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How to build your dream home
OVER twenty years of marriage and three homes later, entrepreneurs Richard Koh and Ong Bee Yan can finally say they're living in their dream home. No, not some multi-storey bungalow or penthouse at a prestigious address, but a perfectly modest intermediate terrace house off Braddell Road.
It's their dream home because they designed it themselves, without relying on an architect or interior designer to undertake the A&A job.
"There's two of us, with the helper and our pets, so we designed it to our exact needs," says Mr Koh, who runs a local handcrafted beverage company with Ms Ong. "We didn't want a home that would be difficult to upkeep."
The two-storey house with an attic sits on a long and narrow plot of land. "As intermediate terraces tend to be dark, we added a courtyard that could brighten and ventilate the home naturally," says Ms Ong. To maximise this feature, there is a bedroom in front of the courtyard with a roof terrace above it.
In the homes they lived before, their three cats and a dog were free to roam around in the garden. Now, the narrow plot and house configuration means that the pets don't have the luxury of an open space. So the couple came up with the idea to build a staircase that leads from the courtyard to the roof terrace. "The animals use it, but so do we," says Ms Ong, adding that the master bedroom on the second floor overlooks the courtyard and has direct access to the roof terrace. The latter is her favourite space, where she spends mornings reading, or tending to her rooftop garden filled with lemongrass, pandan and mint plants.
There are two more bedrooms on the second floor, and another in the attic that has been converted into a study-cum- exercise room.
It isn't just the house that the couple put their heart and soul into, but also what they have filled it with.
A piece of metal window grille with a curly pattern looks like a decorative feature for the facade of the house but it's a treasured piece of Mr Koh's past. The window grille came from his childhood home, and five decades on, he still remembers climbing on it when he was a child.
"My siblings are not into collecting old things like I am, so while they were happy to sell off the grille, I decided to keep it," he says.
He and his wife are firm believers of upcycling, not only for sentimental reasons, but also for the environment. Over the years, they've picked up items that others have thrown out, and these pieces finally have a place in their home.
In fact, nearly everything in the house is old or upcycled, save for a new sofa. Even the old swing which the previous homeowner left behind wasn't thrown out.
Ms Ong is particularly fond of another metal window grille that she picked up when a neighbour discarded it during a home renovation. She kept it for several years and had a perfect place in mind for it in her new home. It is now part of the skylight, and on sunny days, the grille casts a pretty shadow on the floor. "The contractor said it was too heavy to install on the skylight but I insisted."
Other items of special value include an old Singer that has been in Ms Ong's family for a long time, and now converted into a vanity. Mr Koh shares that the dining table has also been in his family for decades and he sees no need to buy a new one.
Dining chairs and those in the living room look new, but have actually been re-upholstered. A side table has also been given a new tabletop, while old pendant lights look modern with the addition of brass caps and the use of LED bulbs.
"The home has many elements of yesteryear," says Ms Ong.
While they've finally achieved their dream home, the couple do not rule out moving house later down the road.
"We've talked about getting a smaller space, perhaps an apartment, when the animals are no longer with us," says Ms Ong.
When the time comes, they both know that they will not be able to bring all their beloved items with them, due to space constraints. "We'll take the pieces that we built ourselves," says Mr Koh, pointing to a side table. And, of course, plenty of memories too.