Featured Homes

This 5-Room HDB In Bishan Has A Custom Book Wall, Almost Looks Like A Section In Kinokuniya

14 July 2023 | BY

Is this what book heaven looks like?

Bishan HDB Home Library - cover

For many avid bookworms, having a home library is the ultimate dream. That’s why, as fellow bibliophiles, food editor Joy Fang’s home library was an object of envy for us at Uchify. Also known as @mylifeoftext on Instagram, Joy is a bibliophile who regularly shares her latest reads with her followers. 

As her Instagram handle clearly indicates, she’s someone who has dedicated a significant part of her life to text. Owning a home library has long been a dream of hers, and it was first materialised when Joy and her husband moved into their first marital home, a 4-room BTO in Yishun. As newlyweds, the thrifty couple created a home library with the power of Taobao and a strong Wi-Fi connection.

mylifeoftext joy fang home libraryTheir old 4-room BTO in Yishun, feat. their adopted dog Krispy.
Image credit: Joy Fang

Fast forward to a few years later, when the birth of her second child prompted the family to move to a bigger abode – a 5-room resale HDB flat in Bishan measuring 121sqm. With it came the opportunity to build the home library that they’ve been wanting for a long time.

Custom-made home library in a 5-room Bishan resale HDB

“My husband and I are avid readers and we’ve always wanted to have a floor-to-ceiling library in our home. When we moved into our first home, we honestly couldn’t afford such an indulgence, especially as a young, newly-married couple,” said Joy. “This time, when we moved, we were determined to make our dream come true.”

Bishan HDB Home Library - before moving inImage credit: Joy Fang

To create their dream home library, they engaged a contractor who built floor-to-ceiling shelves according to their specifications. In order to have the shelves span an entire wall, the door to their children’s playroom – originally situated somewhere in the middle – was shifted all the way to the left.

Everything was made-to-order, down to the choice of laminate. “We prefer a more earthy, cosy feel, which is why we chose an oak laminate. It was nice having full control,” said Joy. 

Process of creating a custom book wall

According to Joy, it took slightly over two months to bring the custom book wall to life. 

“My husband created a 3D rendering of the space to plan how many shelves we wanted as well as what colours would fit,” she told us. 

When the couple couldn’t pick between brown and white for the shelves, Joy took to Instagram to poll her followers. After all, who better to seek advice about bookshelves than the Bookstagram community?

Bishan HDB Home Library - book wall

If you’re someone who loves collecting books – or any collectibles, for that matter – you’ll know that keeping things organised is a constant struggle. To create a cohesive look, the couple decided to arrange their book collection according to colours. 

“While we used to do it alphabetically, we decided to create a rainbow bookshelf with book covers – a pretty popular trend, I’ve been told.”

The bottom row of the book wall consists of cupboards where everyday items, including work folders and miscellaneous knick-knacks, can be stored away without disturbing the Instagrammable look of the shelves.

Arched niche filled with mementos

Bishan HDB Home Library - arched niche

Another point of pride in the house is the arched niche that welcomes you before you step into the living room. 

According to Joy, it was “constructed because there was a structural pillar that could not be removed.”

“Instead of [leaving it as] an eyesore, we thought we could have a recessed arch to beautify it. I love it because it’s something that catches one’s eye when you enter our home.”

Bishan HDB Home Library - renovation structural pillarSupport pillar that couldn’t be knocked down.
Image credit: Joy Fang

“It’s filled with precious mementos and paintings, some of my rare books, and is also a mini memorial to loved ones who have left us.”

Even though we only stayed for a short while, the couple’s sentimentality and passion for their hobbies were abundantly clear. Besides the arched niche and book wall, collectibles were also displayed in several other areas of the house.

Bishan HDB Home Library - lego figurines

Two frames filled with tiny LEGO figurines are flanked by windows that look out to the quiet neighbourhood. It’s a work in progress, we hear, but it was already impressive enough to us. In another corner, a handmade display case upcycled from a tire and acrylic boards houses a collection of model cars and sits proudly next to a fish tank.

Books collected over the years

As fellow bookworms, we had to get recommendations on where to source for books. “Our books come from everywhere, from the now-defunct Book Depository to Times Bookstore, Kinokuniya, Littered With Books, Thryft, airport bookstores, and second-hand bookstores,” said Joy. 

Bishan HDB Home Library - vintage booksRare books collected over the years.
Image credit: Joy Fang

“Quite a few of my vintage books are from GOHD Books and flea markets in Europe. My precious copy of One Day by David Nicholls – my all-time favourite book – was from Eslite in Taipei.” 

