Imagine having to settle down in your first home with unpacked boxes and missing essentials like tables and chairs. Sounds daunting, but this was all part of Beatrice Ong’s and Marcus Kho’s plan to construct a space that didn’t always have to be planned.
Although both of them studied and currently work in design, they had little experience with interiors and renovations before embarking on their house’s transformation. This has not stopped the couple from creating a cosy, rustic abode that embraces both spontaneity and careful decision-making — from impromptu furnishings to a kitchen layout that was chosen only after five iterations.
We caught up with Beatrice and Marcus to learn more about how they’ve built a home that grows with them, including their tips for designing a space with the flexibility to evolve.
Beatrice and Marcus, we’d love to hear more about your home design process.
We both work as designers and studied different design specialisations in university, so we already had an interest in general design and styles early on. Before getting into any design details, we had conversations with each other about what we wanted our home to be like. We wanted our home to have the character and charm of European apartments, while striving for that simplicity that we’ve seen in Japanese homes.
The kitchen and living room today. Like the rest of the house, they are steeped in warm, cosy tones. Images c/o Beatrice and Marcus.
What were some of the challenges you faced while renovating and how did you work through them together?
Our renovations were delayed due to Covid-19 and started right as we opened up for Phase 2. We only got our keys six months after we purchased our unit and once we saw the space again, we realised a lot of what we had remembered or planned for during that time had to be adjusted. It was also challenging to make constant decisions on the fly with the restrictions and continual updates to our renovation timeline.
When it came to areas of the house where we had differing views, we tried to avoid jumping to solutions. Instead, we encouraged each other to articulate our rationale so we could understand how the idea might contribute to the space that we had envisioned.
Unlike many homeowners, you moved into your house without all your furniture! Why build your home as you were living in it?
Yes, we only got some things like our tables and chairs after a month. On reflection, however, it was worth it because the choices we made actually work in our space. Living without furniture was not easy, but we wanted to fill our home with things that not only suited our style, but also the overall layout. It was important for us be in our house itself to see how items could work together and within a room — especially since the space we visualise in our heads tend to be much larger than in reality.
A home is a space that should change, grow, and adapt to our needs at different moments and phases in our lives. We knew that as much as we could plan and draw out our home in 2D, it was only through living in it that we would get a better understanding of what works best for us.
Beatrice and Marcus never expected themselves to go with a marble dining table at the start. But embracing the unplanned is also balanced with careful decision-making — it took a long time for them to settle on decorating the wall behind with a framed scarf, as they wanted to ensure whatever they picked could pull the whole space together. Image c/o of Beatrice and Marcus.
Images c/o of Beatrice and Marcus.
We constantly reminded ourselves that no matter how much we desire perfection, there are bound to be imperfections along the way. We didn’t want to be overly tied down to our home or too particular to the point that we couldn’t fully enjoy the space we had created. Even if something was a mistake or miscalculation, we found ways to make it work. If anything, these were learning opportunities for us and lessons we could share with others as well.
On the topic of decision-making, what are the things you consider before deciding to commit to a design idea?
We think first and foremost about the practical things — how we use the space and what we will be doing in it. We then balance that with aesthetics. It also helps that we keep each other in check, so we know our decisions are justified and not impulsive or based just on trends. Two important factors to us are perseverance and time. This means not settling for less than what we can be happy with, and not rushing the process till we get to that solution.
The different spaces in Beatrice's and Marcus's home. Images c/o Beatrice and Marcus.
All images courtesy of Beatrice and Marcus. Follow their home journey on Instagram.
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Image c/o Beatrice and Marcus.