In a charming complex of walk-up apartments in the east—a five-minute bicycle ride from the lively bustle of Joo Chiat—Nicole “NC” Wong, the content creator and founder of creative agency NPLUSC, has built a home that blends minimalist cool with an inviting sense of cosiness. Prior to moving here last November, Wong and her husband spent five years in Punggol—which never really felt like home. “We both grew up in the east; all of our families, our friends, are here,” she shares. “The amount I spent on cab fares when we were living in Punggol was ridiculous. And if we were to think ahead, if we have kids, I’m not particular about schools, but my husband is a St. Patrick’s boy and he wants his son to go to St. Pat’s, which is just down the road; and if it’s a girl, Katong Convent is at the other end.”
Wong was specific about what she wanted, so the hunt for their dream house was quick. “We knew quite exactly what we were looking for—the location, the size, the budget,” she says. “I knew that I didn’t want a new condo because the feel and the layouts tend to be very bland and similar. I like things with a bit more character. We rented a condo before and I never used the facilities at all, so I know that I don’t need them. And I’ve always wanted to live in a walk-up. My husband didn’t mind one, but he didn’t want to be on the higher floors, so it had to be a second-floor unit.” The search took them two to three weeks, then it was love at first sight. She enthuses: “The moment we stepped into this unit, I turned to my husband and my friend, and said, ‘This is the one.’ Sunlight was just pouring in. Our last place was really dark, which was a bit depressing, so I knew that I wanted very good light in our new house.”
They tore down walls to let in even more light, creating a single open space for the living, dining and kitchen areas. Huge windows on two sides of the house allow in both morning and afternoon sun, which means the space is constantly bathed in light. The area is dominated by a large, plush grey sofa; a sleek, steel island; and a glossy black dining table accompanied by clear acrylic chairs. During the two-and-a-half-month renovation process, they also merged two of the apartment’s original three bedrooms, creating a bigger master bedroom and a new attached bathroom. “I actually gave my interior designer a full deck of what I like,” Wong reveals. “I was quite specific about the inspiration, which drew from Bauhaus. My brief to him was a monochrome palette, no bright colours.” She adds that they like “how he doesn’t just strip things out. If he sees something with an interesting texture or character, he’ll keep it. That’s why our walls, our floor, the central pillar that’s a building structure, have these imperfections to them.” While she allows that “some people can’t take it because it looks like it’s not done”, she feels that “they really add character to a space”. “And if anybody ever spills or dents something, I don’t think I’ll notice,” she adds with a laugh.
When it came to decorating the house, Wong wanted to work “with very minimal but very useful furniture, in the sense that each piece has an intent and a purpose, instead of cluttering the house. I don’t like clutter because one, it clutters my mind and two, I don’t want to clean up so much. I was also very specific about what appliances we will have, so everything was built around them. I like things to be hidden away because I have a bit of OCD.” The living area is probably where Wong spends the most time. “In our old place, we had a chesterfield sofa that was so uncomfortable. When we moved here, I knew I wanted a huge, cosy sofa. At the weekends, I’m basically on this sofa the whole day from the moment I wake up. And when it’s just the two of us, we usually eat here too, so these side tables are perfect,” says Wong, referring to the two compact height adjustable metal-and-glass tables from USM.
A common thread running through most of Wong’s pieces is a sense of modularity—a lot of her furniture is adaptable and adjustable. “If we want to move on, or change things up, I like that we are able to,” she explains. “Let’s say we have a kid and we need more space, we can move things around. Or if we need to get a helper, we can downsize the dining area to make more room. I like having that option to adapt as we grow. I do want to stay here for a long time—it’s not like we will stay for five or 10 years, then flip the place.”
Wong’s approach to fashion is also defined by that same mix of classicism and versatility. “The way I dress and the way I decorate don’t really differ,” she lets on. “My wardrobe is very monochrome, with a few random pops of colour here and there. Like my furniture, I gravitate towards classic pieces—things I’ll still wear in five or 10 years. They’re mostly easy pieces I can just mix and match. Since the pandemic started, PANGAIA has taken up a lot of space in our wardrobe. But my favourites are Comme des Garçons, Rick Owens and Ann Demeulemeester. And because Comme is quite unisex, I steal quite a bit of my husband’s pieces as well. I’m very masculine in terms of my style—I think that’s because I grew up with two brothers, playing rugby. And now that I’m working in production and running around all the time, it’s just more comfortable to be in trousers—I don’t want to be restricted.”
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Her style may be classic, but Wong allows herself to go a little wilder when it comes to the little details. “Because my clothes are quite plain and basic, I jazz them up a bit with accessories—they tend to be a bit bolder so that my outfits are not so flat and boring,” she says. In her home, the “jazz-it-up” pieces come in the form of Wong’s “obsession” with lamps. “There are quite a few in the house,” she admits. “My favourites are the FLOS Snoopy lamp in the living room and an orange one that I bought to match my husband’s hair.”
Wong may have moved in only less than half a year ago, but the place instantly felt like home—not just because she has created her dream space in her apartment, but also because of the strong sense of community she feels in their little estate. “People here are very nice,” she stresses, “maybe because there aren’t a lot of us. There are only 18 units, so we all kind of know one another, talk to one another, help one another—you don’t really get that at a bigger place. A lot of the neighbours are new as well—there are about five of us who moved in roughly at the same time, and they’re around our age as well, so it’s quite fun. We don’t have to worry too much about our neighbours sleeping early and us being too loud. There’s a group chat with everybody and sometimes, it’s just like, ‘Hey, my RedMart delivery is here—can someone help me get it?’ Sometimes, it even feels a bit like we’re living in a kampong. I love it.”
Photographed by Gan and Lawrence Teo
Styled by Gracia Phang and Daphne Tso
Take a virtual tour of Wong’s abode below.