Buying a BTO flat can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you know you’re moving into a newly-built house at a subsidised price. On the other, so is everyone else in the estate, and you run the risk of having the same design as your neighbours even if they’re 10 floors up or 2 blocks away.
Fizzah and Danial, the couple behind @koalastays, were adamant from the get-go that they were not going to live in a cookie-cutter BTO. Each had their own wants – an emerald-green kitchen for Fizzah and a glass-door study for Danial – which were combined into a seamless design by interior designer JT Wong.
Last week, we took a jaunt down to the South side of Singapore to check out how Fizzah and Danial transformed their unique 1,001sqft flat into a home with bold colours decked out with memorabilia from their travels.
Customising details like the front gate & feature walkway
Rather than consult Pinterest boards with ideas that have been done to death, Fizzah and Danial decided to style the home with custom details that were unique to them. So while other homes might have a typical feature wall, the couple opted for a feature walkway.
Painting a Picasso-style Cubism walkway with their favourite interests
Fizzah initially toyed with the idea of plastering wallpaper on the walls of the walkway. But after some consideration, commissioning Geraldine from @ochre.home to paint a custom wall mural sounded like a much better plan.
The Piccaso-inspired, Cubism-esque mural included the 4 most important representations of the couple: coffee, travel, reading, and photography. This was also Geraldine’s first home commission, and those who want a similar piece in their home can drop her a message on Instagram.
Changing out the front gate for a custom green gate with privacy holes
Another piece of the cookie that they swapped out was their front gate. Instead of sticking with the default gate, they found a local vendor that could customise a steel mesh gate in their shade of choice. Their unit number was also cut out with a laser so delivery drivers have an easier time spotting their flat. No more excuses for missing packages.
Hacking down walls to make way for an open-concept home office
Rather than go into the renovation with a theme in mind, Fizzah and Danial presented JT with a list of “must-haves”. One of Danial’s requirements was an office space with glass doors, and this was tastefully done by hacking down the walls of one room.
Keep in mind that this was done before working from home became the motif of 2020 & 2021. Whether this was foresight or coincidence, it all worked out for the couple who found themselves spending plenty of time during the lockdowns cooped up in their home office without feeling cooped up.
“Even when I had to work late nights, there was still that feeling of connectedness as we could see what the other is up to,” Fizzah told us. Even their cat Boba won’t feel too left out with the glass panels.
One thing that was definitely coincidental was the discovery of Ikea’s navy blue Alex desks. With the shade of the desks perfectly matching the blue of the walls, it was a no-brainer for the couple to immediately snag two up to complete the room.
And then there’s the wall. It’s easy to tell at first glance that both Fizzah and Danial are wanderlusting folks who love travel. A scratch-off travel world map, plates hand-carried from Mexico, a hand-carved frame from the Dolomites, and even newspaper clippings from a North Korean expedition are all hung in a neat fashion.
Decorating the home with memorabilia from their travels
The zvekir is a Bosnian traditional door knocker.
While some people bring home magnets from their travels, Fizzah and Danial brought back unique pieces that would make sense in their home. For example, they found this traditional door knocker that represented the open-door hospitality of the Sarajevo culture during a road trip to Bosnia. But since they already have a wireless doorbell, it was used as a mask holder inside instead.
Another piece that holds a special place in Fizzah’s heart is this sculpture she bought while visiting the Chichen Itza pyramids in Mexico. To ensure it didn’t crack while resting in the plane’s underbelly, she delicately packed it in her carry-on luggage for the 31-hour trip home.
Building her dream emerald green kitchen
While Danial had his open-plan glass study, Fizzah had her emerald green kitchen. This was another non-negotiable design element of the house. To reduce the amount of green in your face, the interior designer added accents of mustard yellow that perfectly complemented the emerald cabinetry.
Quirky mermaid tiles with mustard yellow grouting make up the backsplash of the kitchen.
The mustard yellow dish drying rack.
One design decision that Fizzah and Danial have had no regrets making was choosing to do away with the dish drying rack cover. With them using the rack on a daily basis, having a cover would only be cumbersome and become a “white elephant”.
There were even mosaic tiles that resembled an MRT station, albeit in a cheeky way. You’ll only have to stand behind the yellow lines if there’s a gravy train incoming.
To expand the space in the cramped kitchen, they hacked down a portion of the wall and the door. This also makes bringing dishes from the kitchen to the dining area a tad easier.
Hacking down a portion of the wall also allows the dining table to stand freely and not have one side blocked by a wall. And keeping on theme with travel memorabilia, hanging behind the dining table is a print of a photograph taken by Danial during a trip to Luxor, Egypt.
Making bold colour accents stand out with varying patterns
In case you haven’t already noticed, there is a running trend of 3 bold colours: ebony blue, emerald green, and mustard yellow. The trick to making these colours stand out visually without being overwhelming is to strategically place them in certain places. In the bedroom, the ebony blue tones were manifested in a circle above the bed, while the mustard went to the cupboards.
In the spare room where the greenhouse lies, blue makes another appearance but with an angular slant instead of a round shape. And as you’ve seen above, the same blue dominates the study, and that’s where its reign ends.
We stan the split between terrazzo and cement screed in the guest bathroom.
The 2 bathrooms were also where Fizzah and Danial could play around with experimental colours that didn’t match the other parts of the home. Cement screed and terrazzo tiles made up the guest bathroom, while black mosaic gave the master bathroom the vibes of living in a colonial-era bungalow.
The master bathroom.
However, the couple cautions future homeowners on getting mosaic tiles with larger grouting. “Coming into it, we were fully aware that mosaic is high maintenance and were prepared for this cleaning challenge,” Fizzah said. “But after 3 years, we admit defeat.
It’s painful to be scrubbing and cleaning the floors with no victory in sight.”
Filling a BTO with travel knick-knacks and personal touches
There are plenty of ways to make a BTO stand out from the crowd and become truly yours. Fizzah and Danial have decided to eschew the common route of starting with a theme like industrial or mid-century modern. Instead, they based the house around their wish list like a deliberately-coloured kitchen and the WFH setup of their dreams.
The end result is a cosy, quirky, and bold living space in the South of Singapore that the couple can confidently call home. Its aesthetics have even caught the eye of UOB, who requested to use the house as a backdrop for 2 advertisements.
You can follow Fizzah and Danial on their home and living journey over at @koalastays.
@uchify.sg 1,001sqft telok blangah BTO that’s travel-inspired and looks like an abstract painting🎨 #homeinspo #homedecor #interiordesign #tiktoksg #fyp #fypシ #sghomes #bto #sgrenovation #hdbsg #sgnews ♬ Still Don’t Know My Name – Labrinth
Check out other home transformations:
- Bedok resale flat with Korean & Scandi vibes
- Trendy Hougang flat with terrazzo, arches, and Taobao furniture
- Transforming a Tiong Bahru walk-up apartment
Photography by Brad Lee.