"Over the past nine years, our home has seen so many changes—and I love how the space grows along with our family," beams Justina Tey, loving wife to John and doting mom to three boys she fondly refers to as Junior J, Lil J, and Baby J on her blog. Another bundle of joy is joining them soon.
Justina gushes, "Our home holds plenty of good memories: the arrival of three babies, the doodles on the no longer pristine walls, and the wall art and displays that hold happy histories of overseas trips and adventures."
Indeed, this 125-square-metre HDB flat in Bishan is a blissful home, one that reflects the warmth and high spirits of its residents. There is a warm lived-in feeling, and the eclectic mélange of Scandinavian and vintage elements makes the space come alive. In the Tey's family home, one finds the perfect balance between chic decors and kid-friendly furnishings. Without sacrificing design and aesthetics, the couple slowly built a home that the young ones would enjoy, and the result: an abode that is a beautiful symphony of style and comfort.
The entryway alone is a busy area—the learning corner, chalkboard space, and mini-garden are situated here.
"We also love how our home works for us. We have ample storage to store our kids' stuff and there's space for the kids to do their work and learning, which is so essential if you homeschool. Our furnishings are comfortable so we can lounge at home with a good book," shares Justina.
The entryway already gives you a sneak peek of what to expect from this home. A learning corner carved out of the access corridor houses "toys" from Mother Nature—these are fruits, pebbles, and leaves her boys had picked up when they would go on strolls in the nearby park, all stored in wooden bowls, baskets, and spice and food jars. Faux grass from Daiso adds that feeling of being close to nature.
Opposite the "nature table" is the chalkboard wall, a space for the kids to doodle as much as they want. There is also a mini garden that consists of ferns, cacti, and fittonia. "I love that they can be messy in this area and we don't need to worry so much about the dirt and chalk dust going into the home," she says.
But what really makes the entryway stand out is the collection of enamel trays on the blush pink wall. The colourfully curated display provides the vintage flair to this area. Justina explains, "I like collecting vintage things because I love the idea that these things have stories and a history behind them. Who knows what these plates used to hold before they got to our home?"
The two-year-old Kivik two-seat sofa and chaise lounge as well as the Svalsta nesting tables (set of 2) were both from IKEA. The tables perfectly suit the family's activities—assembling Lego, enjoying snacks, art activities, among others. The owl-shaped wooden stool was bought when the family traveled to Malaysia. The framed world map on the wall adds pizazz to the living room. The globe decors from a flea market in Belgium and Typo are also lovely details in this space.
"The living room used to be a bedroom! Hacking down the walls to create a really long rectangular living-dining area really helped with regard to ventilation and light. The storage cabinets we installed some time ago really help to keep things neat and organised and this is the place that the kids spend the most time playing," says Justina. "Before this, the original layout was dark and stuffy, and you would need to have your sofa sticking out just next to the main door!"
John and Justina loved the look of dark wood but they later realised they needed a bright and airy ambience for the living room, especially since their brood spends a lot of time here. The family recently renovated this part of the house and used affordable furniture to help them clear the clutter and organise everything.
Happy and cheerful splashes in the kitchen: yellow-tiled backsplash, pearl white cabinets, subway wall tiles, vintage enamel plates, and a small display corner.
Travel magnets, anyone?
The kitchen is such a busy area, but it doesn't have to look drab. Justina set up a display corner that holds Junior J's colourful cat painting as well as food postcards from Germany that she had framed.
The hidden gem of the kitchen: the too-pretty-for-words breakfast nook styled by no other than the woman of the house. It always has a jug of water and cups easily accessible and always available for the boys. Some more beautiful details: tingkat with crayons for when the kids want to doodle while Mummy is cooking, fruit serving bowl, and food trays for transferring food to the dining area. The candy-coloured kopitiam chairs are from Hock Siong.
"We especially love our yellow-tiled backsplash, since it makes the whole kitchen so much cheerier! The kitchen really works hard for us in terms of storage, and has a dishwasher which really helps, as we don't have a full-time helper. The various decor details like the pictures and enamel plates make me enjoy staying in the kitchen to cook," she says.
Justina describes their kitchen as the "most colourful room in the home today." After their one-year stay in Germany because of John's work, the family moved back to Singapore and did major renovations for this area. The couple had chosen subway tiles with bevelled edges for the walls to inject a country feel to the space. They originally wanted Peranakan tiles for the backsplash but found that the designs available were limited. They went for cheery yellow and knew they couldn't have chosen a more perfect colour to brighten up the kitchen. The white cabinetry, which was custom made by their interior designer, completed the look.
Things can get messy in the dining room, so the couple kept it simple but added some stylish little details. This extendable table from IKEA is also the boys' dedicated "school room" since they are homeschooled. This is their library as well as arts and crafts area. John and Justina framed posters they bought from Copenhagen Zoo in Denmark and displayed them on the dining room wall to inject a little sass.
The piano, which sits next to the main door, serves as a parking space for bits and bobs they can easily grab when they head out.
Crafty mum Justina turned the Raskog trolley into an art supplies organiser. They installed a magnetic knife rack with enamel cups to house the markers used by the kids in this art area.
"Since we sacrificed a room to carve out a living room area, this means our dining room is huge by HDB standards. We wanted a large dining area as we used to host our bible study group, and we sometimes like to have pot-luck gatherings, or craft sessions with friends, so having a long extendable table works," relates Justina.
The boys are raving about the addition of the world map wallpaper to their bedroom!
The reading corner: kid-sized retro string chairs and rag rugs from Penang, owl cushion from Typo, and alphabet poster from October Afternoon.
The showstopper in the kids' bedroom is the world map wallpaper, which Justina decided to get from Amazon after seeing it in another room. The young boys loved the fact that they sleep in "Australia and New Zealand." Shadowboxes were installed on the wall to serve as storage space for the boys. The couple also created a little reading corner in the master's bedroom so that the older brothers could enjoy a good book while Mom is busy tending to the younger ones.
On the outside, the Tey's home blends in well with the rest of the flats in their HDB block. But inside lies a treasure trove of creative interior ideas peppered with sweet maternal touches, ensuring this is a home enjoyed by the whole family, especially the younger ones. Justina shares home decor, parenting, and
Type of home: HDB 5-room
Total space: 125 square metres
Budget: $15,000 (first renovation), $50,000 (second renovation)
Works done: First renovation included kitchen cabinetry, house repainting, wall hacking to convert a bedroom into the living room, building of false walls to create a walk-in wardrobe. Second renovation included overhauling the entire kitchen and both bathrooms, replacing the dining area flooring, and house repainting.
Justina's tips on creating a kid-friendly home:
- Take time to let your home come together. "It's especially lovely when the accessories and art in the home hold memories, instead of being all store-bought at one shot. And sometimes, it takes time to pull a look together."
- Be flexible. "When it comes to families, especially those with young children, you find that you'll have to constantly change your spaces to suit their needs, and your home will be constantly changing."
- When you can, choose quality. "We regretted certain furniture buys, since they didn't stand up to the test of time, especially with kids!"
- Think long term. "I prefer to steer clear of cartoony motifs and very kiddy designs when it comes to choosing accessories, and go for more classic prints which go a much longer way. Getting adult-sized mattresses for the kids means you don’t need to constantly 'upsize' their beds."
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Photos by Justina Tey