There’s no denying the old-world charm that the exclusive black-and-white bungalows in Singapore exude, which is why you’ll find so many people fawning over their dreamy exteriors. Fortunately, we were recently granted the golden opportunity to peek into one of them.
As the CEO of Make Room, an interior design studio, Barbara’s artistic prowess is on full display within the confines of her black-and-white home, where she has curated a captivating blend of functionality and style over the past 7 years.
Here’s what we loved about her rental home transformation:
We chanced upon this beautiful black-and-white bungalow 🤩 But unlike most homes, their living & dining area is outdoors! Stay tuned for part 2 as we tour around Level 2 ✌🏻~ 🔗link in bio for the full feature 🔗 #sghome #hometour #tiktoksg #sginterior #blackandwhitehome #semidetached
Transforming her patio into the living & dining room
The most interesting thing that you’ll notice the minute you step past the wrought iron gate of Barbara’s home is an outdoor living and dining area sheltered by a protective metal awning.
When questioned about the bold move to create a habitable space out of their patio, Barbara explained that it was a choice born out of necessity. Despite being a semi-detached home with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms with a sprawling lawn and pool; the actual livable space of the home was a tad too small to accommodate her family of 5.
Homeowners would baulk at the idea of exposing their precious furniture to the elements – relentless heat, humidity and occasional torrential rainfall; but Barbara dove head-first into furnishing the space with these considerations in mind.
And as a homeowner myself, I couldn’t resist asking about the practicalities of the grand design. Her guiding principle? Investing in resilient furniture for outdoors while opting for hardy pieces able to withstand heavy usage.
Barbara’s decisions weren’t solely influenced by weather concerns. She aimed for a spacious yet cosy atmosphere, envisioning it as an ideal setting for family movie nights and gatherings. With 3 growing children, a dog, and 2 cats; factors that might limit others in their decorating choices, Barbara remained unfazed. Her vision included a dining area accommodating both daily meals and special occasions with friends and family.
She was well aware that her “outdoor furniture” would likely have shorter metaphorical lifespans as compared to their indoor counterparts, but it was something she was willing to work around to the extra space acquired.
Her living room sports a custom upholstered IKEA GRONLIND sofa and LOHALS jute rug that can easily be replaced when it does give way from all that wear and tear.
This is exactly why you’ll find elements of rattan, solid wood, canvas and even jute in this area, materials all known for their durability. Sustainability also had a large part to play, with Barbara choosing to invest in purchases that would last her a lifetime with a little sanding and revarnishing or reupholstering.
This vintage Victorian armchair, a treasured inheritance from Barbara’s grandmother for 13 years, has seen a couple of different looks thanks to some upholstering changes.
Creating an intimate little library and work-from-home corner
With the main living spaces sorted, Barbara then went ahead to convert her primary living room into a library that also doubles up as a home office and study for her children.
The solution to small rooms is to use a liberal amount of neutrals, add mirrors, and minimise all visible clutter to give the illusion of space; but Barbara ran in the complete opposite direction. She doused the whole room in a rich, burgundy colour, creating what she terms as a “cocoon” that envelopes you and gives you this classic, old-world ambiance and the unparalleled feeling of being in a luxurious, intimate space.
In another bold rental move, she invested in built-in carpentry to triple her current storage space and help her achieve the look she was going for. Her floor-to-ceiling bookcase, of course, is the prime exhibit, wrapping around the room’s existing windows cleverly to form a little study nook.
Her chaise was an item that she picked off the street and gave a new lease of life with a fur transformation.
“We have plans to live in this home for a long time, and it’s very easy to rip all of it out and paint it again.” She did however, sacrifice aesthetics for practicality when it came to the frames of her windows, her doors, and the floor tiles; which she details as a nightmare to restore to its original white colour.
Partitioning the master bedroom into 2 separate rooms for her children
With 3 growing children in the mix, Barbara made the decision to partition her original master bedroom into 2 smaller rooms to house her son, Yop, and youngest daughter, Pippa. Gypsum drywall was used to create a small corridor between the two rooms to give her children separate entrances to their rooms for privacy, as well as to partition the two rooms.
Contrasting neon lights from Hay and ombre wallpaper were used to create a fun and exciting vibe in what would otherwise be a rather claustrophobia-inducing space.
Her son’s room.
These two rooms are proof enough small rooms have so much potential – all you need is a little creativity and a good contractor. Both were designed with each child’s preferences and lifestyle in mind. Both rooms feature an ample amount of built-in storage space and inventive display nooks for her son and a cubby-hole vanity and trundle bed for her daughter.
Her youngest daughter’s room.
She made sure to factor in enough space for a clever little vanity station for her daughter as well.
A reinvented Japandi master bedroom
For Barbara, going big with the carpentry is a decision she has never regretted since each and every small space in her home has become so much more functional and aesthetic without too many pieces of loose furniture in the way.
Over in the new master bedroom, it’s all things Scandi and neutral to create a quiet sanctuary for Barbara and her husband to wind down after a long, busy day. Beyond replacing the existing wardrobe doors with shaker-style wardrobe doors, Barbara also went further to create a wraparound cupboard that pulls double duty as extra storage and a bed niche that removes the need for additional bedside tables.
This $3k marble study table from Crate & Barrel is Barbara’s biggest furniture splurge since moving in.
Inside a dreamy colonial black & white semi-detached house in Singapore
If there’s anything to be learnt from Barbara’s amazing rental home transformation, it’s that if there’s a will – and a budget for carpentry – there definitely is a way. You just have to go into the reno knowing that one day you might have to rip everything out and restore the home to its original condition.
A treehouse on the property that Barbara’s husband fashioned from old, discarded driftwood.
But if you’re dead set on renting for a long period of time, then as Barbara would say: it’s all worth it. After all, your home is your safest sanctuary, so it sure helps that it looks like one.
Read more of our other rental stories here:
- Turning a 3-room rental HDB into a chic bachelorette pad
- Inside a super stylish $7K/month rental condo
- How to decorate your rental apartment
Photography by Nicole Ang.
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