Habitus Singapore, Kitchen & Bathroom / The Ideal Construction

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Kitchen & Bathroom Special Edition

The Ideal Construction

Designing and constructing your dream kitchen doesn’t have to be a daunting task. We provide some practical strategies to get you started.

(Original text written by Elana Castle; updated text for Singapore edition by Luo Jingmei).

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In historic times, the hearth was the heart of the home, functioning both as fireplace and stove and providing comfort to both stomach and soul. Now it appears that history is repeating itself: rather than being relegated to the back of the home as a purely utilitarian space, the kitchen is now increasingly integrated into the living area with the open kitchen concept being a popular trend. Kitchen system designs have also followed suit, looking and behaving more like furniture pieces that straddle multiple functions.

Similarly, the bathroom is no longer just designed for functionality. Perhaps largely influenced by the hospitality segment, homeowners are now aspiring for it to be sanctuary of wellness and relaxation. Like the kitchen, the walls of the bathroom have blurred, opening the space up to wardrobe or sleeping zones.

Architect Rene Tan of RT+Q Architects describes it well: “one exciting thing about designing bathrooms and kitchens is that these spaces are integral to daily living. Simple daily activities like hand washing and showering can be reimagined and customised into an entirely new experience,”

With more importance allocated to creating an “experience”, good planning is essential. We speak with some professionals to provide readers with tips on how to go about creating your dream kitchen and bathroom.

 

How to get Started

The kitchen and bathroom are often the most designed spaces in the home –aesthetically, as well as technically. As such, it is important that you leave their design and construction to your designer. They will be able to help plan for things that you do not anticipate, for instance, in the concealing of pipes and cables or sourcing for fittings that are approved for use in Singapore.

Depending on the complexity of the design and the budget, you may need to engage specialists. Suppliers of established brands often provide this service for a fee. Leaf through magazines to show your designer your desired look and visit kitchen and bathroom showrooms to touch and try out the products for yourself so that you know exactly if a product is most suited for you. It is also advisable to visit some projects completed by your designer so that you are sure their aesthetics are in line with your preferences.

Suggests architect Maria Warner Wong of WOW Architects: “Begin by imagining yourself in your space, using it, alone and with other people you with to interact with in that space. Envision positive experiences, recall other kitchens and bathrooms you have used or seen before and been drawn to and take note of why you were drawn to it or remember it.”

 

Useful Questions

Kitchens and bathrooms are trade-intensive so a good timeline and vigilant project management is key. Troubleshoot potential issues like existing damp or services relocation before planning the construction. Ask:

  • Will I receive a detailed pricing of the scope of works?
  • How long will the works take?
  • Who will be running the project?
  • How can I prepare my home for the build?
  • Where can I make savings that don’t’ negatively impact the quality of the build?

 

Crafting Your Own Brief

When designing a kitchen or bathroom, it is important that you know what works for you and prioritising your wish list to help allocate your budget well. Says Jennifer Soh, Head of Corporate Sales at Space Furniture Singapore, “It’s really about making smart choices and paying for what you need…for example, the most expensive appliance that can work wonders is not necessary for the home cook who only puts together basic meals.” Think about the following questions in coming up with your brief for your designer.

  • What is your lifestyle? Do you cook often, entertain or is your kitchen more a showpiece? Is your bathroom a practical space or retreat?
  • How much maintenance are you willing to put up for the upkeep these spaces? This will help the designer suggest appropriate ideas and materials.
  • How much storage and shelf space do you need, and what kind? In any case, design for more storage and shelf space than you think you need.
  • What kind of lighting do you need? Decorative or functional or both?
  • Who are the people using the spaces most? This will help to plan for comfort. For instance, if the key user is very tall, the designer may need to cater for higher countertops.
  • What kind of aesthetic do you desire?

 

Fittings, Fixtures and appliances

Our industry panel share some tips on choosing these functional components.

  • You get what you pay for. If something is cheap, it usually is.
  • Make sure the products are approved for use in Singapore and come from reputable and established retailers so that you know where to turn to if something goes wrong. If you order something online, be prepared that you might not get exactly what you see on the screen.
  • Read online reviews before buying for valuable information and customer feedback.
  • Choose appliances with good energy ratings for cost savings.
  • Consider the technical limitations and structural layout that you have to work with before selecting your fittings and wares. That will help you decide if you should go for a floor or wall mounted WC, for instance.

 

Surface Treatment

These days there are plenty of materials to choose from in covering your floor, wall or countertops. We explore some alternatives.

Good as Gold

Brass is an increasingly popular material. However, it is prone to erosion if exposed to too much humidity or chemicals in soap. In one project, Yip Yuen Hong of ipli Architects came up with a creative alternative, using aluminium in PVD gold coating in the bathroom as mirror and glass framing to echo the brass elements used throughout the house.

Homogeneous Appeal

Han Loke Kwang of HYLA Architects suggests further extending the use of solid surface, often just applied to countertops, as wall cladding in the design of the bathroom. “The material has a smooth, homogeneous and monolithic appearance, which gives it a very calm and solid feel,” he says.

