Where most people would live with their spouses or families, this pair of cousins went against the status quo. 

“This is not the first time my cousin, Anthony, and I have lived together,” said James, the co-owner of this 4-room resale unit in Potong Pasir. “He was already staying alone in his previous home at Tampines until I moved in, and I just decided to continue with that arrangement.” 

The cousins then sold off the old place for an “upgrade”. The two hired a property agent to help find “a resale unit that was as basic as possible, almost a blank slate” so  that they could actualise a modern-Zen concept without incurring huge refurbishing costs. Here’s how they did it! 

About themselves and their home’s design 

James (J): Anthony’s working in a government body and I myself at a supply chain. 

Our work lives are very busy and stressful, so this home is fashioned after our idea of a ‘retreat’. We found that the modern-Zen concept was one that suited our needs best – it’s organised, minimised clutter and gave us more space to work with. That, and we could change up the colour palette to make play up the restful atmosphere. 

On changes made to the living room 

J: In an effort to nail down the Zen concept, we used a grey palette. As it’s darker, it feels much cosier and exudes a chill ambience that is reminiscent of that of high-end restaurants or luxurious hotel lobbies, the ones with dim lights – it just instantly relaxes you. We included a bunch of warm lights as well to make sure that the interiors don’t come off as too cold. 

The cousins livened up space by using plants, of the artificial variety. “They’re low-maintenance and look like the real deal, which is great for us.” shared James. 

One of the first things to go was our storeroom because we wanted to be able to see the entire space from the living room. Opening up the home in such a way improved it’s circulation and gave our dog more freedom to run around. 

The only additions we made to the living room are the four wooden slats you see behind our sofa – it’s mostly a decorative feature, but it helps in demarcating the living room from the more private areas of our home. 

I remember that I wanted to use a white shade for the ceiling, but the brightness didn’t fit into the modern-Zen aesthetic or gel with surrounding grey walls at all. Our designer, Daniel, was quick to call the supplier and get it changed for us, so that was quite accommodating of him, and I really appreciate the way he dealt with it promptly. 

On changes made to the kitchen

J: The kitchen used to be an enclosed space, and the previous homeowner utilised both corners, which, in turn, made it even narrower than it was. 

Hacking away the storeroom also freed up space for a kitchen island that often “doubles as their dining table”. 

Seeing as the two of us don’t cook much, we downsized the double sink to a single and cut down to just two burners instead of the usual four. It’s because of the change that we only needed to use one wall. 

To capitalise on the newly freed up space, our designer, Daniel, flushed all the cabinets to the right, and had the bulkier appliances, like the fridge and microwave, built into the carpentry. 

To pet-proof the home, the cousins used a wood-look vinyl for the living areas and marble-look tiles for the kitchen.

We planned on getting a dryer and a washing machine, but there’s only the two of us, and having both would be quite bulky. So, we decided to get a two-in-one washing machine instead – it’s compact, fits perfectly into the niche, and saves us money, so we have no complaints there. 

On changes made to the bedrooms

J: The bedrooms saw the least amount of updates. Aside from the nightstands, we also included wall TV consoles, to keep things as clean and organised as possible, and soundbar for surround sound. 

However, the beds we bought deviates slightly from the concept of the space. Most Zen-style beds are quite low to the ground, they aren’t the best options to sleep on since we’re in our 40s. 

We bought traditional beds instead since they’re higher, much easier to get in and out of, and have ample storage space built into them. 

Inside the master bedroom occupied by Anthony.

Our wardrobes are quite special. They’re all built-in and have tinted glass doors: you can see through them to an extent, but it’s not completely transparent, and there are no drawers inside. Instead, we used pole systems – since it’s modular, it offers increased flexibility and mobility and that makes it easier for us to pick out our clothes. 

Inside the junior master occupied by James. 

On the spare room

J: We decided to convert the spare room into an in-house gym because Anthony enjoys working out. It proved to be quite useful when all the gyms shut for the circuit breaker [laughs]. 

Much like other gyms, we put up a couple of mirrors to allow him to check his form. None of the equipment or mirrors have been fixed down, all of them can be carried out, which is great because there’s a good chance that we’ll need to convert the space for his younger brother; he might move in with us in the coming year of the year after that. 

 To sum up 

J: Anthony and I were looking for an interior designer who could work within our budget and respond to our queries swiftly – that’s when we contacted Design 4 Space through Qanvast and got to know Daniel. 

The first two weeks of the renovation were quite crucial for both of us. We sat down with Daniel to discuss the concept and nail down our ideas before we bought or sourced for the decor from Thailand. 

Much of the home’s decor and accessories were sourced from Thailand. 

Though we tried to pick out and finalise everything as much as possible, renovating a flat is never quite that linear and there are always changes in the design. To facilitate the discussion, the three of us created a WhatsApp group. We checked back with him almost every day, and he made sure to text back and keep us posted about the goings-on. 

In fact, he was the one who oversaw most of our renovation plans and helped us manage our budget by listing out the items that we needed to get, going so far as to tell us about the ones that we could do without. 

Whether it’s a resale unit or a brand new BTO home, I think it’s always important for owners to do their homework – find out where the light filters in, the surrounding amenities, do some research about the renovation materials – in order to build  a space that’s suitable for their needs. Daniel paid close attention to all these details and that made us feel that we made the right move in engaging his services. 

In all, I’d say that Design 4 Space did a really good job in designing a comfortable, Zen-like, and welcoming home that fit our own, and I’m really thankful for that. 

Now you can build your own perfect retreat too!

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