Not every homeowner is keen on big ideas, but when presented with the opportunity of a fresh perspective, they can come away with surprising even themselves.

For Carmen Tang’s client, a support account manager, and her older brother, a project engineer, the initial brief was for a Muji-ish concept that is low in maintenance. However, Carmen spotted something in the client’s spontaneous personality and interest in travel, cultures, food, dogs and socialising.

Who Lives Here Two siblings in their 40s and 50s and their Shiba Inu
Home A 4-room BTO flat in Queenstown
Size 926 sq ft (86 sqm)
Interior Designer Wolf Woof

Designing with personality in mind

“After speaking to her, I was even more convinced that the style she had asked for was a little too sedate for her personality and style,” the director of the interior design studio Wolf Woof says. “I felt that she spoke rather animatedly and had such a quirky sense of humour.”

A sign "W@ra cafe"
An awning built into the ceiling has a sign for the cafe’s name. The kitchen sign in a similar style ensures consistency.

A refreshing home concept

Carmen dug deeper to understand her better and proposed an alternative design: a Scandi dog cafe.

Although it felt risky, Carmen had confidence that the client would like it. The client, who first knew about Carmen from her cousin, found the concept refreshing and loved it.

Balancing concept and practicality

That said, Carmen was also mindful.

“I didn’t want to take the concept too far till it’s more of a concept home than a home for my client to live in. I wanted it to be quirky yet relatable and not trying-too-hard-to-make-a-statement-for-statement’s sake,” she says, adding that exercising restraint and knowing where to draw the line is vital.

With the client’s welfare in mind, she proposed a concept that prioritised cohesiveness. She also strove to seek a balance between quirkiness and uniqueness.

A platform area with a grey armchair and a workstation beside the window.
Cabinets flanking the display area and storage units within the platform are part of the storage solutions needed for a small home like this.

Making more space

To cater to the siblings’ lifestyle needs, one of the significant moves was to open the bedroom closest to the living area and convert it into a study area. It is also a cosy corner with additional seating, anchored by several design ideas.

A view of the living room, with pendant lights and artificial plants.
Pendant lights and artificial plants, sourced by Carmen, bring flair and zest into the space.

Display wall with toy dogs

For example, a display wall with circular cutouts occupied by toy dogs communicates the dog café vibe. The space is functional too. The platform holds storage space, and folding doors allow the area to be closed off when needed. This results in an open feel that is in line with cafes.

A mobile dining table with hanging plants and lights.
Just like the hanging plant display in the living area, the dining area also features one. This time, it integrates the trio of lights.

Mobile dining area

For the dining area, she customised a mobile table. It can be extended to give the siblings space to host larger dinner parties.

The kitchen, with black and light wood cabinets.
Carmen knocked down walls to combine the kitchen with the service yard, making a long kitchen counter possible.

Dark and light kitchen

The kitchen is decked out in black, light wood, and patterns. The light wood lower cabinets, used throughout the home, match the vinyl flooring for a Scandinavian feel.

Wood handles on black cabinets
Light wood handles are installed on the black cabinets, while black handles complete the light wood cabinets.

Patterns and contrasting colours

Carmen’s focus on accent colours and patterns brings vibrancy to the concept. While the living area is awash in light hues and spruced up with artificial plants, the bathrooms sport patterns and finishes in contrasting colours.

Bathroom with black and white contrast tiles and artificial plants.
Patterned black and white tiles contrast against the slim white tiles. Artificial plants cover up the mesh cover typically seen in HDB flat bathrooms.
A small bedroom, with a foldable bed hidden into the wall.
To counter the small bedroom space, Carmen proposed a wall bed for the client’s older brother.

Blue and dark bedroom

The same goes for the older brother’s bedroom, which takes on a palette of blue and dark wood.

The master bedroom with a double bed and hidden TV cabinet.
For the master bedroom, she installed a television cabinet to hide the television away when not in use.

White and airy master bedroom

The master bedroom, on the other hand, is an airy space with white walls and a wardrobe in light wood and soft teal laminates.

Challenges in design

While the outcome displayed a laidback vibe, the process came with challenges.

“The doggie display was a little more challenging because we needed to display the toy dogs yet ensure the usability of the cabinet for storage without sacrificing storage for the concept. At the same time, I wanted to ensure freshness in the format and execution,” Carmen says.

Unique signages

Notably, the signages throughout the home that signal the cafe setting – even the standing ‘Free Wi-Fi’ sign in the study – were sourced and designed by Carmen.

A Welcome sign by the main gate
The metal signage at the entrance is part of the scene setting that took time and effort.

Four months to completion

The project was completed over four months, and the siblings moved into the home in August 2022.

It is a showcase of the chemistry shared between the client and designer. Carmen says, “We think alike, which made the entire process a breeze. She was very open to ideas and had absolute trust in me.

She was also unafraid to let me know if any aspects of the design and renovation bothered her. It was very precious open communication. The best thing that came out of this collaboration is a friendship that will last many years, and I love that my job brings some of the nicest humans to me.”

This article was originally published on Home & Decor.