To satisfy our own curiosity even further, we wanted to know what they thought of e-readers such as Kindle. 

“Actually, my husband and I both have a Kobo each, which we consider one of our best buys! I really like the convenience of having an e-reader. That said, nothing beats the feel and smell of a physical book, and to me, one doesn’t have to replace the other. Sometimes, I buy the physical book after reading the digital version!”

A neutral colour palette with gold fixtures to anchor the look

Bishan HDB Home Library - dining are

Despite having so many colourful collectibles, books, and mementos in the house, the place remains neat and has a calm yet cheerful atmosphere. 

To achieve that, they made use of an earthy colour palette that’s complemented by wood and rattan elements, as well as gold fixtures and handles. This helps maintain a sense of balance and cohesion, anchoring the overall aesthetic so that it doesn’t veer into maximalist territory.

Tiny plant corner in the kitchen

mylifeoftext plant cornerImage credit: @mylifeoftext

Followers of @mylifeoftext on Instagram will know that she now has a tiny plant corner in her kitchen. “We used to have a ton of plants outside our old place and we were struggling to find a spot to house all of them in our new home. The spot near the kitchen window proved useful as it had light,” said Joy.

“We had some spare planks we got from Taobao, which we repurposed as shelves for the plants. This decision was also born out of practicality – we had to keep [the plants] out of reach from our young children.”

Minimalist grey kitchen with gold fixtures and plant corner

The plant corner brightens up the minimalist kitchen, which was so tidy that it would make Marie Kondo proud. Our eyes were drawn to the wooden fan mounted on the wall. To our pleasant surprise, Joy revealed that it was purchased from Shopee – who knew they had such unique finds? May our credit cards forgive us for what we’re about to do next.

On creating an environment safe for their children and pet

Bishan HDB Home Library - living room

While photographing Joy’s beautiful home, we befriended their pet dog, Krispy, who was more than happy to keep us company. Naturally, we wanted to know how they made sure that their home was safe for their growing kids and pet.

arched wall niche army memorabilia

“In our first home, we had a pretty open concept – open shelves, open kitchen, minimal carpentry and cabinets, many rugs and more. While pretty, we soon found out that this was not conducive,” she said. “Children are grabby and we had many exposed items that were constantly being pulled or in danger of getting shattered.”

“Our rugs were constantly getting dirty quickly with crumbs and fur, too, and we had to toss them,” she added.

mylifeoftext playroomThe children’s playroom.

Moving to their new place gave them the opportunity to make improvements. “In this new home, we decided to correct our mistakes by having sufficient storage in the kitchen and in the living room, and ensured that our cabinets had doors and drawers to conceal odds and ends,” said Joy.

“We also wanted more space for the kids and dog, so we knocked down one of the rooms to create a much bigger living and dining space. I still love my rugs, so I went with just one short-fur rug in the living room.”

Lessons learnt from the renovation process

mylifeoftext yishun bto home libraryClearing out the original home library in their first apartment.
Image credit: @mylifeoftext

Those weren’t the only lessons learnt. The couple explained that there were a few other things that they would have done differently.

“We gave away (or sold for cheap) quite a bit of our books during the moving out process, which is something I regret because we soon realised that our new shelves were bigger and roomier than we expected. We ended up only filling up two columns out of five, which really astonished us considering our previous bookshelf was bursting at the seams!”

Bishan HDB Home Library - biscuit tin tissue box and mini gachaponAdorable knick-knacks behind the TV console.

Engaging a contractor directly, rather than going with an interior designer, wasn’t a cakewalk either. 

“You’d have to make all the decisions yourself and trust your instincts. We had to ensure that the shade we chose fit with everything else, from the floor to the tables and cabinets, and honestly, you won’t really be able to assess the whole look until things have been installed. It’s quite hard to really visualise things from little samples.”

“We’ve been really lucky that our choices worked out – except for one occasion when we chose what we thought was a pastel pink wall colour for our bedroom, but turned out to be neon pink.” Or perhaps they were simply ahead of the curve, given the current pop culture obsession with all things Barbiecore.

5-room Bishan HDB home library is a literary haven

Joy left us with one last piece of advice: “Invest in a good bookshelf that can accommodate all your books and collection as it grows. A custom-made bookshelf is pricey, so start saving!”

So if you’re thinking of creating your own home library, you know what to do. In the meantime, why not take a look at the other envy-inducing home libraries that we’ve covered previously?

For more featured homes:

Cover image adapted from: Uchify

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