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Before & After: This Japanese-inspired HDB Terrace In Whampoa Has A Zen Garden & An Attic-style Bedroom

31 May 2022 | BY

Grace and her husband recently moved into their dream home – a quaint, Japanese-inspired HDB terrace that exudes all kinds of zen.

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At just 1,000sqft, this Japanese-inspired HDB terrace in Whampoa isn’t a large space by any means. But already, despite owners Grace and Caden having recently moved in, you can tell that it’s a true home – their dream home. It’s affectionately named “Wabi-sabi Homu” by them, a Japanese term which gives a nod to the beauty of imperfection.

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It’s easy to see the beauty in this terrace home though. From the bare bones of this quaint terrace, their home now boasts a Japanese zen garden, statement alcohol shelf and even an under-the-stairs dog house for their two pups. We paid a visit to Wabi-sabi Homu to see how Grace and her husband reached their dream home goals.

Creating a Japanese zen garden with “snow mountain” rocks

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The “snow mountain” rock features in the garden were cut out from a literal mountain – the process was documented by their Taobao supplier to guarantee the authenticity of these rocks.

Before the pandemic, Grace and her husband made the most of their holidays in Japan, simply relaxing on a tatami mat and sipping sake or tea. They wanted to bring the “zen” back with them – and so they did. Not many can say they have a Japanese zen garden at home, one that’s decked out with a tatami mat, low sitting platform table, and even “snow mountain” rocks.

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Having bamboo trees lined up smartly outside the gate, as well as a willow tree, the Japanese elements in Wabi-sabi Homu’s design choices are made obvious. As Grace says, “we wanted to feel like we were bringing Japan into our home”. They were also eyeing a mini stone bridge, but ultimately decided that it was too pricey – even when sourced from Taobao.

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A
shishi-odoshi is a bamboo water feature that was originally meant to scare away deer and boars in rural Japanese gardens. 

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Treating it as a second space to relax in, you’ll often see the couple and their two dogs lounging about in their zen garden. And it certainly isn’t intentional, but their shiba inu Chanko and maltipoo Truffle add to the charm of it all. 

Going through a major revamp to build their dream home

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Image credit: Grace

Everyone who’s been through it knows that home reno is beyond challenging. Having the foresight to know what you want, then making it come to life? Not the easiest thing in the world. As it goes, beyond wanting their home to have Japanese influences entwined through, Grace and her husband “didn’t really have any concrete ideas of a dream home”.

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What the stairwell looked like in its original state.

But as it turns out, they fervently designed their home by themselves and outsourced a contractor to bring their dreams to life. In their book, there were a few must-have features: a kitchen island to double up as a dining table and bar, as well as a stunning built-in alcohol shelf to take centre stage. It wasn’t a straightforward process though. 

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Their wooden fluted feature wall cleverly conceals the entrance to the guest bathroom, and hidden storage cabinets for the couple to stow away the items they require on a daily basis to avoid having a cluttered space.

But Grace and her husband were determined – they wanted “a space where we could just chill, have drinks, and host occasionally”. Walls were hacked, corridors blocked off, and the entire kitchen relocated. Their ideas might have been vague at the start, but gradually, it took shape into what you see today.

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The couple had specially requested for a window above their kitchen sink to grant them a view of the home’s backyard.

When asked about the desire behind the alcohol shelf, Grace comments that “this was about the only space we could have this niche without truly sacrificing precious space”. The space behind the alcohol shelf was also cleverly repurposed into a storeroom for extra storage – crucial, in any cosy home.

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Mixing and matching Japanese decor

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Handmade 3D wall art, featuring a lotus pond.

As a HDB terrace, it’s surprising that Wabi-sabi Homu looks as Japanese as it is today. No doubt that Grace and her husband have an eye for decor, picking up unique finds online or custom-making their own wall art. 

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One of their useful hacks is to shop savvy through Taobao for home decor. Most of the decor in the patio and home including the handmade wall art and the trio of lanterns were affordably sourced from Taobao sellers. 

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Another trick that Grace and her husband rely on is to separate different living spaces. And with that in mind, we don’t necessarily mean just separating the living area from the kitchen. Create your own unique space, one you can call your own, such as Grace converting her dresser area into a mini spa with a Muji aroma diffuser and wooden stand to display the various aroma oils. 

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The under-the-stairs dog house, while not Japanese in style, is a true example of designing your dream home for yourself. There’s no need to make direct copies of what you see in glossy interior decor magazines – it’s about what suits your lifestyle best.

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This dog house works as a cosy nook for their shiba inu and maltipoo, so that they can have a hideaway of sorts, a “dream dog house” in a way. The stairs themselves have also been revamped, with black steel railings and large hanging statement lights.

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Once you head upstairs, you’ll see that the second floor is noticeably tighter in square footage. The owners have chosen to use the entire floor solely as their master bedroom so while snug, it makes for an intimate space. With its high ceilings and sloped roof, this attic-style room is a picture-perfect den to catch up on sleep.

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To the left of the stairs lies the couple’s study and master bathroom which they had fashioned out of a walk-in wardrobe.

wabi sabiThe generously-sized master bathroom is simple in design and features a homogenous tiling all around.

Japanese-inspired HDB terrace in Whampoa

From a Japanese zen garden to an under-the-stairs dog home, owners Grace and her husband have specially tailored a dream home come true – one that perfectly suits their goals. But the design and home reno process certainly doesn’t come easy. 

Take your time to decide on what best suits you. As Grace says, “our house design wasn’t born overnight, it was more like a journey of exploring what we wanted and what we could do to create a space that suits our lifestyle, wants and needs”. 

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