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Joy Chao of JHA Architecture and Interiors transforms a 90s-era house into a modern oasis for a new family on a budget.
Adrian and Jennie Kwok, a tech-savvy duo, dared to dream big. Adrian was now taking over the family home from his parents who were ready to downsize to an apartment, passing the torch and opening the space up to a new way of living—more modern, open and better suited to the couple’s work-from-home lifestyle. The goal? To turn Adrian’s childhood home, a classic ‘Richmond Special,’ (coined by Joy Chao, lead interior designer) into a modern sanctuary for their soon-to-be family. With the help of Chao and the team at John Henshaw Architect Inc., they embarked on a journey of transformation.
The original house, a product of the 80s and 90s, was a labyrinth of dark rooms and disconnected spaces. “It was like a time capsule,” Chao quips. “The layout didn’t suit their lifestyle. They wanted something brighter, more contemporary.”
And so, the metamorphosis began. Walls were knocked down, creating an open-concept floor plan that breathed new life into the home. “One of their first requests was to remove the wok kitchen—Adrian’s dad was a chef—and open up the living and dining areas,” Chao reveals. The result was a more connected environment, perfect for a new generation of family living.
“Traditionally, houses in that area have three to four bedrooms upstairs and open principal spaces like the family room, formal living room and dining room,” Chao says about modernizing a home that’s been passed down from generation to generation. “It was a multi-generational living situation. The client’s grandmother, who is in her 90s, was living on the main floor in an ensuite bedroom.”
The kitchen, once cramped and dated, tripled in size. “We significantly expanded the kitchen and added ample storage,” Chao remarks. Now, it’s a culinary dream, featuring sleek European laminate panels that are as stylish as they are practical.
But the transformation wasn’t just about aesthetics. The Kwoks, both working from home, needed their space to be tech-friendly. “They wanted the home to be updated with high-speed internet wiring,” Chao explains. And they achieved it all while being budget-conscious, choosing cost-effective materials like Monterey Autumn Hill vinyl plank for flooring.
The result? A home that’s not only beautiful, but also practical and future-ready. “My favourite room in the home is definitely the kitchen,” Joy Chao enthuses. “We tripled the storage space and created a beautiful environment.”
In just 10 months, the Kwok family’s home became a modern marvel, staying within 15% of the original budget. “Planning is key,” Chao advises homeowners looking to renovate on a budget. “By understanding budget restrictions and enlisting professional help from the beginning, homeowners can achieve their savings goals while bringing their dream home to life.” Now, that’s a renovation story worth telling.
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