SuMisura’s Angela Lim on evolving trends in showflat and home designs

Lim: Showflats sell a dream. So, for me, the first impression is very important; the design must be unique and differentiates from the rest (Photo: Albert Chua/The Edge Singapore)

SINGAPORE (EDGEPROP) – Covid-19 has thrown a curveball at showflat designers like Angela Lim, co-founder of SuMisura, whose firm has had to adapt designs to comply with safe distancing restrictions.

Pointing to SuMisura’s latest completed project, the sales gallery and loft show unit for Forett at Bukit Timah, Lim says, “Originally, we designed interactive spaces in the sales gallery. But everything has changed since then.”

The 633-unit freehold development by Qingjian Realty was the first large-scale project to open for preview at the end of July after “circuit breaker” measures on showflats were lifted. To highlight the project’s proximity to the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, SuMisura had included greenery and planter boxes within a contemporary and edgy interior.

The firm strived to maximise the project’s visual potential in spite of safe distancing markers and capacity restrictions. Entering the showflat is by appointment booking only, and visitors are accompanied by sales representatives who would take them through the showflats.

The sales gallery of Forett at Bukit Timah was designed to highlight its proximity to the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (Photo: SuMisura)

While visitors may not be able to experience and interact with the sales gallery and showflat as fully as they would if they were allowed to linger and move at their own pace, technology can complement the showflat viewing experience and is particularly useful for the “pre-selling” and “post-selling” stages, says Lim. “At the ‘pre-selling’ stage, buyers can view the showflats virtually and consider the features and location of the project first. If the project has ticked off the buyer’s criteria, then what’s left is to go to the showflat to be wowed,” says Lim.

During an online balloting event on Facebook Live hosted by local actress and businesswoman Irene Ang on Aug 8, 38% of total units, or 212 units, at Forett at Bukit Timah were sold at an average price of $1,880 psf. To date, 256 units have been sold, according to URA caveats lodged. Yet, while buyers can meet with agents and purchase units virtually, Lim observes that some will still want to see the physical showflat to get some assurance and help with space visualisation.

Therefore, practical and sensible space planning — in terms of visitor flow and the demonstration of space usage within each showflat — is the first criterion Lim uses to judge the nominees for the category of Showflat Excellence for this year’s EdgeProp Singapore Excellence Awards.

The second is how creative and unique the design is, or its “wow” factor, says Lim. “Showflats, or sales galleries, sell a dream. So, for me, the first impression is very important. The design must differentiate itself from the rest of the competition,” she adds.

SuMisura designed the two- and three- bedroom show units in One Pearl Bank’s sales gallery to look luxurious yet comfortable, in line with the “tropical hygge” theme (Photo: SuMisura)

In this respect, One Pearl Bank’s sales gallery stood out. “Structurally, Serie + Multiply did a good job at keeping that circular look with two separate fan-shaped buildings. CapitaLand has demonstrated it well in the sales gallery with the large-scale model as centerstage, which serves to ‘wow’,” says Lim. The 774-unit development has sold 332 units to date, based on caveats lodged.

SuMisura also designed the two- and three- bedroom show units at One Pearl Bank, where designers played up luxurious elements within a “tropical hygge” theme. Hygge is a Danish term referring to the feeling of cosiness and contentment by simple things.

This year, judging of the award nominees was done purely online, which was a first. In the previous years, the judges visited the projects and showflats to evaluate them.

Lim, who is on the panel of judges for the second year now, says that the submissions were all of very high quality. “The judges worked very hard as it is the first time that we are reviewing so many entries by looking at online materials and attending presentations by architects and developers over Zoom.”

Evolving design trends 

The sales gallery of Piermont Grand was also designed by SuMisura (Photo: SuMisura).

Lim believes that showflat interior design will evolve further, at a pace accelerated by digitalisation and the internet of things. “In the past, people looked at hand-drawn, watercolour perspectives and imagined how the development would look like. Now it’s easier; developers have built mock-up showflats to actual dimensions and hired designers to show how the space can be maximised,” she says.

In the future, developers may make it experiential by making showflats “smart”, says Lim. “For all you know, next time you go into a showflat, you can scan a QR code on your smartphone and operate the TV, robot vacuums and other appliances in the showflat and experience living in such a home,” she adds.

If that happens, she believes going to showflats will become much more interactive and fun. Already, visiting showflats has become a “national pastime” in Singapore over the past decade, she adds.

When it comes to home interior design, which is another specialisation of SuMisura, Lim says that “the new order of the day really has to do with hygiene, well-being, and the ability to work from home”.

The edgy and chic loft show unit at Forett makes use of mirrors to create depth (Photo: SuMisura)

Surveying her clients, Lim realises that what people really want is a dedicated workspace. Thus, in small apartments, creating flexi, multipurpose spaces will be a prominent trend. An example of such a space is the bedroom.

“Now that we are working from home, it’s wasteful that we only use our bedroom, for perhaps 12 hours, to sleep. Transformable furniture, like a Murphy bed, can help make the bedroom productive in the other 12 hours,” Lim suggests.

And for those who are working and living within small spaces, she proposes the introduction of mirrors. She says, “Mirrors are magical. If you have a window looking out to greenery, you can put a large mirror strategically to extend that view and bring it into your house for more depth, creating the illusion of a larger space.”

Additionally, she says that homeowners can remodel their homes creatively to carve out workstations. For instance, those with balconies can put a dedicated work desk there and install ziptrak blinds for shade. “Then, the balcony is sheltered, well-ventilated, and the minute you close off the sliding doors, you are away from your family members,” she explains.

The four-bedroom show-unit at Piermont Grand by SuMisura (Photo: SuMisura)

Sliding partitions are also particularly useful. “During this period, we entertain less, so sliding partitions can allow a small portion of our living room or entertainment area to be closed off for a quiet and conducive environment. Then, when more space is needed, the doors can be opened up,” says Lim.

However, Lim says that regardless of trends brought about by Covid-19, there are fundamental principles of interior design that stand the test of time. These include how spaces are layered, the balance between different forms as well as the introduction of light and natural ventilation.

The winners of the Showflat Excellence Award will be announced during the virtual ceremony of EdgeProp Singapore Excellence Awards on Oct 29, 2pm. Awards will also be given to developers who excel in landscape design, innovation and marketing.

Check out the latest listing near : Forett at Bukit Timah

For price trends, recent transactions, other project info, check out this project research page: Forett at Bukit Timah

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