British-born Paul Robinson, 37, bought his Moonstone Lane apartment six years ago, with no real intention of moving in. The condo is located in an eclectic little pocket of local shophouses and medium-height condos near the south-west junction of the PIE and the CTE.
At the time, Paul was busy having fun in a shared black-and-white house in Chip Bee Gardens in Holland Village, having lived the length and breadth of the island during his 14 years here. But when that living arrangement broke up and his condo tenant moved out, he looked at his apartment with fresh eyes.
“My parents and my sister live in Singapore, and I’ve been here so long that I thought I would put my stamp on it and make it a place to call my own,” he says. “Once I’d made the decision, I began building up a portfolio of things I liked. Being in the Asian villa management and marketing business means I see a lot of beautiful homes with incredible design ideas.”
With the help of builder Mr Lim, Paul gutted the apartment and reconfigured it to his own plans, which partly satisfied his lifelong wish to be an architect.
The result is a sleek, elegant apartment with quality finishes and a versatile layout that suits the lifestyle of Paul and his two housemates. The design is clever and makes the most of every centimetre of space. And, according to Paul, it was possible to do it on a budget.
“I’ve always been a bargain hunter; I came to Singapore on my own with no job, so I’ve always had to be self-reliant. However, while I was careful with the budget I did not scrimp: I installed new air-conditioning, lights, wiring, flooring and appliances. This place is essentially brand new.”
Incredibly, the apartment has doubled in value since Paul bought it. But he’s not keen to cash in just yet. He is enjoying the place, and even his parents call up to borrow the rooftop for their own parties – whether Paul is home or not!
“Being in the villa business, I know how well having zones works. The living space is entirely flexible; depending who is living here, it can be reconfigured for living or dining and there are Wi-Fi and TV points in different corners,” says Paul. He rebuilt the roof (it was made of flimsy metal and plastic) to create a second living zone. The ceiling fans were an issue, he says, as it was troublesome to get the right length for the different ceiling heights. “I ripped out all the lighting, put in new LED downlights and put a protective UV coating onto the windows and doors to block out the light. This really cuts down the amount of heat that comes in; it also creates privacy, so I don’t really need curtains or blinds.”
The outdoor entertaining area is a seamless transition from the indoors since Paul pulled up the tiles and re-laid new ones at the same floor height. While the balcony overlooks the PIE, Paul says people don’t hear the background hum of traffic once music is playing and people are talking. “The space is flexible − the seating was custom-built by Mr Lim and, like the table, can be moved around to suit the event. The barbecue area has a fitted sink and storage underneath. It’s my favourite space and I entertain here regularly!” he says.
The new parquet floor and wardrobes in the bedrooms give a clean, fresh look that’s perfect for displaying Paul’s artwork, including a tapestry from South America which he bought in Malaysia and had framed here.
Paul is captain of the British Dragon Boat team. They train three times a week and he revels in the sporting and socialising opportunities. “When I was young, I was not that good at running sports, but I love this; it’s all about upper body strength and team work, with a fantastic international group of people,” he says.
“There were two bathrooms. I pulled the bathtub out of the larger one and totally reconfigured them to make each of equal size. I’ve installed cupboards everywhere: behind the mirror and under the sink, as well as power points in the cupboard. A female friend suggested lights on the side of the vanity, which is apparently better for applying makeup. Everybody loves a huge shower head so that was a must, as well as a proper shower door and built-in shelves. I dislike those stuck-on glass or plastic ones.”
“As this is a shared house, I put a door on the hallway for additional privacy and to reduce noise between the living area and bedrooms . It would also be handy for if someone moved in here with kids. Framing Angie, who has done lots of work for me, framed the Burmese puppet. I like her unique style and enjoy the banter with her about which frame works best!”
“This was not a loo – it was a tiny cupboard, so I pushed the wall back and created a new space. It looks cool, but is also super-practical with hidden storage, and it means that guests don’t have to use the other bathrooms. It has a Sonos Wi-Fi sound system which surprises people. My friend Kim Angelico drew the picture of the tiger.”
Paul admits that he has coveted a side-by-side fridge-freezer with an icemaker since he was 14, and he finally purchased one while the renovation was in its early stages. The original, pokey kitchen had several small spaces, but Paul worked with an IKEA design app and his builder to double its size and bring in more natural light. He used Blum fittings, Italian floor tiles and custom-made cabinetry, and even installed air-conditioning to create a sleek, simple room perfect for cooking and entertaining. Paul is an appliance man through and through, loving his double dishwasher and wine fridge in the large storage rooms.
Paul’s tips for renovating
Interest rates are low, but won’t stay low forever, so it’s a good time to renovate.
Employee a builder you can trust and see examples of their work before hiring them.
Be prepared to be on site every day to check the quality and finish of the work. If it is not right and you’re not happy, ask for it to be redone.
Watch the sub-contractors and carefully check they are not cutting corners.
There are limitations on what products are available here; some fittings may need to be purchased offshore.
The easy bit is choosing tiles and appliances. The hard bit is watching how they are installed. Check that tiles are laid straight and watch that small things, like the toilet roll holder or electricity sockets, are installed the right way.
Paul’s Black Book
Bathzone (taps and toilets and everything in between)
666 Geylang Road
Builder, Mr Lim (expat-friendly, caring and honest)
Defu Furniture (grey, modular sofa, large choice of fabric)
15 Defu Avenue 1, #02-01
Elite Havens (villa management and rental)
Framing Angie (picture framing)
211 Holland Avenue
#03-02 Holland Road Shopping Centre
Mega Discount (for all electrical appliances)
101 Thomson Road
#B1-56D/E United Square
Mezze 9 (great for friend and family gatherings)
10 Scotts Road
The White House (Dining table and chairs available in different colours and styles to mix and match)
17 Mohamed Sultan Road
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