parenthesis studio

Photo: Finbarr Fallon, courtesy of Parenthesis Studio

Life is full of unexpected surprises, often steering us in directions we never anticipated. Take, for example, the owners of this four-bedroom, 167 sqm apartment in The Serenade @ Holland. The married couple — a pair of civil servants in their 40s — used to live in a two-bedder in Pine Grove. It was done in an urban style, with a monochromatic palette and glass partitions.

While they initially did not plan to have children, life threw them a curveball in the form of a son and a daughter, now aged eight and four, respectively. The kids had to share a glass-walled room, which, while not the most ideal scenario, allowed the parents to keep an eye on them. As the kids grew older, clutter began to accumulate, which the apartment’s open plan and open shelving could not keep at bay.

“Eventually, the kids will need their own rooms. And we found that it was really hard to keep the place clean and tidy,” said the wife. The couple decided it was time to move. 

After an arduous search for the right-sized unit — which had to be in the vicinity, as the wife’s mother lives in the area and helps raise her grandchildren — the couple settled on this generously proportioned four-bedder just a stone’s throw away from their original nest.

parenthesis studio
“KitKat” tiles in the pantry lend warmth, texture, and interest to this small but significant area of the home. (Photo: Finbarr Fallon, courtesy of Parenthesis Studio)

Manifesting the dream

To create their dream dwelling, they approached interior designer Yanika Gunawan of Parenthesis Studio with a brief to design a low-maintenance, child-friendly home that would incorporate as much storage as possible. In addition, having grown weary of the black-and-white scheme of their former abode, they gave Gunawan free rein to tint the space in colour. 

“They are a very interesting couple because they’re not afraid of colours,” said Gunawan. “The brief to me was, ‘If you want to make it colourful, it’s up to you. We have lived for five years in a monochromatic house, and we’re very bored of it’.”

But before saturating the space with colour, Gunawan had to rejig the apartment’s configuration to suit the family’s needs. Her intention was to create a neutral, blank slate, which would allow the owners to leave their own mark through colour, pattern, or design. The apartment is served by a private lift, so Gunawan’s first course of action was to define the arrival experience. This was accomplished by installing a vestibule.

parenthesis studio
In the entry vestibule, light filters in through vertical louvres. On the right, the shoe cabinet is concealed behind panels decorated with handmade wallcovering. (Photo: Finbarr Fallon, courtesy of Parenthesis Studio)

In the open-plan living and dining area, Gunawan built a bank of cabinets, adding a few open shelves for the family to display their photos. This is also where the wall-mounted TV resides, as the family spends a lot of time here. “The kids are always asking us to play with them. I like the space in front of the TV because we can all be on the floor, playing card games or building model trains,” said the wife. 

Initially, the wife wanted an island kitchen. “Yanika did consider putting an island in the living area. But after she did her space planning, she realised that it would make the place look a bit cramped.” In the end, Gunawan inserted a small pantry with a sink next to the dining area.

parenthesis studio
The galley-style kitchen is a masterclass in simplicity, with ample storage space and a minimal palette of colours and finishes. (Photo: Finbarr Fallon, courtesy of Parenthesis Studio)

“The pantry actually came in very useful because it was just next to the dining table, so everyone could wash their hands before they ate,” said the wife. The galley kitchen was kept chic, simple, and functional, with plenty of storage space as requested.

Major remodelling took place in the master bedroom and adjacent bedroom: The wall dividing the two rooms was removed; the bedroom was converted into a shared study, plus a walk-in wardrobe for the husband (the wife’s walk-in wardrobe was positioned next to the master bathroom). A bank of full-height cabinets was erected where the dividing wall once stood.

parenthesis studio
The study room floats on a raised platform and boasts a panoramic view of Bukit Timah Hill. (Photo: Finbarr Fallon, courtesy of Parenthesis Studio)

In the study area, Gunawan devised a solution to circumvent the wasted space created by the bay window, which was too high to function as a seating area. “We created a raised platform and put a stone slab above the bay window so that it becomes a tabletop workspace,” she explained. “And we also added drawers to the platform, so it’s another storage area for them.” 

The kids’ rooms — they each have their own room now — were left untouched, furnished with loose furniture. The couple’s rationale is that the kids will want to personalise their space when they grow up. As they are still young, Gunawan made the home child-friendly by rounding the edges as much as possible.

Low-key but luxe

parenthesis studio
Beautifully patterned Dekton decks the upper half of the master bathroom walls, while the lower half is clad in homogenous tiles. The look is decidedly organic. (Photo: Finbarr Fallon, courtesy of Parenthesis Studio)

Building materials, too, were kept low-maintenance, with surfaces that could be easily wiped down. Gunawan used blonde plywood and laminates for the cabinetry, homogenous tiles in the bathrooms, and Dekton (a beautifully patterned ultra-compact surface from Spanish supplier Cosentino) in the master bath. 

To keep things interesting, she applied a brushstroke mural wallcovering from American purveyor Phillip Jeffries to three panels of the TV console. For extra oomph, she clad the back panels in metal to create a luxurious shimmering effect. The entrance vestibule also shimmers, thanks to a textured, handcrafted wallcovering designed by an Indonesian artist. In the pantry, glossy bronze “KitKat” tiles bounce the natural light streaming in from the balcony.

parenthesis studio
In the son’s bathroom, “KitKat” tiles in a glossy black finish are used. The designers also created an integrated sink, as the space is very compact. (Photo: Finbarr Fallon, courtesy of Parenthesis Studio)

The end result is far less a colour bomb than a sophisticated intermingling of hue and texture, with a vibe that channels a luxury hotel. This, Gunawan explained, is so that the family will not tire of the design so easily. In any case, they can always feather their nest with more flamboyant soft furnishings.