9 HDB BTOs That Are So Japanese, They Could Pass Off As Tokyo Apartments

12 March 2024 | BY

If you yearn to bring a piece of your Japanese vacation back home, here are 9 Japanese-inspired HDB BTOs that you can take inspiration from.

Best Japanese HDB flat renovations

It’s an understatement to say that Singaporeans love Japan – the food, the culture, the everything. And with travelling to Japan being possible again, many of us have probably used our ALs and school holidays for a sweet reunion with the land of cherry blossoms.

Still, don’t forget what we’ve learnt from the past 2 years, which is that we can bring the vacation to our homes. With decor styles like Japandi and ryokan, you can certainly turn home into your own mini Tokyo away from the hustle of life.

Here are 9 HDB BTOs whose owners have understood the assignment and dressed their homes from drab to fab, Japanese-style.

1. MUJI showroom

genkan and dining area of muji homeImage credit: @muji_uchi

Singaporeans have mad love for MUJI’s aesthetic, so much so many have aspired to achieve the same look in their homes. This particular 5-room HDB resale flat has all the whistles and bells of a Japanese apartment, complete with a spacious genkan, MUJI’s muted colour palette, and even a full set of Takara Standard kitchen cabinets—a quintessential in Japanese homes.

both sides of kitchen cabinets of muji homeLeft to right: The flat’s pantry and wet kitchen.
Image credit: @muji_uchi

2. Super minimal

japaneseImage credit: The Minimalist Society

What some call spartan and plain, the Japanese call it Ma – literally translating to “negative space”, its deeper meaning is that every object has a purpose. More importantly, it’s a  concept that has flourished into the Japanese minimalist aesthetic that many of us have grown to love, such as the owners of this flat in Compassvale Bow.

japanese hdbImage adapted from: The Minimalist Society

In the spirit of minimalism, the owners have only included the most basic pieces of furniture, like a floor table, bookshelf, TV console and dining set all placed within the open-concept layout. It’s interesting, as the home gives ample space for the owners’ little daughter to run and frolic about, despite being just a 5-room flat.

japaneseImage adapted from: The Minimalist Society

The same thing goes for the kitchen. While its layout is more or less a typical one, the couple makes full use of the cupboards, so you don’t see any cooking appliances lying around on the table.

3. Zakka-inspired maximalist

japanese hdb
Image credit: @i_wanna_stay_home

Minimalism aside, hop across to the other end of the decor spectrum with this Zakka-inspired flat in Telok Blangah Crescent. Similar to the Jungalow style, Zakka is a concept about how the most mundane of objects can be elevated to contribute to the aesthetics of a space – unironically, it means that all of them can spark joy.

japanese hdb
Image credit: @i_wanna_stay_home

The owner goes all out in expressing his love for greenery, where his home is filled with an assortment of hanging plants placed against timber-stripped walls. One could say that the place is a mini farmhouse-indoor garden crossover.

Image credit: @i_wanna_stay_home 

Stepping into the kitchen area would feel like you’ve just entered Harajuku Street. Amidst lantern lights, the area is decked with magazines and other eclectic paraphernalia, including several banners and posters handmade by the owner himself, who teaches visual merchandising.

Image credit: @i_wanna_stay_home

You don’t need a wardrobe to store your clothes. Not just that, the owner displays all his belongings out in the open, only using rattan baskets to compartmentalise the space, in line with the Zakka inspiration that characterises his decor style.

4. Modern Japandi

japanese hdbImage credit: Chalk Architects

At first glance, Bishan may just look like one of Singapore’s oldest HDB estates. Take a walk through the corridors, though, and you’ll see pockets of beautifully modern homes that go beyond its passage in time – such as this flat, otherwise known as Home+Work.

japaneseImage credit: Chalk Architects

With an inspiration that’s unmistakably Japanese, the shoji-inspired motif is seen all across the home through the cabinets, doors and feature walls that separate the rooms from each other.

japaneseImage credit: Chalk Architects

Beige rules the game in the master bedroom, where you see different light shades across the vanity set, the sliding doors, marble floors, and even the stylish Stool 35 ($58) made by unique lifestyle brand PAPERplain MARKET.

