It’s now commonplace to see homeowners proudly sharing their Taobao hauls on their Instagram feeds. But instead of limiting themselves to only cute ceramic mugs, this couple furnished almost the entirety of their home solely from the e-commerce giant.
Kaylen and Yon Jun, also known as @houseofthebbs on Instagram, recently gave us a sneak peek into their spacious resale HDB in Hougang and spilled the tea on how they navigated Taobao and found the best furniture and accessories for their home.
Making sure the house had good Feng Shui
The original layout of the executive apartment.
Image credit: Kaylen & Yon Jun
After 7 house viewings, Kaylen and Yon Jun finally found the one in the form of an executive apartment located in the Hougang heartlands. To be safe, they brought along their Feng Shui Master for their second viewing in hopes of getting the unit’s Feng Shui approved. The first stamp of approval was ensuring that the unit was above the 6th floor – and it was.
The Feng Shui Master then compared the couple’s Chinese birth charts to the location and orientation of the house and determined that it’s fortuitous for them. With all that sorted out, they swiftly made an offer on the house which was similarly quickly accepted by the sellers.
Rolling pineapples into a new home can be traced back to Hokkien customs as a metaphor for rolling good luck into a new place.
Image credit: @houseofthebbs
With the paperwork signed and the keys in hand, the next step before kicking off renovations was to bring forth prosperity with the Pineapple Ceremony. According to Kaylen and Yon Jun’s feng shui master, the ceremony doesn’t have any ties back to feng shui. “She said since it’s just tradition we should do what makes us happy,” the couple shared on Instagram.
The Feng Shui Master also emphasised more on positioning and placement of furniture instead of buying material goods to improve the house. Some tips she gave to the couple include:
- Positioning the bed to not face any doors or windows
- Mirrors should not face any doors or windows
- Where to place the stove, sink, sofa, and working areas
The blessings of the Feng Shui master were not just for the sake of the new homeowners, but also for Kaylen’s mother. “My mum is very superstitious and I just knew I couldn’t convince her of many home design decisions without the weight of [a] FSM’s words,” she said on another Instagram post.
“It just wouldn’t be worth [it when] she comes over and feels like the house is lesser than it is to us.”
Renovating the house while retaining character
The living area had a tonne of space to play with, featuring the pineapples from the ceremony.
Image credit: @houseofthebbs
With all that out of the way, it’s time to get to the renovation. The executive apartment used to house a multi-generational family of 7 people with 4 separate bedrooms. To make a huge 1,517sqft apartment look cosy for a couple of two, they engaged Melissa from the interior design studio Ethereall to aid them with the house transformation.
After 7 months and a $64,000 renovation job – not including the cost of the furnishings – the couple moved into their forever home late last year with their crates of Taobao buys coming through the doors shortly after.
Scouring Taobao for all the furniture
Upon first glance, it’s clear that there is a mishmash of themes happening. Rather than stick to only Japandi or mid-century modern, each corner of the house has its own vibe and character that somehow came together without making the apartment look chaotic.
Apart from the appliances – which were bought in Singapore for the warranty – the rest of the furniture was all procured from Taobao. Every time I pointed to something new and asked “Is this from Taobao?” the answer would always be yes.
I then come to find out that there’s a rigorous selection process for Kaylen and Yon Jun’s Taobao haul. Kaylen would scour the depths of the e-commerce site, shortlisting products that have at least 100 reviews. Yon Jun will then be the one who makes the final call after deliberating if it’s a want or a need.
When you enter the home, you’ll come across the shoe cabinet next to the main door. The pastel graphics on the wall gives off contemporary yet modern abstract vibes, and we love how there’s also a plush seat so no one has to struggle to put on their shoes.
Nearby in the foyer is the chic entry table. It’s here where we start to see the “mishmash of themes” that Kaylen told us about. While the table extends the contemporary vibes, the arched mirror and golden pumpkin-shaped lights belong more to the Palladian architectural family that dominated the 16th century.
Almost everything in this picture – save for the TV and ceiling fan – was bought off Taobao.
