?

Mr Teoh: Think about what the core space of your home will be.

Be it the bedrooms, living room or kitchen, there is a space that will set the parameters for the rest of the home, so getting that right is crucial.

• This article first appeared in the September 2019 issue of Home & Decor, which is published by SPH Magazines.

• Get the December and latest issue of Home & Decor now at all newsstands or download the digital edition of Home & Decor from the App Store, Magzter or Google Play. Also, see more inspiring homes at www.home anddecor.