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This Bras Basah HDB Flat Has A Super Chill Tatami Platform Living Room & Zen Pebble Garden

9 November 2023 | BY

This unique home is rich in thoughtfully curated design features, with interconnected rooms and even works of art incorporated into the space.

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While most homeowners approach their IDs with a mood board or theme, this particular Singapore homeowner went in with a living philosophy. His request? To incorporate elements of Japanese minimalism into his home and carve out a zen haven for both rest and play. And dare we say the results are quite stunning.

We dive into the $150K renovation by PI Architects to highlight all the intricacies of this gem of a flat.

Hand-painted Japanese fusuma screens to split living area from home gym

PaintingImage credit: Finbarr Fallon

Shoji screen doors are a quintessential feature in most Japanese-inspired Singapore homes, but this Bras Basah HDB flat takes things one level further with these wide fusuma doors that have been handpainted by two prominent artists.

In fact, the details on the fusuma doors are done by two prominent artists; the poem was written by local calligrapher Wu Sheng Ping, whereas the painting itself required Japanese artist Kimata Yasunori to be specially flown in to add this vitally Japanese to complete the composition so vital to this home.

Japanese HDB 3Image credit: Finbarr Fallon

The client happened to be a hobby gymnast, and so a quarter of the home is dedicated to the creation of a gym. Here, the spring platform flooring is cleverly concealed by artificial turfing. The mirrors, besides serving as a means for form spotting, also faces the living room to help enhance the sense of space when the screen doors are open.

Japanese HDB 4Image credit: Finbarr Fallon

On the other side of the fusuma screen is another painting, this time of a whale frozen in the act of swimming.

Japanese HDB 5Image credit: Finbarr Fallon

With the tone set by this work of art, the rest of the home is similarly minimalist. It is interesting to note that, in a departure from most minimalist design sensibilities where items are hidden away in drawers and cabinets to achieve the minimalist look, all of the built-in features here are meant to publicly display the homeowner’s personal items.

The homeowner had wanted this feature in order to keep an accurate account of his items and, in almost Marie Kondo fashion, keep only the items he uses. 

The rawness and simple nature of the design direction also manifests in other built-in features such as the concrete table table in the living room. In fact, the entire house, from the walls to the ceilings, are done with textured paint.

Raised tatami platform “bedroom”

Japanese HDB 6Image credit: Finbarr Fallon

In this flat, the original bedrooms have actually been redesigned for other purposes, such as a gym and library. Instead, the living room has a raised platform installed, where they’ve made a tatami sleeping area which, in Japanese tradition, comes complete with a roll-up futon. 

This bedroom is envisioned as the central space by which all other rooms revolve around. From here, the kitchen, library and living room are directly connected to it, with the gym very much visible through both glass windows and the fusuma doors when they are open. 

Japanese HDB 7Image credit: Finbarr Fallon

The bedroom with its simple and minimalist design, is a multifunctional space that can be used for entertaining guests and a home office. The little details such as the granite steps, rice paper lamps and the calligraphy hung on the wall help to further enhance the Japanese feel of the place.

Japanese zen garden library

Zen GardenImage credit: Finbarr Fallon


Japanese HDB 9Image credit: Finbarr Fallon

Contrasting the active lifestyle of the gym is the much calmer one in the library. This is arguably the most impressive part of the home, with shoji doors hiding the bookshelves and a Japanese dry garden (karesansui) being inside this space. All of these create a serene and highly unique sanctuary that few would expect to see in a HDB flat. 

The larger rocks themselves were hand-picked by the design team and the client, before being carefully placed to achieve the zen aesthetic.

Japanese HDB 10Image credit: Finbarr Fallon

A water feature in the corner, traditionally called the shishi-odoshi, is also a feature that was created specifically for this room.

Japanese HDB 11Image credit: Finbarr Fallon

The plentiful windows allow you a view of other rooms in the home such as the kitchen and bedroom area, functioning almost like little paintings whilst also providing visual depth to the library. Similarly, a mirror is also placed here to help create a sense of space and arguably enhance the surreal quality of this room. 

Japanese HDB 12Image credit: Finbarr Fallon

Moss accent wall in the kitchen

Japanese HDB 13Image credit: Finbarr Fallon

The kitchen is minimalist, with very little in the way of storage space. Aside from the stylistic choices like the concrete kitchen counter and the exposed piping, a key feature of this kitchen is, ironically enough, a lack of kitchen appliances.

Japanese HDB 14Image credit: Finbarr Fallon

This is because the client, living in the food paradise that is the Bras Basah area, felt no real need to do actual cooking of his own. This also meant that, despite being connected to the living room, there is no need for partitions intended to keep the smoke and oils away from the rest of the house. 

NorenImage credit: Finbarr Fallon

In its place is a lovely, largely decorative noren curtain door that is evocative of japanese restaurants.

Japanese HDB 16Image credit: Finbarr Fallon

Another nice addition here is the installation of the moss wall from Mosscape. Not only does it provide a lovely splash of colour in the otherwise neutral palette of the area, it also turns the boring rubbish chute stack into a feature.

An onsen with a view

OnsenImage credit: Finbarr Fallon

The shower area was converted into an onsen tub that was cast in minimalist granolithic finish. The bathtub is visually connected to the library via a tall and narrow window, with the option to preserve privacy through the use of a bamboo blind. Additionally, this tub, being built outwards into the kitchen space, allows for full-length soaking. 

This also allows the homeowner a view of the city through the kitchen window, emulating the Japanese tradition of onsens often being designed to allow you to admire the surrounding scenery as you soak.

A super chill Japanese-inspired zen HDB in Bras Basah

Japanese HDB 18Image credit: Finbarr Fallon

The inconspicuous nature of its front door belies the innovative use of space and incredible detail involved in the renovation of this HDB flat. The idea of seeing a Japanese dry garden inside of your neighbourhood apartment is certainly one that will leave a lasting impression.

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Cover image adapted from: Finbarr Fallon

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