It’s no secret that more than 90% of Singaporeans live in high-rise apartments where everything is crammed into a single floor. Instead of sticking to the status quo, this young couple took matters into their own hands and installed a loft into their top-floor condo to emulate the vibes of luxury penthouse living.
Christabel and Han Yi, alongside their interior designer Minyi from Fineline Design, spent over 1 year and more than $100K on their home renovation. With the finishing touches finally put in, here’s a peek into the couple’s cosy abode in Punggol.
Building a loft with a spiral staircase in a condo
The thought of creating a loft space was envisioned when Christabel and Han Yi first viewed this 2-room top-floor unit at this condo in Punggol. “Having somewhere cosy to retreat to is something that we both like,” Christabel told us over email. “The vertical separation between the loft and the main living area provides a greater sense of contrast so you really feel that you’re in a different space.”
With the seed planted, the next step was the execution. However, it proved to be a little trickier than anticipated. There was not enough space for a regular staircase, which left a spiral staircase as the only option for people to manoeuvre up to the loft. But that also begged its fair share of challenges.
“We spent quite some time getting the combination of the spiral staircase dimension with the loft before we could get a clearance from the management,” the home’s interior designer Minyi explained. Despite that, everyone involved in the project was still determined on making it happen.
The inspiration for the spiral staircase stemmed from the old shophouses in Joo Chiat that Christabel grew up around.
Another particularly time-consuming aspect of the loft was securing the permits. Building a loft bigger than 5sqm (~53sqft) would require the Building and Construction Authority’s (BCA) approval, a feat that would cost them an additional $10K.
To save time, money, and to not cut off the air and light offered by the double-volume ceilings, they decided to go with a 5sqm mezzanine. This only required a Professional Engineer’s technical specifications and approvals which were submitted to the condo’s strata for approval.
Construction of the loft taking place.
Image credit: @minyi.fds
After 3 months of constructing the steel skeleton and installing all the fittings, the loft was finally ready, and it was time to furnish the space.
The cosy loft area.
Aside from a chaise lounge from Taobao, the star of the loft would be the Modern Art Deco sideboard from Finn Avenue. But therein lies another problem: it couldn’t fit the width of the spiral staircase.
The Modern Art Deco sideboard from Finn Avenue ($999).
Getting it up via the spiral staircase was not an option, so the only other way was for it to go through the glass balustrades on the other side of the loft. “The whole process involved scaffolding, tall ladders, 4 strong men, and lots of sweat and strength,” Minyi shared.
But all the sweat was worth it, as now the couple has a little slice of heaven to retreat to whenever they want.
Mixing different themes like industrial, Art Deco and mid-modern
The loft is just one example of how the house beautifully combines a myriad of different interior design elements into one cohesive aesthetic. The matte black staircase evokes an industrial vibe that flows into Art Deco by way of the furnishings like the sideboard and the lamp. This design ethos is also present throughout the rest of the house.
“We initially started off with the discussion to have modern industrial and art deco elements to compliment the mood,” Minyi said about the ideas behind the design of the home. Mid-century modern elements were also mixed in to warm up the cold industrial look.
The living room was one such space where Minyi and Christabel executed their vision. The double-volume feature wall gave them the opportunity to use large format tiles from Hafary for a grander look, while the entertainment console’s Art Deco starbursts give it a pop of warm life.
Despite the south-facing windows, there is still plenty of natural light streaming into the living room, especially during golden hour.
Image credit: @chez_cateau
The hanging wagon wheel lights give the space an industrial vibe.
When dusk approaches, the tiles and the rustic wagon wheel lights from Light Makers ($150) also become a canvas for a picturesque backdrop reminiscent of The Warehouse Hotel.
Throughout the rest of the home, one motif stood out: arches.
From the entrance into the sleeping quarters to the fluted glass bedroom doors, the arched design is something that Christabel has loved for a long time.
The arcs on the doors are perfect semi-circles.
The fluted French glass panels that open up into the bedroom were originally designed to be rectangular and coated in black powder finishing. “However, after several reviews, we both found that black is too loud to be in the bedroom for mid-century, and the usual rectangular frames are too boring,” Minyi explained. They ended up with a warm, paperbark colour instead.
The reeded glass provides privacy in the bedroom while making the space feel larger than it is.
The infinity-edge mirror was framed with wood to make it stand out from the typical condo-esque mirrors.
The two bathrooms have also not been spared from the mix of interior design themes. In fact, Christabel had bought the bronze fixtures from Universal Union before she even laid eyes on the house with a plan to have them in the bathroom.
Bronze double hooks from Universal Union.
Cat-proofing and DIY
The condo isn’t just home to Christabel and Han Yi – they also have 3 rescued cats in their family. And to ensure that their cats’ curiosity doesn’t get the better of them, they installed invisible grills on the balcony with a width of 1.5cm. This allows the felines to still roam on the big balcony safely without blocking those precious top-floor views.
The couple also decided on installing Ziptrak outdoor blinds to keep the sun, heat, and rain at bay whenever they want to lounge on their spacious balcony. An aircon unit might also be added here in the future so that they can stay cool.
One of the most special pieces of furniture bought by the couple is this custom mosaic bench done by Gnarly.sg. The colours were inspired by a beach umbrella that Christabel fell in love with, and the final product looks right out of a Mediterranean beach house.
On the other side of the balcony is an extension of the wardrobe, but you’d never guess it was there thanks to the tropical wallpaper and the wood trims. This was an endeavour that Christabel and Han Yi embarked on themselves as a DIY project after attending a wallpaper workshop by Honpo.
The lush colours of the wallpaper combined with the wood trim lends a relaxing vibe to the otherwise sparse balcony.
Christabel spent around one week hand-painting this wall’s diamond patterns.
The wallpaper was not the only DIY project done. During her spare time after work, Christabel would paint the wall of the entryway in a diamond pattern with limewashed paint. This gives the area some subtle texture and oomph, as it would have looked too empty if it were just a plain wall, while a single framed painting would have also been too jarring.
Building a loft & juggling multiple interior design themes
Renovating a home is no small feat. Throw in multiple DIY projects, cat-proofing the balcony, and adding a whole loft space, it becomes a once-in-a-lifetime experience that not many homeowners in Singapore will get to embark on. But when you’re given the opportunity and the space to make these additions to your home, why not?
Over the course of 2021, Christabel, Han Yi, and Minyi had the luxury of time to find the right furnishings and fixtures for the home. “We wanted to reduce the risk of buyer’s regret by thinking long and hard about our design and decor choices,” Christabel explained about the extended timeline.
Still, it was not cheap to transform this 1,160sqft house. The renovations cost around $88,000 alone, not including another $43,800 for the Ziptrak, invisible grills, furniture, and appliances.
Despite not fitting into a single theme, Christabel and Han Yi are still very happy with the way things turned out. “The home reflects what we enjoy and how we live, which actually matches the way we are as individuals as well since we have very diverse interests,” Christabel said.
Get inspired by other home renovation projects:
- Taobao-filled resale flat in Hougang
- Japanese-inspired HDB terrace
- Mid-century modern Tiong Bahru walk-up
- Joo Chiat shophouse
Photography by Brad Lee.