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7 Vintage Design Trends You’ll Love If You’re Feeling Nostalgic For Old Singapore

As we celebrate our nation’s 52nd birthday in August, there is no better time to reminiscent about the olden days when things were slower, better and easier. After all, old is gold right?

We can wax lyrical all we want about how the bygone days is infinitely more desirable, but why not turn those reminiscences into actuality but doing up a vintage and retro theme in your home? These 7 design ideas will get you set for a trip down memory lane.


1. Ventilation blocks

Ventilation blocks have a history in traditional buildings situated in the tropics, which Singapore is. Before air-conditioning was made popular, these building modules provided climatic comfort by allowing the air to flow through into the inner chambers. Nowadays though, they are more a design element than an architectural necessity.

Their decorative floral designs are pretty to look at, but when used as a room divider, they are useful as a way to let in natural daylight and ventilation.

Design: Fuse Concept

Design: Fuse Concept

Design: The Design Practice

You don’t have to confine them as dividers. They are great as an old-school style headboard for your bed.

Design: Free Space Intent

Or a feature wall for your living room.

Design: Free Space Intent


2. Old-fashioned metal grills

Old-fashioned metal window grills and door gates with their intricate designs and geometric patterns are commonplace in Singapore flats of the 60s and 70s. Many of these homes were then demolished and the structural pieces collected and repurposed into beautiful decorative pieces in today’s newer flats.

Just before demolition:

Source: The Long and Winding Road

They’re a good choice as a room divider for small apartments. Owing to their see-through nature, you don’t get a visual heftiness like with concrete walls. Work them in plainer settings so that they’ll be more conspicuous.

Design: Momo and Partners

Design: WYTO

Design: Wee Studio

They can also stand alone as feature wall art.

Design: Momo and Partners

Design: 0932 Design Consultants

You can get second-hand, vintage ones from places like Carousell. Or custom make them from Teetfa.


3. Window louvres

Like with many vintage architectural features in Singapore, window louvres serve as a great way to invite ventilation into the homes. Some of them are frosted rather than clear to offer a semblance of privacy for the occupants inside. Panes are angled to provide a shield against the rays of the sun and to repel the rain, while ensuring there are gaps for air circulation. They are commonly found in areas that require good ventilation such as the bathroom.

Louvres from an HDB flat slated for demolition:

Source: Mimiworld On The Memory Lane

Today, they are often used as a design element indoors.

Window louvres fitted into an aluminium frame function to delineate the confines of a bedroom in this apartment.

Design: Versaform

Here’s another design that used window louvres to demarcate a room.


Placed along the walkway inside the apartment, they serve to mimic the home’s original louvre windows.

Design: Museum Homes

When closed, window louvres help to keep the cooking fumes away from the rest of the flat and keep the kitchen ventilated when opened.

Design: Three-D Conceptwerke


4. Old-school Kopitiam-style tables and chairs

Marble topped tables with wooden pedestal legs and spindle-backed wooden chairs were ubiquitous in Kopitiams of yesteryear. Made in Poland and then locally rebranded, they conjure up images of uncles sipping black cups of coffee in an unhurried pace as the world passed them by. Many vintage pieces are lovingly restored and re-varnished, finding their place in new modern homes. However, there are replicas out there if you’re looking for a cheaper alternative.

Design: Ace Space Design

Design: Three-D Conceptwerke

Design: Three-D Conceptwerke

Design: The 80’s Studio


5. White ceramic square tiles

These were popular in bathrooms and kitchens in old HDBs, in part due to their affordability and also because they were so basic and versatile. They’ve recently faced a resurgence thanks to an embracing of minimalism, and is most commonly seen on kitchen counters and walls. Usually accompanied with black grout lines, they make a bold statement and produce a bright, clean look.

Design: Free Space Intent

Design: Exquisite Art Furniture Interior Decoration

Design: The Design Practice

Design: The Association


6. Poured concrete counters

Kitchen counters in the past were usually made from poured concrete because it was readily available and cheap. Here’s a look at an old HDB kitchen, vacated and ready to be demolished:

Source: Mimiworld On The Memory Lane

While concrete remains a popular material, particularly with homeowners trying for the industrial look, the price for the material has soared considerably. Concrete counters of the past were often affixed with cabinets fronted with wooden doors. The look was recreated in this modern apartment:

Design: The Scientist

This home features a cement screed counter and cabinets fronted with polycarbonate panels.

Design: The Scientist


7. Terrazzo flooring

Many of us would have seen the ubiquitous terrazzo flooring in old apartments in Singapore. Made from aggregate blends like marble, mother-of-pearl and glass, they were a low-cost flooring option.

Source: S/Pore

Terrazzo has very recently received attention in the international design scene, where it was used not only in flooring but also in furniture and accessories. It remains to be seen if this material will receive as big a revival locally, but we hope to be seeing more of them in the future.

Design: Free Space Intent

Design: Chapter B


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