7 of the most impractical, overrated interior design trends Singaporeans love

6 min read

Interior design is different from any form of artistry. When Rembrandt painted the Night Watch, he didn’t have a client looking over his shoulder going “maybe make the chicken more prominent, my son thinks that will be funny. And draw more moustaches on the men.” Interior designers deal with that all the time – their work is a hodge podge of their artistic delus…visions, and confused client input. That’s why we have:

1. The kitchen island

Kitchen Island

A kitchen island is an expensive, space consuming counter in the middle of the kitchen. It often comes with high seats (so it can act like a bar), and some kind of overpriced surface. Marble is a favourite.

Since kitchen islands are often outfitted with sinks or even drink dispensers, they often require additional plumbing, and can raise costs by as much as a whopping $8,000.

Now ask yourself for a minute: what exactly is the point of a kitchen island? One of the main challenges of kitchen design is to minimise the space taken up by counter tops. Hence the L-shaped layout, overhead cabinets, and so forth.

What is the point of working so hard to minimise space taken by counter tops, just so you can add another giant counter top in the middle of things?

And what is it you would intend the kitchen island for? To cut things on? Pour drinks on? Sit at and eat? There is a device that will do all that for about a tenth of the cost. It’s called a table.

And as for alcohol, I doubt friends or relatives will think less of you if you pour drinks at a table, instead of what’s basically a fake bar counter. Rethink this waste of your renovation fund.

2. Tiny, forced, walk-in wardrobes


Walk-in wardrobes are magnificent – if they are spacious enough to double as small changing rooms. That’s kind of the whole point.

But there has been a trend where interior designers are made to force walk-ins into spaces that were never meant to hold them; like shoebox apartments. The end result often resembles a top of the line, stylishly designed port-a-toilet, like the kind used for VIPs at a beach rave.

This will give an already small bedroom the floor space of an average dog kennel, while raising maximum wardrobe capacity by maybe one dress.

It’s an expensive example of form over function. It’s best to listen to interior designers when they explain some small rooms will look better without the walk-in.

3. Wallpapering


Wallpapering can cost anywhere from $120 to $300 per roll applied (the cost will drop with more rolls). Overall, it often comes to about twice the cost of having a room painted. But the expense isn’t the worst part.

Wallpaper is ridiculously easy to damage. Even if a stray table corner or chair back doesn’t gouge a hole in it, Singapore’s climate will destroy it. The heat and humidity often causes it to warp and form bubbles, or to peel. Turning an air conditioner on and off in the same room just makes it worse.

On top of that, there’s no guarantee that in a few years the same design of wallpaper will be available. Now picture this:

You have three strips of wallpaper on your living room wall. The middle strip deteriorates, and you can’t replace it because they don’t produce it anymore. Now what?

If you replace just the middle strip, it makes your room look like a patchwork hillbilly shack. If you want to replace all of it, you’re forking out money to strip everything and re-apply a new design. Wallpapering is expensive, and maintenance is difficult.

4. Tiny, tiny tiles

Tiny Tiles

The hardest part of cleaning a tiled surface is the grouting. That’s the space between the tiles. In a high humidity environment, like a toilet, it breeds bacteria faster than a NS man’s armpit on a three week field camp.

Now with big tiles, there’s less grouting to clean. But if you have lots of tiny tiles forming a mosaic, good luck going at it with that toothbrush. It will turn a mouldy shade of green otherwise.

Trust contractors or interior designers when they advise against tiling in certain rooms.

5. Children’s theme rooms


I’m sure this is cute and all, but remember that children grow up. When your son turns 14 and starts blasting gangsta rap, he may not appreciate a room wallpapered with little teddy bears in party hats.

Theme rooms are fine if you don’t go overboard with costs (just remember you may have to undo it all later), or if they are long term themes (e.g. making the room resemble a cottage.)

Also consider that, if you intend to rent out the room when Junior goes to university, it’s easier if the theme is “cottage” as opposed to “My Little Pony.”

6. Make everything white including the furniture

All white design

Minimalist, “white design” is supposedly from Scandinavian countries. I doubt this, as I have been to several of those countries and their homes don’t resemble the inside of a hospital. But it’s common in magazines, so interior designers get asked to do it a lot.

While you’re indulging in near blindness from the reflected sunlight, do be careful around your furniture. White fabrics, especially white leather, is known to stain easily. One careless mug of coffee can result in a $1,200 upholstery job.

You should also get used to the empty look, because almost anything with colour will ruin the theme. A family picture, a yellow umbrella stand, a single green lamp, and the entire “white look” is gone.

Your home ornaments are mostly confined to steel, glass, and white ceramics or plastics. Challenge yourself to not get bored!

Aesthetics and practicality don’t have to clash.

A hallmark of great interior design is one that marries the two. Don’t get the wrong idea from design magazines: the rooms you see in there are staged. They aren’t meant to be lived in, and don’t take into account things like pets, children, or the fact that may want an ugly massage chair in the living room.

Buy a home, not a stage.

You can view some of Singapore’s best designed homes and apartments on 99.co. Find a great place to rent or live, or just find inspiration.


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