MINIMALIST PURSUITS //
Meet the Couple:
Occupation: Civil servant
Interests: Salsa dancing, yoga, working out, reading, indoor gardening
Occupation: HR professional
Interests: Salsa and Bachata dancing, traveling
Here’s a look at their minimalist home:
Type of property: 5-room HDB resale flat (3 bedrooms)
Location: Tanglin Halt
Renovation budget: $80,000
Total space: ~1200 sqf.
Years/months lived in: Since end-2018
What do you think about minimalism, and its growing influence on design and living?
Clifton: It’s a nice coincidence that just as we moved into our minimalist-inspired home, the whole Marie Kondo trend started to become viral thanks to Netflix. I think Marie Kondo’s popularity made it even easier for our guests/friends to connect with the vision that we laid out for our home. It’s really thanks to Bonnie, who was the one that took leadership on Marie Kondo-ing our lives and helping me to declutter many aspects of my life. It’s also because of this that moving into our own place was such a breeze; by the time we did so, we had already decluttered most of our items. We didn’t have to spend too much effort to move all our things in. We didn’t even need a professional mover! Just two trips with my car, and we were all set!
Beyond the house, I think that minimalism is a push-back against the consumerist, fast fashion-dominated, instant-gratification environment we live in. Amidst all of this, it’s nice to be able to dial it back, and prioritise our limited time/energy on what is most important to us. I think that is what minimalism is about. I dont think it’s about having as few things as possible, but about only having the things that are most important to you, and dedicating your time/energy to those things that matter.
I recently finished a book titled “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*k.” It’s a great read, and I can draw many parallels to minimalism. Basically, the gist of the book is it’s not that we should just be apathetic and not care about anything in life, but rather become very deliberate in choosing the really, really important things to care about. For everything else, it wouldn’t be worth our time/energy/effort/emotional investment. Each person has his own answer to that.
Two things are really important to me. Family is number one, and will always be a priority. The second is Flow – and I get my regular fix through activities like yoga, salsa, and working out. But flow also comes in many ways – simple things like having a great conversation, eating a fantastic meal, rocking out to an awesome song, or working on a project I’m passionate about. All these are means to achieving flow for me—all equally rewarding, and one way that I can recharge as an introvert. And it’s this pursuit of flow through a myriad of activities that keeps me going and helps me feel alive.
As I grow older, I think I begin to gravitate towards simpler things; just focusing on the essentials and tuning out the rest of the noise in the world. Life’s too short to be distracted by a million and one things pulling you in different directions. And I think, with this sense of minimalism rooted in the space that I live in, it helps to be a tangible living reminder on how I want to live life.
Bonnie: When I first picked up Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” about two years ago, I was not able to finish it because I felt an overwhelming sense of skepticism and was convinced that I would not be able to follow through the method in my own life.
I think back to when I had just moved to Singapore from Australia in 2015. I had brought only the most essential and loved items with me, and yet my apartment quickly filled with stuff. My last two jobs were right next to major shopping centres, which meant that I would mindlessly browse shops on the way home, which ultimately led to buying more things.
Whilst I dismissed it at first, Kondo’s message somehow stayed with me as months rolled by. Consciously or unconsciously, I began to be more aware of my own buying habits. It was gradual; I started looking at labels inside clothing to see if they were made with natural fabrics or renting items rather than buying one-off use items. I finished the book and found myself compelled to declutter my entire closet in one night (it was on a work night, too!). It was seriously exhausting, but I felt an overwhelming sense of relief.
After completing all the Marie Kondo steps and after many trips to Salvation Army later, I experienced a shift in myself, which ultimately led to the path of minimalism. Whilst I would not say that I’m perfect or stick to the method point by point, I see minimalism as an outcome of doing our best to acquire and maintain belongings that truly bring joy and function into my life.
This mindset isn’t applied to just pieces of clothing, but also every single thing that is in our home. For example, I researched extensively on what are the things needed in a minimalist but functional kitchen and used Amazon for the best reviewed items for quality and price. I also tried to look for products known to be ‘buy me once and never again‘ items.
When Clifton and I thought about how we wanted to design our new home, it was clear that we wanted a house that reflected the way we want to live. We’re super grateful that we found The Minimalist Society and there was alignment in how we wanted to design our home.
How would you describe the style of your home?
Scandi-Muji and Minimalist. I like to joke with my friends who visit that it’s a “Muji knockoff home without any Muji products.”
What was your inspiration when you were setting up your home?
We wanted something clean and minimalist with a wood/white combination; we knew we wanted to have space, both for comfort and (enough) space for us to dance, do yoga, or workout—and also for kids in the future. We also wanted flexibility in the space; hence we didn’t have too many built-in fixtures, except for storage areas which would always come in handy. Now we have the option to use our other two bedrooms as a guest room, or perhaps a future study or kids room. It’s nice how the natural elements complement the view of natural greenery across the entire house. It has a nice calming effect. We love it. It’s something I look forward to coming home to every day.
What makes your house special?
Clifton: The first thing that strikes you is how spacious, bright, and breezy it is. I also really like the distinct white/wood style going on. It’s calming and brings out that sense of refuge from the busy noisy world outside. And it’s the first house that my wife and I have built together, so it would certainly be special and sentimental in that sense.
