1,400 sqft ︱Eastern European Retreat x Wabi-sabi
Designed as a year-round Eastern European summer retreat for homeowners, Nicholas and Jessica, the space with its luxe organic design and laid-back ambience is perfectly fitting. The 2-bedder condominium built in the late 90s was transformed thoroughly and the couple with their designers, Cher and Weiting, committed to sparing no expense nor effort to achieve a next level sense of escapism.
In terms of layout, the living room still maintains its original openness. To fit an island within the open kitchen, the area is extended into the common bathroom. The couple desires the luxury of their personal space and has forgone the need for a guest room. Therefore, while the 2 rooms were retained, they are now a single private space and can only be accessed via the study room. Internally, the rooms are separated using heavy linen curtains instead of a door to enhance the fluidity of the 2 rooms. Extensive renovation has been done for the two bathrooms.
The abundant use of rough, natural materials and earthy hues perfectly mimics nature and create a warm, calm and restorative space. To enhance the home’s wabi-sabi aesthetic, textured microcement/limewash floors and walls were present in the entire space, concrete beams, and original rough walls were left untouched or deliberately reinstated while elements such as curvaceous features, muted linens and sculptural décor softened it.
The name Museion Botanica is derived from the homeowners themselves and it loosely means 'museum of botany'. The homeowners are serious botany lovers and in fact purchased the unit specifically for the large backyard which is now a lush garden with palm trees that have grown to 4 metres and houses an impressive collection of more than 150 species of plants.
“It was love at first sight for us when we saw the backyard. After house-hunting for close to a year, we made a decision on the apartment within 20 minutes of the viewing,” says Jessica.
Because of such extensive flora and fauna, a colony of birds have since nested and made home in their garden. Their commitment to integrating nature in their daily lives is truly commendable. To support the homeowners in preparing the space for their lifestyle, the original grass patches were removed and the ground was retiled and part of the space was filled with soil bedding to harvest the palm trees. A nod towards the design of Mediterranean gardens, the tiled flooring was done the in the manner of ‘crazy paving’ referring to the paving of stone in an erratic pattern. To execute this cost-effectively, the designers proposed 3 variations of stone textured square tiles and these tiles were painstakingly broken manually before being laid randomly.
The main feature in the living room is a custom wall-mount ledge spanning close to 8-metre long. It serves as a floating TV console and seating for the dining area. At the dining area, Cher felt very strongly about placing a statement light in the corner instead of an overhead pendant light. With this decision, the heaviness of the statement light migrates into the background and refrains from stealing the limelight from the furnishing and decor in the area, including the artisanal earthenware displayed in the wall niches.
The interior paints a picture of the couple’s shared love for travel, ceramics and all things organic. The space houses objects with sentiment from around the world – take pebbles collected from beaches of Iceland where’d Nicholas had proposed to Jessica and artisanal earthenware from flea markets they visited in Thailand. These kinds of personal touches invite us to experience the home through the couple’s eyes.
Additionally, Cher and Weiting, started curating decorative pieces during the early stages of the project and one of their favourite buys includes an antique iron-wrought wall light sourced from Europe, now mounted beside the Master bathroom’s vanity.
“For this project, we saw greater value in objects with history and imperfections as an ode to the wabi-sabi concept. When the wall light arrived, one of its ‘arm’ had to be repaired because it was broken but we love that someone in Europe once owned it and now it’s been given new life in a home in Singapore. We are extremely grateful that the homeowners understood our artistic expression as designers,” says Weiting.
Linens with their natural fibres, breathable yet warm and with that kind of earthy texture that never wears out, are used throughout the home. In the bedroom, a simple, uncomplicated linen covered bed frame and choice of linen bedding serves a relaxed yet refined style.
The feeling of the entire space depends on one’s position in it. The dark, moody, palette selected for the master bedroom and bath makes them feel sensuous with raw luxury and that juxtaposes with the brighter and airier living room. Stained microcement/ limewash walls, black stone-like vinyl flooring and dark wood cabinets with woven rattan create an amalgam of textures depictive of seductive European summer retreat.
The renovation in the 2 bathrooms was extensive and they were also where the homeowners were willing to spent the most. No tiles were used but rather all microcement finishes were applied on the floors and walls. The walls and shampoo niches were deliberately curved at edges for a softer, unfinished-look.
The open-concept master bathroom was inspired by Casa Cook Hotels where the designers wanted to reflect a villa experience where there is no boundary between the master bedroom and bathroom. The area once used for the bathtub now sees 2 custom concrete sinks and it’s the built-in that the homeowners and designers were most excited for.
“We went all out for the bathrooms. The custom sinks and microcement finishes were the most expensive items but we have no regrets. We also love that the custom sinks were designed whereby one sits higher than the other which considers our personal needs to a tee,” says Nicholas.
“At Studio Metanoia, we’d like to promote the importance of a great bathroom. It’s usually the first space you’d get to before the start of the day and one of the last you’d get to as your cleanse the day away. It’s a vital space for personal wellness which we believe well-thought interiors should support. We are always eager to push the boundaries of the designs of bathrooms. Fortunately, most of our clients feel the same way us we do,” explains Cher.
Unlike the master bathroom, the designers knew that they had to scale back within the secondary bathroom. “We really didn’t want to spend on a custom vanity in this bath and eventually the designers proposed for a free-standing sink which we got at a steal of $450 and eventually, microcement finishing was applied on the its original white ceramic body to it integrate nicely with the walls and floor. The final result made the sink look like it was customized. We really appreciate the creative solutions proposed to stay within budget while not compromising on aesthetic,” says Jessica.
When asked if they have any renovation regrets, the couple expressed that they’ve had this conversation multiple times and concluded that they do not. “We get this question a lot and I guess it’s rare that that you do not have any regrets for your first renovation. Shout-out to our designers who really took the time to go into extreme details and positively challenged our old habits, preconceptions, and misconceptions that may not have turn out well,” says Nicholas.
At Studio Metanoia, we have slowly identified some key success factors required from homeowners for pulling-off a project of such scale:
(1) commitment and effort to stay on course to achieve what we’ve set out for
(2) open communication constructive feedback for designers and execution team
(3) creative freedom and trust provided to designers
(4) an understanding that good work takes time and;
(5) a willing budget
We’d like to take this opportunity to extend our heartfelt appreciation for Nicholas and Jessica for helping us make us make your dream home come true.