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Thinking Out Of The Box
WHEN IT COMES TO buying property, Manfred Schmoelz and his wife have one priority - location, location, location.
Even though the layout of the Robertson Quay apartment they saw last year wasn't quite what they wanted, they went ahead to buy it anyway.
The 1,700 sq ft apartment was also much smaller than the couple's former home, a 2,200 sq ft apartment off Orchard Road, which they rented. It was also not as bright and the bedrooms were tiny.
Still, it wasn't something they needed to live with.
"The original layout was not as ideal for the kind of entertaining that we like to do, but we felt that with some remodelling, it could work well for us," says Mr Schmoelz, president for Asia-Pacific for Assurant Group, a premier global provider of risk management solutions.
The couple had a simple brief for William Ng and Kho Keguang of Studio Wills + Architects. They wanted more light and space in the apartment, and the flexibility of refurbishing the home as and when they want.
When Mr Ng visited the couple in their old home, he was taken aback by its spaciousness. Mr Ng says some questions popped into his mind, one of which was how to create the same spacious feeling but in a smaller apartment.
"We also asked ourselves how to make an open and expansive space also feel intimate, and how the apartment could accommodate constant changes in its interior furnishing without being an uncharacteristic and plain 'white box'," says Mr Ng.
The designers dealt with the easier part first. Since it was just the couple living on their own, they didn't need all four bedrooms. Mr Ng reduced the number of bedrooms to just two by demolishing internal partition walls, creating just a master bedroom and a guest room, to make way for a bigger social space. In the process, the layout of the apartment was also changed. The old master bedroom used to be at the front of the apartment, but has been moved to the back to give the couple more privacy.
To create a feeling of spaciousness, the ceiling was painted white and white oak timber floor was installed to connect all the spaces within the apartment. White walls would naturally have been the next step but since Mr Ng didn't want a white box, the walls were done up in a variety of colours. Some walls are clad in timber, others have grey plaster and there is even a standalone wall in the living room that is painted black.
"When William first suggested a black wall, we thought it might be too contrasting, but it has turned out well as a demarcation and focal point of the apartment," says Mr Schmoelz. Mr Ng explains: "Black was picked to anchor the apartment against the lighter-coloured walls."
Step out of the lift and visitors arrive at the apartment foyer which has a timber-clad wall on one side. A floor-to-ceiling glass pivot door ushers visitors into the living room. The colour theme for this room is largely white, from the sofa, armchair and lounger, down to the shelves and even the frames for two contemporary Chinese paintings.
The adjacent lounge area is a different story. The aforementioned black wall is here, and a dark grey sofa for the couple to lounge in front of the TV set. Mr Ng explains that even though this is an open area, the space instantly feels intimate, thanks to the black wall.
At the same time, the black wall also separates the lounge from the dining area. The TV blends into the wall; on the other side, it becomes a plain backdrop for an antique upright piano, and a Chinese calligraphy artwork.
The dining room runs along the length of the apartment. The walls in this space are in two colours for a reason. One wall is plastered grey, to alleviate the impression of a tunnel-like space. On the opposite side is a white wall that runs the entire length visually connecting the dining to the master bedroom at the back.
Since there isn't much floor space to play with, the apartment's bay windows were transformed to make them more functional. For example, bookshelves were installed at the bay windows in the lounge area, where the couple display their collection of books and other personal items.
The dining room also had a set of bay windows, which unfortunately looked into the aircon compressor units. Again, shelves were put in, and clear doors installed, turning this into a display of wine glasses and crockery. And in the master bedroom, another set of bay windows has been converted into a wardrobe.
The muted colours in the apartment allow the couple's collection of artworks - a mix of Asian contemporary art and modern art - to stand out, and regardless of where the pieces go around the apartment, they won't look out of place.
More importantly, the layout of the apartment has been improved. The couple entertains about once a week, and the apartment can fit in just over 10 guests comfortably.
"There is good flow in the apartment now. Our friends can relax in the living room or lounge, and also move from the dining room or to the balcony easily," says Mr Schmoelz, who personally enjoys unwinding at the balcony. He adds: "This wasn't the ideal apartment when we bought it, but now that we have made the best of the space, we absolutely love it here."