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A Peek Inside Yes 933 DJ Kun Hua’s $80K 5-Room HDB Reno Inspired By Retro Hong Kong Movies

8 March 2024 | BY

You can clearly see the impact Wong Kar Wai’s films have had on Kun Hua’s design of his retro nostalgic HDB flat.

kun hua retro hdb

In a city where themes of minimalism and modernity thrive in interior design, there exists a crew of homeowners who have chosen to dance to a different tune by embracing retro and nostalgic design. One of them is Yes 933 DJ Kun Hua. The radio jock wanted his 5-room HDB flat in Tanjong Pagar to embody the aesthetics of retro Hong Kong movies infused with the grit and glamour of Wong Kar Wai’s films.

After several interior designers presented him with ideas that were more “cha chaan teng” than what he had in mind, Kun Hua finally found a match with Leon Luo of Free Space Intent and his vision for the space. Armed with a renovation budget of $80K and a timeline of 16 weeks, here’s a peek inside Kun Hua’s retro HDB flat.

Infusing retro & mid-century modern vibes with the furniture & decor

karimoku sofas, danish lamp, and taobao sideboard in kun hua's retro hdb flatSofas from Karimoku ($1,800), custom-made sideboard from Taobao ($500).
Image credit: Free Space Intent

One of Kun Hua’s descriptors of his house was “retro rojak,” owing to a mixture of elements ranging from mid-century modern furniture from Japan to designer lamps from Scandinavia. Leon, however, described this project as “eclectic nostalgia” instead, as there were many features that took inspiration from Kun Hua’s childhood. 

There are also many posters of Wong Kar Wai’s films put up around the home as Kun Hua is a big fan of them, and this is his way of paying homage to the auteur.

custom-built shelf in kun hua's retro hdb flatImage credit: Free Space Intent

The crowning glory of the living and dining areas is the custom bookcase that divides the 2 zones. Made from plywood and finished with high-pressure laminates, the bookcase pulls double duty by housing Kun Hua’s collection of toys, gadgets, trophies, and books.

Leon also purposefully made it partially see-through to allow for visual interaction between the 2 spaces.

Finding special tiles for the nostalgic vibes in the kitchen, bedroom & bathroom

brown and woody kitchen with dark green tilesImage credit: Free Space Intent

Another aspect of interior design that defines a retro or nostalgic home is the tile selection, and this was one area that Kun Hua did not compromise on. Case in point: In an interview with 8days, he revealed that he spent 2-3 weeks searching for a tile that came in a specific shade of green for his kitchen’s backsplash.

After an arduous journey around Singapore and nearly resorting to importing the dark green tiles, his search came to an end in a small tile shop in Defu Lane.

bedroom with ventilation blocks and a translucent sliding doorImage credit: Free Space Intent

Another space in the home that sports a tile pattern that harkens back to a lost generation is the bedroom. Traditional ventilation blocks were used to build a wall between the bedroom and living room, a decision made by Leon as he wanted the tiles to be appreciated visually, so he placed them in a very prominent spot. 

But therein lies the problem of privacy. The ventilation blocks aren’t opaque, and to ensure that Kun Hua can have some seclusion in his room, Leon designed a sliding door made from a translucent fluted glass that closes from the inside. It also helps keep the cool air from the air-conditioning inside the room. 

kun hua's retro hdb flat with turquoise tilesImage credit: Free Space Intent

The bathroom also has half of its walls tiled with the same tiles as the backsplash, albeit in a lighter turquoise shade. We also love the subtle nod to nostalgia with the green bifold doors.

Commissioning custom metal grilles & saloon-style doors

saloon doors in turquoiseImage credit: Free Space Intent

We’ve seen an increase in the number of homeowners who’ve taken to customising their doors, Kun Hua included. But he didn’t only choose to etch his unit number on a grille; he commissioned custom saloon doors and a metal grille to evoke the aesthetics of yesteryear.

kun hua's retro hdb flat dining room and custom gate grilleImage credit: Free Space Intent

The metal gate was custom-designed by Leon and inspired by the retro grilles in Tiong Bahru. The patterns were chosen after 10 prototypes were designed and then they were welded from scratch. “A lot of money was spent on customisation, but I think it’s money well-spent,” Kun Hua told 8days.

Filling the spaces with vintage theatre seats & spaghetti chairs

Even though Leon tackled the majority of the design and renovation, it was Kun Hua and his eye for detail that handled the furnishing and decor. The DJ sourced plenty of retro knick-knacks, especially chairs, from all over Singapore and online. 

Some of the chairs he’s acquired include vintage theatre seats and a retro string chair that’s coloured like a pasar malam bag, if you know what we mean.

Yes 933FM DJ Kun Hua’s retro-inspired HDB flat

yes 933 dj kun hua's retro hdb flatImage credit: Free Space Intent

Retro and nostalgia can mean many things to different people, and for Kun Hua, it’s a cumulation of the things he grew up with and around. From posters of Wong Kar Wai’s works to the retro tiles he spent weeks hunting down, it’s evident that he fancies nostalgic vibes that capture a whimsical, nostalgic mood. Or in simpler terms, like an old Hong Kong cafe.

Take a peek inside other retro HDB flats:

Cover image credit: Free Space Intent

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