A couple with a $120k renovation budget turned an old resale flat into a cozy wabi sabi home, Lifestyle News

Like many couples during the pandemic, Gwen (not her real name for privacy reasons) and her husband were looking for a place that was bigger than their previous home.

Because of this, they are looking for resale used HDBs where the floor area is usually larger than newly built ones.

Size requirements aside, it should be located closer to the west since that’s where the families of the two of them are.

The place also needs to be within walking distance of the train station, and close to a park or park link because they have a dog.

Also, one of the windows must be as high as the ceiling, or at least three-quarters. This is because they used to have a balcony in their first home, and it was their dog’s favorite hangout spot.

Their home buying journey ended with a resale of HDB which was completed in 1998 and located on Jalan Senja. The unit ticks all but one of the checkboxes in the pairing criteria list.

Even if they end up getting a lower floor unit instead of a higher one, Gwen says they still feel blessed to have found it their home.

The couple had to do a complete overhaul to make the place fit their lifestyle. Currently, they live at home with their dog, enjoying the fruits of their renovation journey (you can follow for more updates here @ruo.home).

How the renovation journey turned out

Gwen admits they had no idea how much a full renovation would cost, which is why they didn’t have a budget in the first place.

But after talking to the two IDs, the couple decided to allocate $100,000 as they were going through a complete overhaul. In the end, it still came to around $120,000. Chalk it up to the pandemic issue.

As for the style of their house, Gwen says that they really like the wabi sabi style, and that she thinks their house is heavily influenced by that style.


“We like simple things that hopefully don’t go out of style easily,” he added.

Other must-haves they include are for their homes to be easy on the eyes and homes that will age nicely over the years. It should also be easy to care for or clean, especially since they have a dog in the house.

“We learned what we wanted and what we didn’t want from our first home, so it was easier this time,” says Gwen.

Below is a before and after photo of the floor plan. As you will see, they have made many major changes to ensure the layout of their entire home is more in tune with their living habits.


Take a tour of their home as Gwen shares with us her special transformation.

Sitting room

Here you’ll see one of the major changes they made to their home, moving the living quarters to where their original study and bedroom were. Bedroom three is actually split in half to accommodate a larger living and master bedroom while providing more privacy.


They also added a curved stool for their dog, who loves people watching. And as mentioned earlier, the windows in the living room are three-quarters high, which is one of the requirements.


Warehouse room

Gwen admitted that when she first saw the house, the path was very narrow and dark. Since they didn’t need so much room, they decided to remove the shed as well. “I know this isn’t something people usually do,” he says, “but in our previous home we didn’t have a barn, and there wasn’t a need for it.”


One of the benefits of deleting a shed is that it helps them keep their items to a minimum and keeps them from hoarding. And clearing the path allows them to open the house.

Kitchen and dining area

As for the kitchen, this was also opened up and they used the space originally allocated for the living/dining area for their actual dining area.


That is, once you enter the house, you can immediately see the dining table right from the entrance. They decided to tuck it in a corner, parallel to the entrance, so they had plenty of room to walk and run.


Main bedroom


Their master bedroom is where the original three bedrooms and two bedrooms are, which makes it luxuriously large and spacious. It appears to be a very comfortable place to relax, characterized by soft bouclé armchairs, and mood lighting on the ceiling. Instead, the original master bedroom was converted into a wardrobe space, separated by a curtain.


Like the master bedroom, a walk-in wardrobe will be the envy of many. It’s not just the availability of storage space, but the plots of empty space in the center that keep it minimalist but with the gentle curves of the door arches and cupboards help keep it looking comfortable.

Guest room

The couple took part of the living room and balcony and converted it into the living room, which also serves as a games room for her husband.


Since he has a driving rig that takes up a lot of space in the room, they managed to make their ID accommodate a queen size Murphy bed.

Service balcony

The entrance to the service balcony used to be in the kitchen, but they decided to close it because they both didn’t like the idea of ​​having a toilet in the kitchen.


They opened the arched entrance from the living room and entered the dog washing area where the laundry racks were. Gwen said that it was a very important piece of equipment because they used to have a balcony where they used to be. So they should include an area in the current area where they can easily shower after each walk.



Gwen said that it was her husband who decided everything in the bathroom.


“He spends the most time in it, so he can make all the important decisions,” he shares. To create the illusion of space, they expanded the bathroom area in the master bedroom.


For the guest bathroom, they have to move the basin to the service yard because the space is so small. It made perfect sense for them as they also have a dog washing area outside too.

Bringing vision to reality

Gwen confirmed that the end result of their reno trip was similar to what they had envisioned. “We are clear about what we want and our IDs can translate that for us.”

Their IDs are Serene and Yuhui from INTR Studio.

He acknowledged, however, that they had to compromise on some of their whims due to budget constraints.

For their furniture procurement process, Gwen says they decided to bring in the sofa, wine cabinet and TV console sideboard from their former home. These furniture pieces are all from Castlery.


“We upholstered the sofa to better match the theme of our home,” he adds. “Also, we made the bed from Second Charm and the dining table from Rooma.”

As a complement, they searched for mirrors, coffee tables, and chandeliers from Taobao.


When we asked Gwen what they thought were the best areas of their home, she quickly replied that it was the service yard and living room. “Serves a purpose and fits the aesthetic,” he replied.

Lessons from a successful reno trip

Although the couple faces no real challenges during their journey, they must overcome three special obstacles.

One to work on a budget, and two to plan their guests while they hack all the rooms in the house. Lastly, there is bathroom ventilation. Since all of their bathrooms were windowless, Gwen said they should try to find a way to keep the bathrooms properly ventilated.

And if there’s one mistake Gwen said they would never make again, it was with the hanging cupboards in their kitchen, specifically the one above their stove.


“Our ID recommended us not to do it, but we did it anyway,” he said. “I didn’t want a hood with a hanging cupboard because I don’t do much cooking. I really regret my choice now.”

He said that whenever he steamed something, the steam would end up in the hanging cupboard.

To this effect, Gwen and her husband learned how important it was to find an ID that clearly understood their wants and needs.

“Both Serene and Yuhui were very open to exchanging ideas with us and recommending solutions. They are creative, so I don’t worry about getting a proposal that looks like a template.”

Lastly, his advice to those looking to renovate their place is to make their home their own.

“Everyone has a different lifestyle and preferences. That’s why it’s important to design and spruce up your home according to your likes and needs. This way, you have a unique home that belongs only to you.”

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