A millennial couple in Singapore bought a 30-year-old public housing apartment for $535,000. They turned it into an artsy, industrial-style home.

Date:

  • 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.

The couple's HDB block.

The couple’s apartment block.
Amanda Goh/Business Insider

Most young Singaporeans who are looking to settle down would apply for a Build-to-Order, or BTO, flat.

BTO flats are new apartments sold by the Housing Development Board on 99-year leases. However, there’s a median waiting period of about 3.5 years before the houses are complete.

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.

A man an a woman pose in front of a concrete wall with a cat.

Imran Ismail, Fadzeera Fadzully, and their cat.
Imran Ismail

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.

A before image of the living room.

A before image of the living room.
Imran Ismail

“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.

Progress photo of the renovation process.

Progress photo of the renovation process.
Imran Ismail

“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 living room.

The living room.
Amanda Goh/Business Insider

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.

A corner of the house where the couple keeps their knick-knacks and records.

A corner of the house where the couple keeps their dining ware and record collection.
Amanda Goh/Business Insider

“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.

The kitchen.

The stainless steel kitchen.
Amanda Goh/Business Insider

“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.”

The dining area.

The dining area.
Amanda Goh/Business Insider

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.

The walls in the dining area are lined with Imran's artwork.

The walls in the dining area are lined with Imran’s artwork.
Amanda Goh/Business Insider

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.”

The office.

The office.
Amanda Goh/Business Insider

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.

The walk-in closet.

The walk-in closet. The door on the left leads to the couple’s bedroom
Amanda Goh/Business Insider

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.

The master bedroom.

The master bedroom.
Amanda Goh/Business Insider

“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

The living room and balcony area.

The living room and balcony area.
Amanda Goh/Business Insider

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.”

The common bathroom.

The common bathroom.
Amanda Goh/Business Insider

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.

One of the bathrooms in the house.

The master bathroom.
Amanda Goh/Business Insider

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 agoh@businessinsider.com.

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