A Japanese-Inspired Flat in Singapore Embraces Flexible Spaces

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By Lucy Wang
A couple integrate clever space-saving techniques learned from Japanese micro homes via a flat renovation in Singapore.

In the high-density HDB public housing precinct of Sengkang, Lee Liting and Chow Khoon Toong of nitton architects have transformed a humble three-bedroom apartment into a stunning contemporary dwelling packed with functionality.

The married couple first knocked down all the non load-bearing walls, instantly making the 1,184-square-foot flat feel more airy and spacious.

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By removing the walls of a former bedroom, the architects have created a more spacious living room that is now flooded with natural light and views.

By removing the walls of a former bedroom, the architects have created a more spacious living room that is now flooded with natural light and views.

In the renovation process, the duo removed two of the former bedrooms to free up more space for the master bedroom and living room, while also carving out a new indoor garden and flexible guest room.

To free up space for a bathtub and separate shower stall in the master bathroom, the vanity and sink have been moved next to the full-height wardrobe that doubles as a divider.

To free up space for a bathtub and separate shower stall in the master bathroom, the vanity and sink have been moved next to the full-height wardrobe that doubles as a divider.

"We wanted to redefine high-density housing in the Singapore context and bring in more abstract, atmospheric qualities to the living environment," explains Lee Liting. 

"One inspiration is the ingenious micro houses found in Japan with their authentic living spaces that reflect the inhabitants’ lifestyles."

At the heart of the couple's redesign is the flexible guest room that can be adapted into a playroom, extra living space, or as another bedroom thanks to privacy curtains and two concealed built-in beds.

At the heart of the couple's redesign is the flexible guest room that can be adapted into a playroom, extra living space, or as another bedroom thanks to privacy curtains and two concealed built-in beds.

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The guest room features two concealed beds: a wall-bed stored upright and a pull-out bed beneath the indoor garden's raised timber deck. For privacy, the architects have added sliding wooden doors, as well as privacy curtains that can be drawn along a curved track that is recessed into the false ceiling.

The guest room features two concealed beds: a wall-bed stored upright and a pull-out bed beneath the indoor garden's raised timber deck. For privacy, the architects have added sliding wooden doors, as well as privacy curtains that can be drawn along a curved track that is recessed into the false ceiling.

When the architects replaced the existing yard space with a larger kitchen, they compensated the trade by adding greenery throughout the home. This included the new indoor garden that now doubles as a hallway connecting the master bedroom to the living spaces.

"It’s a key spatial reconfiguration that replaces the layout of having an internal corridor," says the couple.

The open-plan living room and dining area feature a cementitious floor covering from Ardex Pandomo, ERCO recessed LEDs, and EDL cabinetry laminates.

The open-plan living room and dining area feature a cementitious floor covering from Ardex Pandomo, ERCO recessed LEDs, and EDL cabinetry laminates.

"The open-plan layout that has been created is emotionally uplifting, a welcome retreat from the crowdedness of urban living," continues Lee and Chow. "Space starts to breathe and become alive, changing through the day and adjusting to different routine.

The home references Singapore's lush outdoors with an abundance of natural light, greenery, and timber.

The home references Singapore's lush outdoors with an abundance of natural light, greenery, and timber.

"With a purist approach toward architectural space-making, confines of an apartment give way to a liberating way of living."

A view looking toward the kitchen with the walk-in wardrobe - concealed door incorporating magazine display camouflaging its entryway - serving guest room to the right.

A view looking toward the kitchen with the walk-in wardrobe - concealed door incorporating magazine display camouflaging its entryway - serving guest room to the right.

A Japanese-Inspired Flat in Singapore Embraces Flexible Spaces - Photo 8 of 11 -
Top-mounted sliding timber doors close the guest room off from the living room for privacy. When not in use, the sliding doors stack flush against the right wall. 

Top-mounted sliding timber doors close the guest room off from the living room for privacy. When not in use, the sliding doors stack flush against the right wall. 

A look at the original floor plan.

A look at the original floor plan.

Here's the current floor plan.

Here's the current floor plan.

Project Credits: 

Architect of Record: nitton architects