Scroll through Instagram and you’ll likely chance upon images of showroom-worthy homes. But a new breed of HDB homeowners in Singapore are taking it to the next level – starting dedicated Instagram accounts to document their heartland homes.
From carefully curated interiors to quirky thrifted finds and stylish plants, these burgeoning home accounts show pride and a sense of ownership in people wanting to transform and personalise that blank slate. In fast-paced Singapore, their homes offer a refuge and space for slow living, and contribute to a growing sense of community.
Artistic hideout in Tiong Bahru
Bold pops of red, yellow and blue make up the vibrant colour palette here. An array of prints adorns the home, from Henri Matisse reproductions and art by Indonesian artist Yani Halim, to a lovingly sketched portrait of their pet cockatiel. Elsewhere, a 25 by 25 frame captures a single euphoric moment of enjoyment – the bite of cold beer, the burn of hot soup, the draw of a good book. In one corner, the silhouette of a dragon tree gently frames a round mirror, much like a magical portal of sorts, joke husband and wife Lauren Cheung and Lloyd Rajoo.
Initially started to document their home journey since 2020, the Flat Bahru account has become an outlet to express their creativity. Feeling restless during the pandemic, the couple, both civil servants, turned to creating and collecting art to inject new life into their space in Tiong Bahru. Lauren runs dirtydoodies, a platform to sell her art prints and illustrations.
With a social media following of over 6,000, the account has also drawn attention from brands such as Love Bonito, coffee machine supplier Drink Morning and Benjamin Barker the latter of which approached them to feature its loungewear collection.
“I didn’t even think this is what people would appreciate because it’s just something we designed so we could feel comfortable in our own space,” says Cheung.
Adds Rajoo, “What I’ve learnt is that not everything needs to be functional and modern, the cosiness comes from soft furnishings like plants and prints. Everyone deserves a great house.”
Their travels to the little family-run restaurants, cafes and inns in Taiwan and Japan were a huge source of inspiration to husband and wife Adrian and Diana, the homeowners of Yasumu.
Both work in the creative industry – Adrian is a wedding photographer and Diana is an illustrator/designer.
“True to the origin of the word, home is a place of rest for us, which is also why we named our place “Yasumu” which means “rest” in Japanese. It’s a comfort space where we can seek rest after a long day at work, and just unwind and be ourselves,” said the couple.
They started the styling process with an old Japanese teahouse in mind – with plenty of wood and earthy tones made personal with small items of memorabilia includings photos, postcards and toys. Among their favourite pieces is a customised work desk from The Table Guy. With its curved and raw edges, it complements their work ethos, “a fine deviation from the mainstream culture, and one closer to a genuine and unrefined outlook of life.” The latter recalls wabi-sabi, a concept that in traditional Japanese aesthetics, reflects the acceptance of transience and imperfection.
The couple describe themselves as simple and introverted people who enjoy spending time with small groups of family and friends, be it bonding over a meal, board game or movie night. Being surrounded by wood and greens in their timber-clad and plant-laden home also keep them happy, especially with the ongoing travel restrictions.
“Our intention of setting up an Instagram page was purely to chronicle our days in our first home, and as a visual journal for us to look back on when we are older. And as photographers, we value the importance of these visual memories both for ourselves as well as our future generation. I believe this highlights the simple joy of owning a home in Singapore, and the amount of passion invested into making it a comfortable and happy one.
Bohemian heartland rhapsody
When artist Shari Chong first looked to overseas examples of home decor ideas for her Punggol HDB flat, she found that many were not suitable because of their high ceilings or winter skylights. That was what inspired her to start this Instagram account in November 2021 to document her home styling adventures and to help others see the potential of what a HDB could look like. Soon, it became a lively marketplace for other homeowners to trade design hacks and borrow inspiration from her bohemian-style HDB flat in Punggol.
From a room full of contemporary German and Scandinavian and vintage lamps, a DIY step ladder sourced from a wood artist friend, a one-of-a-kind 1960s iron grille, Lee Kuan Yew memorabilia, an IKEA shoe shelf repurposed as a cabinet to store art supplies to an ashtray holding stones from their travels, it’s a mishmash of styles.
Growing up with modest means in Penang, Chong discovered the magic of thrift shopping at car boot sales and flea markets. Today, she continues to trawl Carousell for pieces every morning and night, which she highlights on her Instagram stories. This is on top of her dedicated ‘thrifting days’ where she unearths hidden finds at Cash Converters, The Salvation Army Peacehaven and vintage store Treasure at Home. “For someone like me who can’t afford a six-figure renovation, it doesn’t mean I can’t have a home that looks good too, and thrifting helps me achieve the vibe I’m going for,” she explains.
More importantly, the act of sourcing for second-hand goods has taught her about patience and slow living. “It forces you to slow down, because you spend a lot of time searching for it, to rethink if you actually love it and to find out if it really speaks to you,” she says.
Every Saturday morning, Leena Loh begins her ritual of gently gathering her some 90 pots of plants in the bathroom, where she gives them a good shower, prunes them and sprinkles fertilliser. Feeling cooped up during the pandemic, her plant collection has spiralled out of hand, expanding “fast and furious, week after week,” says the marketing professional with a laugh.
The bright and airy space in Sengkang is filled with an array of small to medium sized plants, ranging from baby pilea peperomioides plants to silver-streaked scindapsus and velvety-leaved anthurium in earth-toned pots. Her statement plants – the philodendron gloriosum and monstera thai constellation – take centre stage in the living room.
As a former professional scrapbooker, she knew she had a knack for mixing and matching items and creating colour concepts. When she initially started her Instagram account in late 2020, it was a way of sharing tips on sourcing for home furnishings to friends and family. But when she started to document her plant journey, she was surprised to gain a humble following of other plant hobbyists.
Today, the self-professed “crazy plant lady” gets her green fix from local nurseries such as Jungalore, littebotany and Wee Lee Nursery & Florist.
To Loh, plants create a homely vibe and add life to the living space. “Instead of facing the computer for nine or ten hours a day, I like to step away from my table for a 10- to 15-minute coffee break to walk and just look at my plants to refresh my eyesight and mind. Not everyone can invest in expensive hobbies and plants can be a good start,” she says.
Dialled down digs
Ying started the Our Slow House account to document snippets of their lives as they navigated adulthood and set up their first home – a huge milestone for her and her husband.
The pair – the first among their friends to move into a place of their own – soon found comfort in a helpful and welcoming community on Instagram who shared everything from photos of their beautiful homes to cleaning tips, recipes, and renovation woes.
Describing their style as “urban bohemian, mid-modern and a little quirky,” their space is furnished with warm wood tones, loose furniture to move around according to their preference, open shelving that showcases travel and childhood knick knacks, to pops of colour with artwork such as a risograph print from Knuckles and Notch.
Ying, who works in tech, says she has a keen interest in home decor and DIY projects and takes inspiration from home accounts from the US and South Korea.
She names her current favourite item – a rattan shelf purchased from Carousell at $25 and refreshed for the master bedroom after three hours of sanding, super-gluing and spray painting.
Highlighting her home reminds her to be grateful for the little things in life. “On busy workdays, I always try to dedicate pockets of time to take a breather. It could be an extra five minutes on the couch with my coffee, or watching the light dance on our walls during sunsets.
“Whenever I open the door to our home after a day out, it is always with a sense of relief, knowing that I am now back in the place that provides me the most comfort. And I think that’s what makes a house, a home.”