- Imran Ismail and Fadzeera Fadzully bought a 30-year-old public housing apartment in Singapore.
- The couple spent 720,000 Singapore dollars, or $535,000, on the 1,290-square-foot apartment.
- They turned the space into a cozy, industrial-style home.
In the year since Imran Ismail and Fadzeera Fadzully moved into their five-room apartment, they’ve transformed the space into an artsy, industrial-inspired home.
In Singapore, 80% of the resident population lives in public housing built by the Housing Development Board. These apartments are known as HDB flats.
Most young Singaporeans who are looking to settle down would apply for a Build-to-Order, or BTO, flat.
As such, the couple decided to look for an apartment on the open market instead.
“We just didn’t want to wait so long,” Imran, a 32-year-old architectural designer, told BI.
Looking for a space of their own
Finding their dream home on the open market was easier than they expected. All it took was about five viewings before they found their forever home.
The couple’s HDB flat is located in Bedok, a neighborhood in the eastern region of Singapore.
Location-wise, they wanted to be near their parents’ homes.
“Our parents live nearby — we’re actually right in the middle of our families,” Fadzeera, a 33-year-old social media manager, told BI.
Even though the 1,290-square-foot apartment was already 30 years old when the couple bought it, they could see the potential in the space.
“It wasn’t in a bad condition at all,” Imran said. “There were just a lot of things in the home, including features like a false ceiling and built-in cabinets, that we knew we wanted to remove.”
The layout of the apartment also appealed to the couple, since it was spacious with plenty of natural light.
Transforming a 30-year-old home
The couple paid 720,000 Singapore dollars, or about $535,000, for the apartment in late 2022.
Renovation took about four months, and the couple moved in in early 2023.
Rather than designing their house around a specific theme, their home is the product of the items and materials they both love.
“I think other people might have themes in mind, using words like ‘Scandinavian’ to describe their place, but we’ve never ever had that,” Fadzeera said. “We’ve built and designed this house around things that we see when we travel or things that we bring back and collected.”
What mattered the most was that their home felt lived in, she added.
“We wanted to leave the house in its purest form,” Imran said. “Like with some of the exposed walls, it wasn’t even planned. We just decided on the spot during the renovation to leave it as it was.”
Cozy, ever-changing interiors
The interiors of the house have evolved over the months. There’s a cabinet in the study that was only built earlier this year, Imran said: “Slowly, we just put more stuff in the house.”
That includes all the art in the dining area, all of which Imran painted.
“Whenever he makes a new painting, the wall will look different because we’ll shift things around to accommodate the new piece,” Fadzeera said.
Instead of hanging all the artwork on the walls, the couple decided to leave some of the pieces on the ground.
“I wanted it to be be more organic,” Imran said. “When you go to gallery, sometimes in the back room, this is how they put all the artwork too. They just lay it on the floor.”
Despite the exposed walls and poured concrete floor, the couple’s house feels cozy.
Carefully curated wood furniture creates a stark contrast against the cold concrete, and the little mementos displayed all around their home give a glimpse into the couple’s personalities.
“We just allowed the house to be something that it wants to be, instead of planning too much,” Imran said.
Getting the ‘construction site’ vision across
For Imran, one of the biggest challenges was getting Fadzeera to understand his design vision.
“At that time, I asked her if she ever envisioned her house looking like a construction site,” Imran said.
He wanted to use materials like stainless steel for the kitchen, but she was unsure how the final outcome would look.
“My fear is having materials like stainless steel, right? It’s like, ‘Oh, is it going to look like an abattoir?’ or ‘It’s going to look cold,'” she said. “He had to assure me that everything will look ok at the end of the day.”
Thankfully, it worked out like Imran promised.
“And now I cannot imagine a life without a stainless steel kitchen — it’s so easy to clean,” Fadzeera said.
Letting their personality shine through
Imran’s favorite part of the home is the office, while Fadzeera loves the dining area.
“I could have my friends over, to host and to play Dungeons and Dragons,” Fadzeera said. “So I’ve always liked this part and I think all the paintings add to the effect and makes it feel more mystical.”
There’s hardly anything they would like to change about their home — except maybe the couch.
“It’s the first thing we bought for the house. It looks cute, but it’s not comfy,” Fadzeera said.
The couple has a tip for those who want to renovate their homes: Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through.
“Sometimes it’s more meaningful to buy loose items instead of having built-in things,” Imran said. There’s the freedom to switch things up or move things around whenever inspiration strikes.
“Personally, we like to make things not look so perfect, that’s why there are a lot of exposed items around,” Imran said. “Just to interject some of our character into the home. Otherwise it’s too sterile and it looks like every other house.”
Have you recently built or renovated your dream home in Asia? If you’ve got a story to share, get in touch with me at email@example.com.