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An Architect’s Wabi-Sabi Home

HOUSE TO HOME #19
Melvin Keng

Inspired by the Japanese aesthetic concept that finds beauty in simplicity and imperfection, this bachelor pad boasts exposed electrical conduits, raw wood furniture and bare cement walls with a large communal table taking centre stage. Melvin, the architectural maverick and co-founder of local furniture brand Kernel Furniture, gives us a tour of the dearest of his personal projects — his very own Terrace Flat. Architect Singapore HDB resale interior design inspiration renovation japandi wabi sabi

“I’m a registered architect in Singapore and the principal architect of my own architecture practice, Kaizen Architecture. I also hold a council position in the Singapore Institute of Architects and am also the Art Director of the architecture magazine The Singapore Architect.

“The inspiration for my home largely stems from the eco-conscious movement towards construction and renovation, and it is also in pursuit of showcasing craft and hand-made things. Because of that, we stripped away all the final finishing of surfaces (i.e. no tiles, no laminates, no paint). This reduces the amount of materials and adhesive used, thereby reducing carbon footprint and bad emissions.”
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“I love the idea of interacting with people – therefore, it was a conscious effort to take away anything that can cause one to lose connection with others. Hence I do not have a TV at home. I love to host, so a 3m long dining island sits in the centre of the house – and that to me is the soul of the home. It’s meant for people to gather.”


“As for the category that my home falls into, many would like to call it Industrial or Raw but personally, I think it’s closer to Wabi-Sabi and perhaps even somewhat of an ‘incompleteness’.”

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“I guess the overall aesthetic of the home also teeters right between the lines of modern, street, current, humanistic – everything that I hope I exude in terms of my personality.” HDB BTO Resale Singapore interior renovation inspiration japandi wabi sabi

“The storage unit in the middle of the home helps delineate the functions of the home up; one of the compartments is also a concealed bar, storing the drinks for when I host. Otherwise, the home has zero walls (except for the one bounding the bathrooms). It allows natural light to stream in unobstructed, and also facilitate flexible use of the space, which is something I'm always in pursuit of in my own work.

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“At least 75% of the pieces in the space are custom-made. For the pieces I picked/styled, quite a few are from my own brand’s collection. The pieces were hand crafted and that really fits in with the bespoke nature of the home.”

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“The main door was custom-made and involved the process of spraying on texture before applying paint, inspired by old-school HDB walls. I enjoy injecting nostalgic elements like this into projects I work on.”

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“Also many of the Ikea pieces are from collaborations – either from the collection of the late Virgil Abloh or pieces that were unique and unseen like this neon orange stool.”

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“I am also a sucker for nice light fittings – some of my favourite light pieces were purchased from Space Furniture. I think going with accent colours in a neutral coloured space is important – to give interest and some unexpectedness to the home.”

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“I think my favourite nook in the home has to be the garden patio. First and foremost, it is a space that is a recreation of a memory. I used to live in a terrace house when I was young and I loved the fact that you had to walk through a front porch or garden before entering the house. During the design process,  I asked myself if I could recreate this experience in a HDB flat. It is quite an uncommon HDB living experience.”

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“The garden patio is separated from the interiors with a timber-framed sliding glass door, placed at a slant. That design gesture was done to enhance vantage points as you enter the unit. A narrowing of perspective happens as you first enter, bringing the eye from the patio toward the landscape outside or beyond in the distance. There is also a reorientation of the view as you walk past the sliding door to illustrate the expanse of the open plan.

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“I used to think I had ‘black fingers’ but during the Circuit Breaker, like many others, I got into houseplants and have loved them ever since. My collection is mostly made up of gifts from friends and some from nurseries in the area.”

“I am a big collector of street culture (i.e. street art, street wear, sneakers etc) and I also love design. So basically, the home has many moments where you can see my personality in the things I keep, collect and own.”

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“I gravitate towards items that are interesting and quirky. I love exploring materials so the play of materials and texture is very attractive to me.”

Singapore HDB BTO Flat Resale Renovation Interior Inspiration Ideas Industrial RawFeatured in Melvin’s bathroom is our Standard Organic Bath Towel in Navy.

“This Obey Print was given to me as remuneration for one of the first few projects I did when we first started as a practice. Obey Singapore, the client and now friend, was looking for a designer to put together a design for a pop-up at a street culture convention. We were blessed to have that opportunity to do that for them. It was a really captivating project for us and at the end, they gave me a print as payment. Honestly, I was just happy to be given this opportunity.”

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“When shopping for my home, I visit brick and mortar stores like Commune, Space Furniture and Grafunkt. Online, I enjoy the Finnish Design Store and END. I love to support local as well – our local brands/ designs/ designers are very talented. I have a few pieces by Mighty Jaxx around the house.” 

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“In my nature of work, I find it quite hard to separate work from home; mostly because design is all around me and I’m constantly thinking/mulling over it.”

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“Every morning, I love to take 15-20mins to observe my indoor plant collection, meditate and have some quiet time before I start the day proper.”

Singapore HDB BTO Flat Resale Industrial Interior Renovation Ideas InspirationMelvin’s bed is dressed in a Classic White Sheet Set with an additional Classic Pillow Case Pair in Cloud and a Crisp Duvet Cover in Mustard.

“I get hot easily at night, and have tried a few materials, gradually discovering some I dislike such as silk, which I find too slippery.

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“Personally, I love the softness of SOJAO sheets. The range of colours from neutral to punchy would fit any taste and character. I also love the meticulous packaging and the plantable seed card, every touch point aligns with the sustainability movement which I think is great.”

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“I think when you move into your own space, you develop new routines in life – things like tending to a garden was something that I never did for the past 37 years of my life, not until I got my own place. Being mindful of banal things like chores and electrical bills – those are also often overlooked when you don’t have your own space. I think being able to host friends is also much easier when you have your own place.”

“Home means freedom. The ability to be who you are in your own space is priceless.”

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