Mastering Space: Innovative Planning for Your 4-Room HDB Flat in Singapore

Why we have 4 Room Flats

Four-room flats are a staple in the landscape of Singapore public housing, especially in places like Singapore where the Housing and Development Board (HDB) has been successful in providing affordable, high-quality housing to most of its population. Their design often includes three bedrooms, a (slightly smaller compared to the 5 room flats) living/dining area, a kitchen, and two bathrooms, which caters well to the needs of most small families or couples looking to start a family.

In the last 3 months, SIXiDES had received the most EQuote enquiries from these 4 room flat owners. Further exploration reveals that as of 2023, 31.3% of residents stay in 4 room flats as opposed to 17% staying in 3 room flats and 22.4% staying in 5 room flats.

Data from https://www.singstat.gov.sg/find-data/search-by-theme/households/households/latest-data

As such we decided to explore the different types of 4 room flat layouts and how we can space plan these spaces, because while we may think the layouts are the same, there are differences from the pre bomb shelter flats that are 30 years and older and the more recent ones that have the bomb shelter integrated right smack in the middle of the layout.

So, buckle up as SIXiDES explore different HDB 4 room layout plans and find innovative ways to maximise the space.

Let’s understand the layout plans.

Side by side comparison of a current 4 room flat layout (left) and the older versions of a 4-room layout plan (right). Notice that the bomb shelter is not present in the older layouts and the newer ones do not have the rubbish chute integrated into the unit.

In the early days, HDB four-room flats were designed with simplicity and functionality in mind. They typically encompassed a large living space, kitchen, common bathroom, and three adequately sized bedrooms. The absence of a bomb shelter meant that residents enjoyed more generous floor areas, with older units sometimes exceeding 100 square meters. These spacious flats served the needs of the growing population and were the building blocks of Singapore’s public housing success story.

An example of a pre bomb shelter phase 4 room flat. The living and dining halls are well spaced and generous looking, storage is spread throughout the unit as opposed to having a storeroom. Typically, a squarish, rectangular unit, makes for better space planning and storage cabinetry is easier to plan for.

Modern HDB four-room flats now come with a standardized bomb shelter, often situated near the entrance of the flat or within the kitchen. These shelters double as storage spaces in peacetime but are built to withstand potential blast pressures. The integration of bomb shelters and as well as the creation of a designated air con ledge, has coincided with an overall trend of reducing internal living spaces. Current four-room flats range typically from 90 to 95 square meters.

An example of a bomb shelter positioned in the centre of a 4-room flat. It is connected to the kitchen and the passageway. Homeowners may opt for a box up to conceal the door and vent. However, as the layout above shows, any box up will encroach to the already narrow passageway. 

Two examples of the bomb shelter positioned in the entrances of 2 different 4 room flat layouts. The gods of HDB must have realised that positioning the bomb shelter nearer towards the entrance helps create a better layout for the newer 4 room flats.

Beyond the bomb shelter as a major consideration in choosing the ideal types of 4 room flat layouts, you might want to consider some of the points below to see if you can integrate them into your new home.

Having multi-functional furniture - Since space is a luxury, consider customising or purchasing furniture that serves more than 1 function. For example, a murphy bed can become a study desk after stowing away the bed.

Vertical space utilisation - While you may have a limited amount of floor space to use, there are still a lot of wall spaces that can be optimised. We recommend top hung and full height cabinetry to maximise the potential of your wall space.

 Knocking down of an adjoining wall between 2 rooms to create a larger Master Bedroom

Open concept living - If your family dynamics allow for it, consider hacking down walls to create a larger hall or make 2 bedrooms become 1. This will help you create the dream walk in wardrobe that you always wanted.

Knocking down some parts of a wall in bedroom 3 to open up more space in the dining hall. This reduces the “bottleneck” effect going into the rooms.

Older 4 room layout – the clever use of the cooking island cabinet with slimmer tall cabinets makes the composition of the kitchen unique and refreshing.

The creative use of space in modern 4-room HDB flats reflects the innovative spirit of its inhabitants. Of late we are seeing plenty of homeowners incorporating smart design, multi-purpose furniture, and technology to create the illusion of space and a sense of openness. Finding a talented interior designer to optimise storage and help maintain the aesthetics is very important too. We hope some of the ideas above serve as an inspiration for homeowners looking to think outside the box when it comes to interior design for their 4 room flats.

Posted on 21st February 2024

Written by Astley Ng – The Designerd

SIXIDES Editorial Team


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