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Chill by the fireplace in this executive HDB flat in Tampines that's home to 3 generations

A fireplace might be the last thing you'd expect to see in a HDB home, but it's the centrepiece in this three-generation household's Scandinavian-chic living room.

Of course, it's not an actual smoke-producing hearth — just a mock one that doubles up as a TV console.

Homeowner Jennifer, 49, explained the unique choice: "We didn't want the typical TV console with the rows of cabinets above the TV as we felt that it would make the ceiling look lower."

Maximising functionality while eschewing the typical is certainly the core theme in this executive flat in Tampines, with the circular cut-out in their living room wall as another eye-catching example.

Curved edges round off the flat’s clean aesthetic

The cut-out, which offers a clear view into the adjacent playroom from the living room, was her interior designer's (ID) idea, Jennifer shared. She added that curved lines and archways are some of the motifs they selected to weave into the flat’s design and create a cohesive look.

Having a consistent yet unique theme was important to her, Jennifer said, revealing that when she was sourcing for designers and contractors, one deal breaker was whether their designs looked "rojak".

But the personal assistant, who lives with her social worker husband Andrew, 50, her daughter Rachel, 28, and her granddaughter Raeanne, 4, admitted that having a unified look can be a challenge with three generations living under one roof.

“Our different personalities are clearly reflected in our personal spaces," she mused.

For example, Rachel has a more girly aesthetic, choosing whites and pastels for her room.

On the other hand, Andrew's office and gaming room features black tones and a minimalist look.

The rest of the flat, done up to Jennifer's tastes, is elegant with quirky accents such as patterned tiles and royal blue cabinets.

To tie the entire look together, she added contours throughout the home, such as Rachel's custom-made bed frame with a striking curved headboard, as well as the arched cubbyhole in Raeanne's playroom, and rounded mirrors in the bathrooms.

Getting the most out of their space

Space was essential for the family, who upgraded to the executive flat from a four-room flat in Simei so that Raeanne would have more space to herself.

"She would play in the living room [in the old home] and the television would be on," Jennifer recalled. "It just wasn't conducive for her."

With their new 1,593 sq ft executive flat, which features a playroom just for Raeanne, space is maximised through clever reconfiguration of its layout.

After obtaining the necessary permits to demolish their walls and raise the level of their balcony's flooring, Jennifer was able to create an open concept kitchen and combine her living room and balcony area for a more spacious dining room area.

The family's quest for practical space extended to their recess area, which they converted into a "space to chill", flanked by a floor-to-ceiling shoe cabinet, plant wall, ceiling fan, as well as luxe-looking gold wall sconces.

Yes, you can actually buy the space in front of your flat and turn it into a porch.

However, this option is only available to certain flats built in or before 1996. The flats should also satisfy technical requirements relating to design, access, fire safety and ventilation.

And do note that buying your flat's recess area doesn't exactly give you free rein of the space — any renovation works must comply with HDB’s prevailing renovation guidelines, and approval obtained from HDB.

Know when to splurge and when to save

With some smart budgeting, the family was able to make their dream home a reality. Jennifer's top tip? Know when to splurge and when to save.

By far the biggest expense is, well, the flat, which cost over $800,000.

Besides the expanded space, moving to Tampines also put the family within walking distance of three malls and two MRT lines, not to mention Our Tampines Hub and its family-friendly facilities.

"I tell people I'm paying for the location," Jennifer said with a laugh.

According to her, it's also worthwhile to spend on big-ticket furniture items such as bed frames and sofas.

"As we use them daily, the quality has to be good," explained Jennifer, who opted to customise some furniture pieces.

For instance, getting a custom sofa was an obvious choice. She was able to choose the design, colour and fabric for her two-metre sofa, all for a $2,600 price tag — not too far off from a good quality sofa sold in most furniture stores, she explained.

For other furniture, including her dining table, coffee table and stools,Taobao was her budget-friendly go-to, she told us, confessing that she'd "never bought so many things from [the e-commerce platform] before".

While it's okay to purchase inexpensive decorative knick-knacks, it's important to invest in a proper ID, she emphasised.

Jennifer and Andrew shared that they spent a little over $100,000 renovating their home, but believed that it was money well spent.

Unlike most contractors, who may "leave you with an empty house", their designer helped them source for furniture and tagged along on their home decor shopping trips, Jennifer said.

"When I'm shopping for things online, I'd also ask my ID if it will match our home’s interior design concept.”

Andrew chimed in that having a designer completely transformed their home. “It created something which we want to live in, and love to live in.”

This article is brought to you in partnership with the Housing and Development Board. Visit the MyNiceHome website to learn all about HDB renovation guidelines, and score design ideas for your flat.

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