WHEN it comes to buying a home, there are generally two groups of buyers: those who will buy only newly-built homes, and those that do not mind living in old ones.
Interior designer Andrea Savage belongs in the latter group. "Old places appeal to me as I can strip them down to the bare bones and redesign the space," says the former model who is now a partner at Design Intervention. She adds that old apartments have 100 per cent living space, unlike new apartments, which sometimes come with features such as bay windows or planter boxes, which make the living space smaller.
Home, which she shares with her husband, Cameron Richards-Savage, is a four-bedroom apartment built in 1978 on Holland Road, where they have been living for five years. The apartment was in poor shape when she first set eyes on it. Still, she fell in love with its high ceiling, the curved corners of the apartment, the spaciousness of its bedrooms and the large windows.
The apartment, which is on the second floor, overlooks the canopy of trees surrounding the estate. The trees not only give the apartment an outdoor feel and provide shade, but they also block out the noise and view of the flyover nearby.
Ms Savage has had different themes for each home that she has lived in. "For me, it is interesting to do something different for each home," she says. Her last home had an eclectic look, but this one is "masculine, but with feminine touches. Clean and in monochrome tones". As an interior designer, she envisages how the space will look and compiles a library of images, to put together an "idea book". She does this for both her clients and for her own homes. Clients then shortlist the ideas they have.
"Designing for myself is actually harder than designing for a client, as I have more choices to pick from," she says.
The job of designing their home falls solely on her, as "Cameron totally trusts my taste".
She had the entire place gutted out; "there was no excuse to keep anything because everything was so old".
As the couple love to cook and often entertain, the kitchen is a key area. In fact, the open-plan space is the first area guests see when they enter the home.
Sticking with the monochrome theme, the kitchen is dressed in glossy white from the cabinets to the countertops. An island in the centre of the kitchen does triple duty - as a bar table when the couple have guests, and as a breakfast and dinner table on regular days. Black dining chairs along the bar table add contrast. It all feels masculine, but a chandelier and two colourful rugs in the kitchen give the area a softer touch.
At the back of the kitchen is an open pantry, filled with cookbooks and kitchen equipment. Having it open means things can be found easily and within reach. "The space is well thought out, so nothing is wasted," says Ms Savage.
The monochrome palette extends to the living and dining areas, where dark-coloured furniture stands out against the white floor tiles and walls. Dark wooden beams run across the ceiling; they give the room a designer look, but also hide the wires of the ceiling fan, says Ms Savage. Splashes of colour come in the form of cushions, art pieces and flowers.
Ms Savage designed the dining area to be elevated from the living space, "so that there is a distinction between the two spaces".
The kitchen may be the main focus of the home, but the bar in the dining area which Ms Savage designed specially for her husband, comes in a close second. Nicknamed Cameron's Bar, the counter is shaped from concrete blocks to give it that raw-edge appeal.
The couple's bedroom takes on a more feminine feel, with carpeted flooring and a softer beige-and-grey scheme. A door on the side opens up to the spacious bathroom. The standalone tub is often used: "Baths are a good way to relax," says Ms Savage.
The guestroom, however, takes on a more rugged look. There are zebra print cushions, small elephant figurines and a painting of a Masai warrior on the wall. Ms Savage calls this the African themed room. "I was born in Kenya, and I love zebra prints for that edginess," she explains.
Old apartments like this one come with plenty of space, and can easily accommodate bulky furniture - but they also come with their share of problems.
Ms Savage says plumbing, air-conditioning and the electrical system in old homes are often in bad shape. "Don't compromise on changing these," she advises.
For new homeowners, she says it is a good idea to come with pictures to show the interior designer. "But, of course, we can make it look better than in the pictures," she says.
She adds that often, a space will dictate what can or cannot be done. "But do something that makes you feel happy, don't merely follow trends."
Ms Savage and her husband are renovating their next home - a townhouse near Sentosa that is bigger than their current apartment. "After a few years, we feel, it is time to move," she says. The look there will be very different with elements of glamour, texture, pattern and a raw but refined palette with brass, antique gold and accents of silver.
There is little to take with her, as the buyer of the Holland Road apartment loves it so much that he is buying the apartment almost fully furnished.
The couple will only take along with them their collection of artworks, the dining furniture and an antique wedding chest.
The couple found the chest some years ago when they first came to Singapore from Australia. "We just loved it and wanted to have something antique and symbolic of our love for Asia and the fascinating culture and history here," she says. "I am a sentimental person and love items that we buy to tell a story and to mean something to us or remind of us of a trip or a moment in our lives."