Upsizing From Shoebox Apartments in Hong Kong to a Stunning Five-Room HDB Flat

Hazel Chew in her five-room HDB flat in Tengah
Hazel left her HR Specialist role in Hong Kong to be with her family in Singapore

After living and working in Hong Kong for seven years, Hazel Chew knew it was time to come home in 2018. She made the decision to leave her job to be with her ageing parents in Singapore.

Fortunately, her company provided her with a job transfer. “Upon realising that I wanted to move back to Singapore, my company offered me a job opportunity in Singapore, so that was nice,” she says. 

 

Parental approval

After living in various apartments in Hong Kong — infamously known for their claustrophobic sizes — it was important to her to find a home with plenty of space... with some extra features!

Fortunately for Hazel, her home buying journey was smooth-sailing. As she couldn’t make regular trips back to Singapore, her parents helped to search for homes. She also engaged her property agent friend to help her out. 

Read: How Does The TDSR Affect Your Home Loan?

Just like everyone else, she had several must-haves for her dream abode; the property had to be close to her parents, spacious and within her budget. The apartment’s interior had to be bright and airy too. 

As luck would have it, her current five-room resale flat is her perfect home. Not only is it reasonably priced for a five-room flat at that time, but it’s also only two blocks away from where her parents are living. 

Hazel Chew's airy five-room HDB flat in Tengah

“Purchasing the flat was a really fast decision as we only looked at four to five properties,” Hazel recalls. “My parents loved this place. The trick is to get something your parents approve of − every time they visit, they’ll tell me I made the right choice and that’s music to my ears!” 

Read: HDB’s Proximity Housing Grant (PHG): Get $20,000 in Grants When You Live Close to Your Parents

“The freedom that you get and the ability to host people was something I wanted to maintain as part of my lifestyle,” she says, describing her five-bedroom resale flat in Choa Chu Kang estate, as ‘a steal’.

 

Working out the kinks

Now that Hazel, currently in her late 30s is a homeowner, the next step involved renovating her house. Her initial intention was to rent it out, as she hadn't anticipated getting a property so soon and wasn’t ready to move back to Singapore just yet. 

However, Hazel’s plans changed after talking to John Chan, the Creative Director of interior design firm, Neu Konceptz. A good friend and bandmate of her brother-in-law, John had also worked on his marital home. 

With remodelling happening whilst living overseas and unable to physically check in on renovation works, it had the potential for complicated hurdles. 

Hazel engaged John from Neu Konceptz to design her five-room HDB home in Choa Chu Kang

This didn't stop her from putting full trust in John, who created a warm and inviting abode that she loves!

After a FaceTime session discussing the concept for her home, Hazel decided John was going to be able to provide her with what she desired. The renovation was scheduled so that by the time she got back to Singapore in April 2019, the house was fully renovated and ready to move in.

Throughout the entire renovation process, she only visited the flat once. Even as she couldn’t be around to monitor the progress of the renovation, she was quite certain that her project was in good hands, despite admitting that leaving it to John was a great leap of faith.

Read: An HDB Owner’s Guide to HDB Renovation Permits and Guidelines

“He did a mock-up to help me visualise everything, and I had videos and pictures regularly sent to me,” says Hazel. “But you have to place some degree of trust in your designer when working with them. If not, it limits their creativity.” 

A perfect place

Hazel Chew's spacy, airy and bright HDB home in Choa Chu Kang by Neu Konceptz

Luckily, both Hazel and John have great chemistry, and their shared love of music was an added bonus, helping cement a common bond and influencing the home design. Hazel’s faith in John paid off. She absolutely loves the way her home turned out, and the personal, bespoke touches that have been added. 

“I had a couple of guitars that I wanted to put up, so John hung them up on the walls of my room,” she says. “I also have all these coffee-making gadgets, so he made a little bar top where I can do most of my coffee stuff.” 

The renovations took 9-10 weeks. John would send emails, drawings, and more via WhatsApp. 

Finally, the renovations were complete. It was ready for Hazel’s return, along with her beloved canine.

Master bedroom of Hazel's HDB flat in Choa Chu Kang

Hazel cites the revamped balcony area (see feature image) as her favourite place in the home. She initially hoped to keep the balcony intact, but decided to go with John’s suggestion of enclosing the space to keep the rain out. 

“The balcony area is now a cosy nook where I can read a book, have coffee and look out at the greenery,” says Hazel. “Even when it rains, it’s quite therapeutic to watch the wind and rain sweeping past!” 

She adds, “I love the neighbourhood too. It is quiet and close to nature, with all the conveniences of a heartland estate. There’s also a huge park downstairs, something I appreciate as we get more and more urbanised.”

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