The foyer then opens up into the spacious living room that went through a complete makeover. Ethereall suggested giving the balcony area an arch to strengthen the overall aesthetic of the space.
Coupled with the aforementioned mirror in the foyer, the arch motif in the home is no longer just a random thought, but something premeditated. There’s also a nicer transition when entering the balcony that has its own identity.
One thing I was curious about was the sofa (¥3348, ~S$688). Yes, it was bought off Taobao. And no, the couple didn’t get to try out its comfort before buying it. So why did they choose to get a big-ticket item like that online?
“We went to many furniture stores and the prices were really jarring,” Kaylen said. “After we browsed through Taobao, [buying a sofa in Singapore] didn’t feel worth it and many of the designs are similar.” She was also empowered by her fellow Taobao enthusiasts and their success stories shared in a Facebook group dedicated to their past time.
The dining table is one of the couple’s favourite pieces of furniture.
Next to the living room is the pièce de résistance of the house: the dining table. In a similar fashion to the entry table, it has 2 strong column legs holding up a solid piece of wood. But instead of picking out one of the predetermined options, Kaylen contacted the sellers for a customised colour to better suit their interior design.
It’s so big that it couldn’t even fit in the lift, so Yon Jun rallied his friends to help him carry the parts up multiple flights of stairs.
When the couple’s friends come over, they bust out these transparent jelly foldable chairs (¥140, S$28) that are reminiscent of the original iMac’s array of colours. Otherwise, they are kept safely in a corner so that their robot vacuum cleaner doesn’t get stuck between the legs.
To not make the space seem too sparse, they’ve also decided to place a sturdy teak cabinet behind the dining table. It also serves as a platform to display Yon Jun’s ceremonial sword from his time in the Singapore Armed Forces.
The partition divider is one of Yon Jun’s favourite purchases off Taobao.
Of course, some of the pieces also have practical, Feng Shui purposes. Case in point: this partition that acts as a divider between the bed and the bathroom door in the master suite.
The Feng Shui master had cautioned the couple to not position the bed to face any doors or windows, but that proved to be a little tricky with the default configuration of the room. To get around this conundrum in an affordable manner, Yon Jun found an auspicious-looking partition to act as a stopgap solution so technically the master bed has no line of sight to any doors.
That’s not to say that the partition is blocking anything unsightly in the bathroom. Peep inside the master bathroom and you’ll be greeted with an ornate porcelain sink (¥716, ~S$147) with all the oriental motifs.
There is also a modern smart mirror with a lit-up border for better bathroom selfies. Thankfully, it’s not just the master bathroom that has all the pleasing aesthetics.
Another arch makes an appearance in the mirror in the guest bathroom.
Unlike plenty of guest bathrooms which are designed as an afterthought, Kaylen and Yon Jun have taken the time to ensure that their second toilet also had its own character. The area is cleanly divided into two with the different tiling works, and there’s a certain charm to the mixture of blue and yellow with the monochromatic fittings.
The couple also chose to go with traditional vents, literally, from a local tiling supplier An Huat Trading. Alas, something that did not come from the cornucopia that is Taobao.
Furnishing an executive apartment in Hougang with Taobao
Furnishing a home today is not cheap. With prices of everything soaring – including shipping fees – the cost of making a house a home can quickly add up, especially if you have a big apartment like Kaylen and Yon Jun’s. Thankfully, there is always the trusty Taobao catalogue that homeowners can count on to spend within their means.
Instead of bursting their furnishing budget, the couple estimate their furnishing costs at around $10,000-$15,000, saving the most with the big ticket items like the couch and the dining table.
But there’s still more to be done. They have yet to find a suitable bedframe for their master suite, and 2 rooms – a spare bedroom and a study – are still a work in progress. However, we have no doubt that their expertise of Taobao will come in handy yet again.
Read other home renovation articles:
- How to save money on renovation
- Home styling services in Singapore
- Feng shui tips to follow
- HDB-approved contractors
Photography by Clement Sim.