bto interior design ideas

3-rm BTO renovation journey Pt. 1: self 3D design using SketchUp

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Ming Sing Construction IG

All that I drew, Ming Sing Construction renovated accordingly. Please do visit their IG at your convenience by tapping the following photos.

Alleviating wifey’s concerns using SketchUp

Tinkering with SketchUp allowed me to make changes to my interior design as and when required. It also helped in translating my ideas, as well as wifey’s, into a visual representation, allaying her concerns.

Cutting to the chase: GIF animations

cheng san court bto floor plan

Walls that were hacked, as well as walls that were re-erected.

hdb renovation journey

Unintended but pleasant surprise stemming from the inflexibility of our small 3 room bto flat: Our huge double leaf wooden door right in the center of our flat.

hdb interior design ideas singapore

Double leaf bedroom door is furthermore slanted at 45 degrees to the rest of my apartment.

bto interior design ideas

Wifey and I were certain about the blue living room walls but were undecided about our bedroom wall colour.

For example, should the power points on your kitchen backsplash be up high touching the top cabinet?

See the messy mess we had to clean up.

6 years wait for our BTO flat

hdb bto key collection

After waiting for 6 years, we were finally notified to collect the keys to our 3 room bto flat.

hdb top

While most of our peers had already purchased a theme and package from interior designers before collecting their keys, we waited till we were able to have a feel of the space within our 3 room bto.

Our home the way we want it


renovation tips singapore
renovation tips singapore
bto kitchen ideas

Credit goes to Ming Sing Construction.


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Rewind to 2012: designing my parents’ flat

It was really just designing my room. The rest of the house was 2012 run of the mill template designs from the ID.

For my own home in 2018, the most popular standard template was the Scandinavian Industrial theme with the track lights and brick walls etc. If done incorrectly, what is supposed to be scandi-industrial will look spartan. Either way, regardless, engaging an ID for a no frills SI theme is expensive.

But I digressed.

hdb interior design ideas

My parents’ renovation was my first introduction to the nature of the interior design industry. After having reviewed countless portfolios for inspiration, I designed my own bedroom using the very first generation of Samsung Galaxy Note.


My white TV will be mounted on the feature wall on the left. My bed (center) and sofa (right) were to be on the raised platform with LED lights along the side.

hdb interior design singapore

The eventual 3D mock up drawn by my ID then:

Reminder: the immediate two images above are from my experience in 2012, not 2018. I had designed my own room in my parents’ flat.

I was impressed with my own design keke, thanks to the 3D rendering by my ID of course. However, we must cut through our own “bullshit” by ourselves. If I had followed through with the placement of my bed and sofa as above, there will be no walking space. I will also bump into the cabinet above the sofa.

Here’s a simple tip that goes the extra mile:

pay attention to the leg space.

Keching, designer

Perhaps it is timely that I throw in a second tip too:

Differentiate between interior design and furnishing.

Keching, designer

Perhaps one can google or instagram search the popular Scandinavian Industrial theme of 2018. In each of the professionally taken photos, embellished with sleek furnishing and plants, imagine that space inside to be empty. It should shed light on the definition of “interior design”.

2018 again (sorry I keep going back and forth), this time round I was determined to draw the model of my own 3 room flat by myself even though I could have passed it to our contractor Ming Sing Construction to do it. Instead of reviewing our project manager’s portfolio for ideas, Wifey and I decided to design our home from scratch.

from elsewhere: Broadway Leather Co.

Leather drawer handles and pulls

2018: physically taking measurements

hdb 3d drawing

Initially, I got down to drawing up the layout of our flat using the documents provided by HDB. However, the measurements on paper didn’t tally, and the lines I drew did not connect to each other for some, while overshooting for others.