5. Chashitsu tatami room with built-in mahjong table

Image credit: D5 Studio Image

Raw is pure, and there are some people who believe that the best looks are fully authentic with minimal secondary influences.

Image credit: D5 Studio Image

In this flat in Upper Serangoon View, the owners have brought forth the full works of the ryokan decor in the living room, with shoji window panels and full-length sliding doors. It’s as if you have a mini hotel room right in your house, where you can check in as and when you feel like having a holiday.

japanese-inspiredImage credit: D5 Studio Image

While the kitchen and bedroom may be relatively narrow, the use of light wood expands and opens up the space. There’s even a one-step elevated frame in the master that adds to the tatami-style vibe in the room.

6. Muji minimalist

Image credit: D5 Studio Image

Meshing old and new together is this 3-bedroom flat in Kallang Trivista designed by D5 Studio Image. Though the owners’ love the traditional ryokan look typically seen in onsen spas and cosy restaurants, they wanted to infuse a modern and minimalist twist to their own home.

japanese-inspiredImage adapted from: D5 Studio Image

The endearing tatami mat is ingeniously found in the WFH area, propped up by a wooden elevated frame so that a zaisu, a Japanese floor chair, can be used. The space plays around with wood well, using Venetian blinds to welcome natural light into the home, whose lightly wooden textures blend seamlessly with the surrounding carpentry.

7. Rustic eclectic 

Image credit: D5 Studio Image

As iconic as its cities are, Japan has some pretty rural prefectures to boast about. Taking inspiration from the village homes in Shirakawa-go in Gifu prefecture, this 3-room flat in Tampines Street 61 combines traditional Japanese home features together with other knick-knacks from around the world to reflect the owners’ penchant for travelling.

Image credit: D5 Studio Image

The owners had the walls of one of the bedrooms hacked away so that the space can merge with the living area, generating an open-concept look that instantly makes the home feel bigger.

japanese-inspiredImage adapted from: D5 Studio Image

Not only does the use of warm wood light up the space, it makes the home look a bit like a basement garage, especially in the study room where the owners use a peg board to hang all their belongings. 

8. Zen garden aesthetic

japanese-inspiredImage credit: Studio Super Safari

The zen aesthetic blazes the court at this 4-room BTO flat in Whampoa

japanese-inspiredImage credit: Studio Super Safari

Dark and muted wooden panels line the corridor into the living area where the mini timber pavilion is, making you feel like you’re walking into a cosy tea house.

japanese-inspiredImage adapted from: Studio Super Safari

Designed by Studio Super Safari, this flat incorporates the smallest trinkets of elements that resemble the aesthetics found in Kyoto temples, such as this mini stone sculpture in the living area, as well as the bamboo sticks helmed up beside the master bed.

9. Tokyo apartment chic with genkan entryway

small genkan entryway in modern japanese homeImage credit: Daniel Koh/The Interior Lab

Tokyo apartments are infamously small, but they’re not too far off from our HDBs in terms of size. This 3-room HDB flat in Costa Ris designed by Huang Min of The Interior Lab embodies Japanese living with little incorporated elements such as their thoughtful genkan entryway, and a living room of fluted panels and wooden furniture.

fluted panels and a hidden door Image credit: Daniel Koh/The Interior Lab

Things are kept fairly simple in the bedroom as well, where MUJI-esque furniture gives the room functionality and clean, crisp lines. minimalist muji bedroomImage credit: Daniel Koh/The Interior Lab

Japanese-inspired HDB flat renovations

Our homes are an extension of ourselves, and we’re sure to bring a slice of who we are to the drawing table when it comes to designing our abode. 

Things are no different to these HDB BTO homeowners, who profess their soft spot for Japan by bringing in a wift of its culture to their spaces, such as the ryokans in Kinosaki, the refreshing minimalism of MUJI design, or even a hybrid of old and new. They may not breathe the same air as Japan, but they can surely live it in the comforts of their homes.

For more Japanese-inspired homes:

Cover image adapted from: Studio Super Safari, @i_wanna_stay_home, D5 Studio Image
This article was originally written on 20th July 2022 by Stephanie Long, and updated by Kimberly Wong on 12th March 2024.

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