An Apartment of Daylight.  And Memories.

One can say, the seeds of this interior design project was sowed more than 10 years ago.

Back then, myself, together with a like-minded friend, took on an interior design project for a client. It was a time when we both were in our early 30s and plunging headlong 'out there' professionally and personally. We were fresh and hungry, eager to make a point in design, and ready to take the next step in our personal lives with our (future) better halves. Nothing in design was impossible.

Similarly for our client then, they had settled down and are looking to start a family. They bought a large resale HDB apartment and got my friend in to give the design a shot. He roped me in as a design collaborator. We dropped by the site regularly after our day jobs, studying the site zealously in the dim light of the evening. We worked on the design in the night, and over the weekends. We lived and breathed design. The fact that the design was real - and not a paper exercise - gave us an adrenaline rush. Needless to say, we delivered on the brief despite the constraints imposed by the existing layout.

Fast forward to 2021, and the same clients contacted my friend again, who again contacted me to jump in. Now the proud parents of 2 young sons need a bigger space, and were ready to move on from their existing HDB apartment which was showing some wear and tear. As for my friend and I, we have since moved on in slightly divergent paths since those wind-in-the-hair years. I've continued to build on my architecture experience and had recently set up my own practice, whereas my friend had progressed to running his own renovation business. This time, he would do the renovations, and I, the design.

The key points of the client's brief bore strong similarities to the first brief over a decade ago. The strong desire for natural daylight, and a neatness in design was still present. We created clarity in the layout by tearing down the unnecessary walls. This opened up the apartment space. We took on an 'additive' technique and carefully re-inserted partitions only when required. The newly-created study space could bask in the same daylight as that in the living room through the use of full height glass panels. Simple moves, but with maximum impact.

We were exceptionally proud of the full size bathroom we created out of an existing WC space. The new bathroom is impossible to photograph properly. but I dare say we exceeded the client's expectations for this. Credit has to be given to my colleague Adlin for pushing it through and creating a marvelous space in its own right.  Further to that, the bulk of the brief was now more complicated and reflective of the 2 young sons they have with them now. Storage provisions, how kids study, how they move (or dash) to the rooms, the parent-child spatial relationship now takes centre-stage as opposed to the more free-wheeling design of their first apartment. This all resonated with me too as a father of an active 6 year old girl. This project really hammered home the impact of the passage of time on our lives.

Yet, apparently some things just do not change. I was reminded by the client on how my approach to kick start the design discussion had remained the same. It was all about the butter paper and the pencils. These were the tools that I trusted, and still trusted, to exercise my design thoughts at every start of a project. Amazingly, the client had kept a copy of one of the very first sketches we did of the first home as well. I jokingly told her it may be worth something in the NFT market.

As the project progressed, Adlin took on more of the day-to-day responsibilities of the project. For me, I could not help but reflect on how things had changed since that first apartment. Since then, the client, my friend and I have since move and forged our own paths. We used to talk about our respective aspirations. And now we had achieved them in some form or another. I have also come to realised it was a double edge sword to be too nostalgic about the past and subconsciously wish for the positive experience to just repeat for the new project. It created expectations based on the past, and it was dangerous for the present. Maybe we truly are older and wiser now, and just that bit more jaded.

Although in general this is a relatively straightforward interior design project, the complexities of thoughts that it threw up due to the history of the clients and with my friend was unprecedented.

In addition, I have also come to realised how design has to evolve with time and changing needs. Even with the same clients. I was fortunate the client was ready to work with the same team again for their new home. But I had to also allow for flexibility in the design process. It had to be fluid and reactive. I was more than convinced after this project that design cannot be 'my way or the highway'. There had to be a tacit understanding between the different stakeholders in the project, a common understanding that had to be achieved in order for a cohesive product to emerge.

This project was exciting, flattering, educational and bittersweet all at the same time. Alas, the beauty of Design.