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Gadgets & Home Improvement

Big on style in a small space

At 560 sq ft, Madeline Tan's apartment was not the easiest home to fit out, but a designer friend soon came up with some smart solutions.
The Business Times - August 4, 2012
By: Tay Suan Chiang
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Big on style in a small space The four-seater sofa in the living room doubles as a day bed and comes with storage space underneath, while the mirror makes the space look larger. - PHOTO: YEN MENG JIIN

MOST people would move into a larger home when moving house but for flight attendant Madeline Tan, it was the opposite.

Her new home is a compact 560 sq ft apartment, about one-third the size of her former 1,400 sq ft apartment which she moved out from, for personal reasons.

Ms Tan moved into her new apartment at Alexandra Road to be closer to her parents who live in the neighbourhood.

"I grew up in the Bukit Merah area, and was looking for an apartment which I could move into immediately, hence this unit here," says Ms Tan, who lives alone.

The location was ideal, but Ms Tan was surprised by how small the shoe-box unit was when she got her keys.

Her top concern was storage space - or rather, the lack of it. "I have plenty of clothes, bags and shoes, how would I be able to fit them all in?"

She roped in long-time friend Mike Tan, a partner at The Interarch Design, who had also designed her previous home, to work on her new apartment.

This was Mr Tan's first time designing a shoe-box apartment and "such a small apartment was not easy to fit out", he says. "Putting in extra storage space was definitely a must - not just for Madeline's personal items, but even for household items."

The apartment initially had two bedrooms, but Mr Tan converted one into a walk-in wardrobe. Extra shelves were put in, so that Ms Tan could store her suitcases and cleaning items, such as the vacuum cleaner.

The bedroom's original wardrobes were dismantled and disposed of. "They were not well made, and they took up too much space in the bedroom," says Mr Tan.

The apartment's bay windows in the bedrooms were another challenge for Mr Tan. "They made the living space even smaller, and left on their own, there was not much you could do with them."

For one set of bay windows, Mr Tan placed cushions, so that it could be turned into a seating area, looking out onto neighbouring residences.

For another set of bay windows, he laid dark timber strips over it, so that it could be used as a display area, as well as become a headboard for the customised bed. "Madeline can display items by her bed on the bay window, without needing an extra bedside table."

He also added shelves in the corner of the rooms, so that no space was wasted.

Finding furniture for small homes can be tricky, so Ms Tan opted to have her furniture custom-made.

Her bed is custom-made and comes with drawers underneath. In the living room, Mr Tan had a sofa custom-made, again with drawers under it. The sofa, which doubles as a day bed, can seat four, yet it does not make the living room look cramped. "I pushed it against the wall, to make the living room feel more spacious."

Ms Tan also wanted a dining table, but her home did not allow for a conventional one. Instead, Mr Tan customised a small dining table which can seat just two people and, again, pushed it against the wall. "The dining table is made of a solid surface, the same material as the kitchen countertop, so it doubles as extra work space."

Mr Tan chose a neutral theme for the apartment - it not only makes the apartment look stylishly chic, but less cluttered. Most of the furniture is in browns and beige, and the walls are kept mostly white, which makes small spaces look bigger.

"I add colour to the apartment through the use of accessories, such as a pink stool and pink cushions," he says. Pink is Ms Tan's favourite colour and she says that "with a splash of pink, the apartment has a more feminine feel".

There is an upside to living in a small home - "the cleaning is definitely much easier", says Ms Tan.

Although she spends about three weeks in a month flying and living out of hotel rooms, living in her new home took getting used to. "This apartment is slightly bigger than a hotel room, so I really have to restrain myself from buying too many things," she says. Items she has bought from her travels include a mirror from Hawaii and large candles.

When BT Weekend met her on Tuesday, it was only her third day living in the apartment. "Now that it has been done up, it feels comfortable, and I'm really starting to love my home," she says.


Decked out

London calling