How This Creative Couple Designed Their 3-room HDB Flat in Punggol With Movie Magic and Thrifty Finds
Not everyone can say they’ve got a piece of furniture from a feature film starring Fann Wong and Jason Scott Lee, can they? But Kartini and Kalif, who work in the media industry, certainly can!
The Scandinavian aesthetic might have taken firm hold in many Singaporean homes, but not in the couple’s house. Kartini’s work on several film and television productions, in particular, has meant that she has curated a living museum of a home, full of set pieces.
“My home is an organised mess, just like me!” exclaimed Kartini.
Every Piece of Furniture Tells a Story
Bringing us around the house, Kartini shared that very few of the furniture pieces in their 3-room HDB flat were actually bought by her.
“All of them are hand-me-downs and want-me-nots, they all have a story behind them,” said Kartini.
The first thing you notice is the huge mirror in Kalif’s and Kartini’s hall. The magnificent piece is carved from Chinese blackwood and belongs to Fann Wong’s character in the 2008 film Dance of the Dragon. Though extravagant, Kartini had bought it at the production designer’s insistence and when filming wrapped, she ended up with it.
Their TV console is from Star World Hong Kong’s Asia Uncut. The armchair and couch are from a corporate branding photo. And then, there is the bright-red cupboard where crockery is stored.
“3-room HDB flats are not big; you enter my kitchen and you reach the end of it at the same time. Someone wanted to throw the cupboard away and I needed a place to put my cups and plates. So I took it home!” exclaimed Kartini.
How a Two-year Search For a Home Concluded in Punggol
The couple was married in 2013 and Kalif lived with Kartini in her former flat in Marsiling before deciding to buy their own home in 2020. Their search took close to two years, due to their selectiveness.
They had very specific needs for their new home, including it sitting on a high floor and being a 3-room or 4-room HDB flat that would require minimum renovations. They also had a budget of no more than $360,000. They did not want to live in Jurong, Tampines, or Yishun due to the high population densities in those HDB towns, and also insisted on living in a corner unit so that they could have more privacy, peace, and quiet.
“We sat down and listed all the HDB estates we did not like, and what we did not like about them,” Kartini said. “It was a long list at first, but as the search dragged on and got more difficult, we sheepishly lowered our expectations and eliminated the estates we absolutely 200% didn’t want, to finally end up with a shortlist.”
When Kartini and Kalif found a minimally renovated corner 16th-floor flat with an exclusive unblocked view and a large front yard, they agreed to exceed their budget by $28,000.
Kartini credits “sheer dumb luck” and the perseverance they had in searching PropertyGuru listings throughout their whole quest for her current property.
“The larger listing pool on PropertyGuru is what kept me going back to the site because I could see all the listings available on the market in one place,” she explained.
Going for Timeless Simplicity
If you look past all the knick-knacks, you’ll realise that Kalif’s and Kartini’s home is inspired by a monochromatic, timeless aesthetic.
“Every time I go and film in those black-and-white bungalows, you’ll find one Indonesian Bali piece that just pops or an antique statue in one corner. You want a house that is manipulable in terms of how creative you can get with the design, because who knows what the trending design style will be five years from now?” she mused.
However, there’s a practical reason for choosing an ageless design for their home. If the couple wished to ‘flip’ the flat after their Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) has been fulfilled, they would have a 3-room HDB resale flat that would likely sell for more because the new owners would have a blank canvas to work with.
Kartini and Kalif might have planned for the possibility of selling their property, but it’s clear that they have grown fond of their home and may decide to make it their permanent sanctuary instead.
“Prices are only getting higher, and just thinking of the loan we’d have to pay for a newly purchased house is already stressful. Might as well make this where we’re going to stay!” she laughed.
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