Old or New

Laminates, matt lacquers, veneers, high-gloss lacquers and stainless steel are the usual choices for kitchen cabinetry door fronts. Steven Lim, Design Manager of Boffi Singapore suggests going the extreme with some of Boffi’s new offerings: futuristic finishes in metal lacquers, laser matt (a nanotech material), aluminium, polyester high gloss; or antiquated and natural like weathered old pine wood.

 

Design Tips for Tropical Spaces

How can you design a kitchen or bathroom that function well in the tropics? We asked a few professionals to share some tips.

Love of Timber

Timber has an organic appeal but high moisture in tropical climates can lead to easy rotting. Yong Sy Lyng of OWMF Architecture proposes using steel framing directly below the basin and infill plywood drawers a distance away, as was done in one project. “In case the plywood deteriorates, the homeowner can easily replace or remove the drawers without affecting the basin or use of the toilet,” she says.

Inside Out

If one has the advantage of having a kitchen next to an outdoor space, Rene Tan of RT+Q suggests extending the kitchen countertop from the interior to the exterior to meld the inside-outside experience. He has done this in one of his projects, using Pure Grey hard limestone with an antiquated brushed finish that can withstand outdoor weathering but is not too porous for kitchen usage.

Corner Details

Says Nicole Wu, Assistant Manager of Branding & Marketing of Lamitak, “If laminate is used for the bathroom areas such as storage cabinets, the designer needs to keep in mind how to finish off the edges so as to avoid moisture seeping into the substrate.” Lamitak’s NewEdge edging solution helps to provide a seamless coverage on the edges.

 

Emerging Trends

We asked our panel of experts to predict the new trends for the kitchen and bathroom.

Multi Functions

“Kitchens with nifty details that work hard and work smart have always been in trend; we now see these details evolving to suit our changing lifestyles. Snack work tops, for instance in Poliform Varenna’s Artex range, which suggest communality for impromptu meals, are gaining popularity too,” says Jennifer Soh, Head of Corporate Sales at Space Furniture Singapore.

Scandinavian Touch

With the rise of the Scandinavian trend in home interiors, homeowners are deciding that less is more. “Colours like black, white and bronze are increasing popularity in recent years,” says Leona Chng of kitchen and bathroom retailer Volume Five.

No Hassle

Homeowners love the natural aesthetic but are increasingly concern about maintenance. “With recent advancement in printing and technology, we have found that tiles can also create an equally luxurious environment, especially when care is given to the details and joints,” says architect Rene Tan of RT+Q. An example is printed tiles that imitate timber flooring. Similarly, you can re-create the look of concrete on laminates from Lamitak or on quartz countertop from Caesarstone in the latter’s new ‘Concrete’ series.

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In Focus

(Case study 1 – Chiltern House by WOW Architects)

Co-founder of WOW Architects Maria Warner Wong talks about the ideas behind creating a bathroom with unique proportions that blurs the boundaries between indoors and outdoors, bathroom and living space her own home, the Chiltern House.

What were your key design strategies?

The bathroom was laid out across the full 11-metre width of the site within a very narrow space of only 1.8 metres in depth. Full-height sliding glass doors were placed along the entire side opening to a private roof terrace to blur the boundary between the bathroom and the garden. The elongated space was further [articulated] by placing the vanity and fittings parallel to the long view looking into the garden.

How did you make use of the selected finishes and fittings to achieve your aims?

With a soothing quality reminiscent of a riverbed, the marble is placed parallel to the long side of the bathroom flowing from end to end. It is also used on the columns to minimise the mass of the steel structure within and on the long vanity counter. The selected fittings, Hansgrohe Axor Bouroullec taps, selected reinforce the aesthetic of water flowing.

How does the design buckle the trend of the bathroom integrating into other areas of the home?

We combined the luxuries and comforts of a living area with dressing and bathing [functions] in this space to provide a total sensory experience integrating landscape, sound system, mood lighting and air conditioning. The bespoke Chiltern Console Table was placed at the entrance to provide a variety of welcoming surprises that can range from floral arrangements to cocktails or breakfast.

(Case Study 2 – LingHao Architects Bilis House)

In the Bilis House, connectivity is an important aspect of the home, where the family encounters one another, as well as nature, as they go about their daily, mundane activities. Linghao of Linghao Architects shares how he does this.

What did you do to increase connectivity of the kitchen and bathroom to the rest of the home?

We brought back a courtyard that was covered up, and an open island kitchen was made on the ground floor where [the homeowners] can cook and eat and socialise around. On the upper level, the bathroom and bedroom overlook into [this courtyard].

What is the key material used and why was it selected?

To blend with the old house and other newer finishes such as the plywood, coloured cement and plants, something a bit softer like timber, which would age well, [was chosen]. We used Mempisang, a local hardwood. The client regularly oils the top [to maintain it].