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A home to grow old in
WHEN you are young and able and raising a family, living in a multi-storey home with a spacious garden may be a dream come true. But as age catches up and kids leave the nest, some mature homeowners feel it's time to downsize. They don't need such a big place, nor the hassle of maintaining one. What they want is a manageable space, that is also future-proof.
It's a brief that more architects and designers are hearing, says Lim Shing Hui, founder of L Architects. Her firm has worked with clients who want elderly-friendly features in the home, so they can live comfortably in their later years.
One of her latest projects is an apartment for a retired couple, he's 65 and she's 59, and their daughter who is in her 30s.
The family used to live in a four-storey landed cluster house. "They have no helper and it was tiring to clean the house themselves," says Ms Lim. "It was also a hassle for them to climb up and down the stairs to get to the different parts of the house." The family had considered installing a lift in their house but the floor plate didn't allow for it.
The family decided to move into an apartment, and bought a 1,345 sq ft apartment in Circuit Road on the highest floor, with unobstructed views of the neighbourhood.
The plan was for the couple to spend their retirement years there, and to make it a restful and calming space since they spend most of their time at home. When Ms Lim first went to recce the 23-year-old apartment, she was overwhelmed by its condition. "Some areas had very little natural light which wasn't ideal for the family," she says.
The bathrooms were also very small, and would not be able to accommodate a wheelchair, should there be a need. "One of the top priorities was to create a bigger bathroom," she says.
If it was a landed property, large bathrooms would not be a challenge but, in this case, she was limited by the apartment's fixed size. So the compromise was to knock down some bedroom walls to make space.
One bathroom is now big enough to accommodate a double vanity. There's also a second entrance so it can be shared between the apartment's two bedrooms. There is a second smaller bathroom in the kitchen.
At the same time, Ms Lim also knocked down walls in the kitchen for a new wet and dry kitchen. For safety reasons, non-slip tiles were used in the bathrooms and kitchen.
Ms Lim adds that another request other older clients make is for level floors throughout their home. "For example, there may be a small step to enter the bathroom, but this can be a hassle for the elderly or when there's a need to push a wheelchair in. So we take the different floor heights into consideration," she says.
Since her clients wanted a low maintenance home, Ms Lim picked dark coloured marble for the island countertop in the kitchen and the main bathroom. "The family likes the natural movement of marble veins, so this is definitely easier to maintain than light coloured ones," says Ms Lim.
For a relaxing and cosy vibe, Ms Lim kept the colour palette muted, using mostly shades of brown, which also extended to the colour of the furnishings.
She kept the designs of the bedrooms fairly simple and identical. The couple has the master bedroom, while their daughter gets the junior master bedroom, which comes with a double volume ceiling and a walk-in wardrobe at the back. For added interest, Ms Lim mounted horizontal and vertical timber strips painted in sage green on the wall to add some tactility.
"The muted shade of green lends comfort and calmness to the space," she says. This same textured treatment is carried out in the living room. Speaking of the living room, the space is an unconventional one. Don't expect to find the usual sofa and coffee table set up. Instead, it is pretty much an empty space. "The family didn't use their living room much back in the old home, so they didn't see the need for one now. They also didn't want additional clutter of furniture that they wouldn't use," says Ms Lim.
There's a television in the dining room, because the family is accustomed to watching the telly there.
The living room space was instead converted into a small lounge area with two armchairs placed opposite the kitchen island, to create a more intimate setting for the family to have tea or read.
Her clients couldn't be happier with the way Ms Lim has delivered a tranquil home with elderly-friendly features for the couple and their daughter."Despite moving into a smaller home, their needs are all met," says Ms Lim. She adds that the family tells her they interact a lot more now that they all live on a single floor. In addition, Circuit Road is a mature estate with plenty of amenities.
"They see themselves living in this apartment for a long time," says Ms Lim.