While a Housing Development Board flat is already fully furnished and habitable, an HDB design by default appears to be quite generic and even feels a bit drab and dreary. However, with enough inspiration and creativity, or enough money to hire an interior designer, it is actually possible to change the default HDB design from something boring to fabulous and stunning like a first-class flat despite the limited space. It could be improved to the point that if seen in a photograph or in person one would find it hard to believe that it is originally a Housing Development Board flat, due to the changes that are implemented in the default HDB design.
However, before changing anything in the original HDB design a renovation permit is required, whatever the status maybe whether being owned or rent to own and especially if just rented. So it’s best to avoid any unauthorized tampering with the default design. Also, some parts of a more recent upgraded Housing Development Board flat, aside from minor renovations, could not be modified for a few years since its initial upgrade. It might take around 3-5 years before anyone would be able to do so. An example of this is the tiles due to water proofing issues.
In order to secure a renovation permit in order to change the default flat design the following is needed to be done:
- Secure the keys to the house.
- Pay up for the insurance.
- Acquire a SP services or utilities account. This is for the electricity and water supply.
The following are some HDB design ideas to consider:
- Changing the flooring or floor tiles: first of all, be aware that changing the tiles, especially on the bathroom and on newly made or just recently renovated flats, isn’t allowed due to stability and durability issues as stated above and had to wait for a few years in order to do so. But what if I want to change the default tiles because those creepy bright pink tiles are an eyesore for me, or just doesn’t my overall design or color scheme or motif? The solution for this dilemma is overlaying, or placing new layers of tiles over the existing layer of tiles. On the bright side this would make the tiles or flooring or wall even more durable and is much preferable, and cost friendly instead of removing the old layer of tiles, assuming it is already allowed to do so. However, overlaying could only be done once: anything more than two layers aren’t possible and the existing layers had to be removed. As of now tiles costs around $6,500 to $9,000 but that also depends on the style, size, and the amount necessary for your unit.
- Hacking off some walls: a lot appears to be doing this nowadays, removing the walls in some of the rooms and sometimes replacing them with thinner, lighter, and sometimes even movable sliding walls. By hacking off some walls, doing so isn’t only providing more space, but also more freedom in changing the layout of the house to one’s own liking. Depending on the area, thickness, length, etc. hacking off a wall, usually costs around $400 to $900 currently. Movable dividers or sliding walls are also the best choice for a replacement when hacking off a wall as aside from providing more space it only provides more privacy when needed and also eliminates the need for extra doors. When it comes to doors compared to swing-out type doors, sliding doors are also the best choice is possible as sliding doors invade less space.
- Wall design: there are many choices when it comes to decorating the wall, ranging from wallpapers to painted walls. While wallpaper looks nice it is prone to wear and tear and would look unsightly and definitely require replacement a few years later. Painting the wall is another option. A wall designed with painted artwork would also look great for artists, or anyone with sufficient enough artistic talent, or had the money to hire someone to do so. It also adds a more personal touch. For those who want the illusion of having more space the lighter colors such as white and sky blue are recommended. Another trick to create the illusion of having more space is to install wall-mounted mirrors in the right places. Also try to avoid sticking on patches when decorating the walls with frames to avoid splotches on the wall.
- Carpentry and other wood works: in an HDB design, this includes all built-in cabinets and excluding additional furniture. Carpentry on the kitchen alone could most likely cost around $8,000 but that also depends on several factors such as the materials used and the overall size of the area. Wall-mounted built-in cabinets are also a must for those who own a lot of miscellaneous things in order to avoid creating a cluttered mess. In some cases an elevated wall-mounted cabinet is better. Aside from keeping cluttered mess out of sight they are also great space savers. Customized furniture is also included in carpentry. It’s best to have customized furniture and take advantage of those extra corners in the house such as an open space underneath the stairs. Another thing is customized furniture that is a multi – purpose, such as a bed with drawers underneath.
- Ventilation: for smaller spaces, an air conditioner is actually much more cost effective and space saving as opposed to having more than one cooling unit such as several electric fans. Go for a split type air conditioner also as it consumes less energy and less space, and doesn’t require a huge square hole in the mall just for it to be mounted.
Owning a Housing Development Board flat here in Singapore is fortunate enough. Because despite actually being government owned and operated public housing, they aren’t low cost shanties unlike in other countries, which could be even barely considered habitable. In fact, they are actually quite decent and provide quality living. But the best thing about it is that even renters are allowed and granted a certain degree of freedom in tweaking the default HDB design.