Bonnie: We saw over 80+ homes over a 1 year period. No kidding! Yet we couldn’t find something we liked until we saw this unit. We fell in love with how breezy it was, the location, the big living space, and the unblocked views of greenery. These were the elements that cannot be renovated, so once we secured the canvas, it was over to TMS to help design our dream home.
Clifton: Since we basically tore down everything from the old house and rebuilt it from scratch, it was really exciting to set out designing and renovating our house with TMS. It was a blank canvas that we could bring to life (of course, enabled through TMS). We are really happy with how the house turned out in the end, and we think it’s a nice reflection of our aesthetic sensibilities. And I think this style will stand the test of time – you can’t go too wrong with going back to basics, and leaning on natural elements.
Tell me more about your favourite spaces and rooms in your home
Clifton: The living area is my favourite. It’s big and spacious; breezy with nice and bright indirect light all day. It’s all-in-one—a space for dining and gatherings; a really great place to chill, have a meal, read; yoga, dance, admire my plants. I think we spend most of our time at home in the living room, and rightly so, since it’s called a living room—it’s where most of the living takes place.
Bonnie: I really like hosting, so the dining space allows me to have friends over to connect over a meal. I’m also super proud of the 8-pillar design in the doorway because it checks off a few functions at once, whilst seamlessly blending into the rest of the house. It brings in light and wind into the kitchen, yet also creates privacy by obstructing the view into the common room from the front door. It’s also feng shui-approved according to my dad (laughs).
Clifton: With the space that we were able to create, we’ve also slowly begun to populate our space with indoor plants that help bring the space to life; it’s been quite an additive process, slowly adding new plants into the spaces.
Bonnie: Additive, and addictive! (laughs) It’s reached a point where I have to stop Clifton from buying too many plants!
What are your favourite things to do around your home?
Clifton: Chill out, practice yoga and salsa, and work out. It’s a place of refuge to chill out and recharge.
Where did you shop for furniture pieces and accessories within Singapore?
Clifton: We didn’t buy much furniture except for the key essentials. We were also conscious about the quality of the items, so that we could enjoy them for as long as possible.
We got our dining set from Cellini, recliner sofa from King Living, TV console from Namu Wood, and foldable coffee table from a rejects store for cheap.
What is/are your favorite furniture pieces inside your home?
Clifton: Has to be the dining table set for me. We got it from Cellini. It’s a white quartz table top with chairs and a bench that matches our house’s style really well. It’s big and sturdy, and doubles as our dining and study table. We’ve hosted quite a number of parties and naturally, the table is the centrepiece for our gatherings. Day to day, we have a few small potted plants we adorn on the table.
Bonnie: Agree! Our table is big enough to host guests and does not obstruct the flow of the house. I also love our couch, because it’s really difficult to find a leather recliner that fits in with the minimalism theme.
Clifton: Yup, we took pains to really find a great functioning couch that looked just as good. It’s a bit on the pricier side, but i think it’s worth every dollar spent—being able to recline and just chill out after a hard day’s work
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What were some of the reasons why you engaged your ID?
We did our research online and came across The Minimalist Society. We instantly knew that it was a perfect match to the aesthetic we wanted. The great thing was that TMS was the very first ID we approached, and it was good to go from then. Didn’t even have to shop around. I think it shows the importance of finding an ID that is aligned with your vision. Once you get that alignment, everything else will fall into place..
Were there any challenges you encountered when you were setting up your home?
We’re thankful that it was pretty smooth sailing. We had a strong vision of what we wanted, and The Minimalist Society helped us to make it happen.
What are the DIY projects that we can find inside your home?
We installed some pull out racks that we bought from Amazon inside our kitchen cabinets, so that our kitchenware could be more accessible.
How did the ID help make your dream home possible?
They had the same style and aesthetic sense; it was very easy to align our vision with theirs. We appreciated the quality of the workmanship. They were also receptive to incremental changes during the process, which gave us peace of mind that we would receive a home that we would really love.
How was the overall experience for the renovation process?
Easy, smooth sailing. We appreciated that they were receptive to our feedback and questions, and they were very flexible in fulfilling our requests—sometimes even last minute ones. For us, it was the first time renovating and buying a house, and there were many things we didn’t know. The Minimalist Society helped walk us through and worked with us to develop solutions.
Any renovation tips for our readers?
Find an ID that fundamentally speaks to your vision/style. Once you get the fundamentals squared away, the second-order details…are just details that you can easily work out.
Minimalist Pursuits is a lifestyle section that takes an intimate look at our homeowners who live their lives to the fullest by practicing a minimalist lifestyle and finding joy in their spaces.
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The Minimalist Society is a brand that focuses deeply on purpose and social good for our society at large. We do so by crafting experiences that makes people’s lives simple through interior design. We have been featured extensively by renowned online portals, in print and on screen, such as The Straits Times, Business Insider, Lianhe Zaobao, The Business Times, Singapore Home and Decor, Lookbox Living, Houzz, Cromly, Qanvast, Vulcan Post, Yahoo and MM2 Entertainment Singapore. At Team Minimalist, simplicity is a goal, a work style, and a measuring stick. By leading a life of purpose, our home owners can embrace only on the things that will add to the mission of significance and ultimately living their best story.