Compare the floor plan provided us by HDB:

cheng san court bto floor plan

With my 2D layout:


Good review of our reliable CASE TRUST ACCREDITED contractor

Wall hacking and re-erection of some walls

From the 2D layout above, I raised the walls in my 3D model. Standing in the living room, we can see a corridor headed straight to the master bedroom at the end. The kitchen is through the opening on right in the corridor and the guest room is on the left.

cheng san court bto floor plan

Wifey and I knew that we wanted an open concept for our already tiny 3 room hdb flat and decisions were made to knock down every hackable wall:

3 room bto floor plan

Placement of doors for bedroom and kitchen

The initial idea was to hack the wall between the living room and guest bedroom. However, our stack was built such that that wall is a main beam that cannot be touched. As much as it was disappointing, Wifey and I can’t will it away. The only course of action was to hack away the bedroom walls and corridor walls, leaving behind a diagonal opening into the now enlarged bedroom:

cheng san court bto floor plan

An idea struck me. Wifey and I would build a door that is slanted relative to the rest of the house. Furthermore, it is situated right in the center of our apartment. A floor-to-ceiling double leaf bedroom door would be the perfect centerpiece of our home:

bto interior design ideas

Our double leaf bedroom door.

double leaf door singapore
hdb interior design ideas singapore

You might also be interested

Ceiling pipe of new bto LEAKING! Oh no!

We had initially planned for an arch door instead of a four-cornered one. This is because the top corners of a rectangle door will be blocked by the beams (photo immediately above). An arch door would have been entirely visible.

However, we settled for a rectangle door as one with an arch costs an additional $900.00. The additional amount was not justified by the potential returns in terms of design mileage. The wow factor could be wholly fulfilled by the height of the door alone. The arch was a peripheral nice to have.

Designer interior design vs regular interior design

I had thought up an alternative layout in case the angled bedroom door layout is not approved. All rooms would be adjacent at right angles to each other.

hdb bto renovation journey

GIF animation

This GIF compares our designer house sporting the centerpiece angled bedroom door, with an otherwise normal layout if the original plan had not been approved. Frankly, if Wifey and I had interior designers opposite us at the table, none of them would have made a recommendation as this. Us on the receiving end would consider this too outlandish even if they had.

hdb bto renovation journey

Blue living room walls

A dark coloured wall runs contrary to popular conventional white walls as white walls are perceived to make spaces look bigger, and they do. However, when dark colour walls are used properly, the attention shifts from the risk of diminutising the space to one of excitement.

With a carpet to be hung on the wall, we settled for a navy blue wall.


The result:


Bedroom wall colour

After deciding on a navy blue living room walls, we have to decide on the wall colours for the remaining room, which is our supersize bedroom comprising the two original bedrooms of our 3 room bto and the corridor that is now non-existent.

These are our options:

  • same navy blue walls in both rooms
  • our bedroom sports a different dark colour
  • we paint our bedroom a light colour

GIF animation

The animation below illustrates that while we were certain of the dark blue living room, we were undecided for our bedroom walls. It is apparent however, as mentioned above, that rooms with light colour walls look bigger than rooms with dark colour walls.

We opted for a light colour bedroom wall. Green would set a narrow range of moods but light colour is akin to a blank white sheet of paper where all types of activities can occur. As surprising as it sounds, the light bedroom serves as a function to the navy blue living room in the sense that it offers us a respite from the sombre mood. The light wall colour in and of itself does not have intrinsic qualities such as in a Scandinavian or minimalist interior design.

Cornice, high skirting boards and wainscoting

I had wanted a neo-european house complete with cornice, high skirting boards and wainscoting.

It was expensive plus our house is too small.

One can easily google hdb flats that opted for Greek and Roman columns. However, to fit those into a tiny flat would be missing the point. Columns are about grandiose, not just the style.

So we could only work towards impressionistic translation.

Instead of high skirting boards, we used the full width of our floor tile which would result in a high tile skirting.

The construction proper

Ready to start work we prayed as our renovation will commence during the 7th month.

hdb bto key collection

To be continued in page 2…

Next in page 2:

Wall hacking and tiling

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