While homeowners who undertake their own renovations often recall the experience as a headache-inducing one, Robert Chin speaks of it like it was a cinch. This apartment is his third home in 10 years, and the second one he has single-handedly conceptualised.

«I wanted this home to be completely different from my previous place, which was contemporary. This time, I wanted my home to look lived-in,» he explains. It was with this rough concept in mind that the bachelor, who is also an aspiring interior designer, set out in search for ideas and furnishings that would give the place a cool grungy feel, much much like an underground hang-out frequented by a trendy crowd. This was a tall order, considering that while underground hang-outs do dovetail with small and intimate spaces, Robert’s home also had to function as a liveable space with plenty of storage.


The first challenge Robert had to overcome was the 43-year-old resale flat’s rigid layout. Originally built with two bedrooms (sans attached bathrooms), no storeroom, and separate bathroom and toilet areas, he had to get his contractor to make a few layout tweaks.

To carve out a «store room», one side of the master bedroom was partitioned off to store Robert’s bulkier belongings. This also removed the need for a floor-to-ceiling wardrobe which the homeowner found too «visually heavy». Previously, the home’s single bathroom was only accessible via the kitchen. He got around the issue by creating another entrance through the second bedroom, creating a convenient en suite bathroom.

With the practical adjustments sorted out, and equipped only with a visual concept in his mind, Robert set out to shop for his new abode.


Considering that Robert only had 753sqf of space to play with, the variety of decor ideas he managed to pack into his new home is quite remarkable. With a keen mind’s eye for interiors, he managed to get away with mid-century furniture, hollow glass blocks, checkered floor tiles, and industrial aluminium trimmings happily co-existing in this compact apartment. This may sound like a haphazard mix of features, but he had it all mapped out. «When I started shopping, I already had an idea of where everything was going to go,» he revealed.

He did a lot of the shopping in Bangkok, where he picked up rusted metal buckets to turn into lampshades; antique stools, vintage cabinets, as well as mid-century-inspired armchairs with vibrant upholstery at reasonable prices. Robert reveals that the Rod Fai Market on the weekend is a great place for vintage-treasure-hunting for the home.

Blending in seamlessly with Robert’s proved finds are the vibrant art pieces he has collected over the years during his travels around Asia. The prominent cheeky contemporary canvases casually propped against the living room’s concrete brick feature wall reflect this home’s laid-back soul perfectly. «The idea was for the space to look like an art gallery,» he says of the display ledge that runs along the living room wall, on which a quirky collection of sculptures, vintage finds, contemporary accessories, and paintings lie. And just like an art gallery, Robert curated his entire home to showcase «love it or hate it» design ideas that only a homeowner with enough guts and personality can pull off.

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