How To Work Around HDB Structures That You Can’t Hack


Every apartment has its fair share of structural features that can seriously cramp your home’s look. But what do you do when you can’t hack them, especially for safety’s sake? From pesky pillars to bothersome beams, here are some creative ideas to work around these structural eyesores.

Note: Before incorporating these ideas into your home, it always pays to check with HDB to see if there are any restrictions of permits to be applied before starting renovation works.

Protruding columns can throw a major wrench to your home’s design, but these reinforced columns act as frames, holding up your walls, floors and ceilings.

1. Turn it into a visual point: Instead of trying to hide it, why not make it an accent or hang art on those protruding pillars?

2. Craft out a fancy half wall: Building onto the structural column, ventilation blocks were incorporated, creating a half-wall feature that acts as a decorative space divider.

Interior Designer: Free Space Intent

3. Convert it into a convenient lounge area: Make the pillar less obvious by bridging the gap between walls with a settee.

Interior Designer: Asolidplan

4. Create a freestanding dining table: Structural pillars planted right in the middle of this space are used to the homeowner’s advantage, propping up a freestanding table.

Interior Designer: The Scientist

5. Make it a convenient playground for your feline friend: Consider adding shelves, which are great for narrow wall spaces  – and if you have cats, they work as a fun platforms for them to climb on.

Structural Beams

Interior Designer: Starry Homestead

Reinforced structural beams, just like the columns, are part of your building’s frame, and help to hold up your ceilings and floors to prevent it from caving in due to additional weight.

How to Work It:

1. Use it as a space divider: You can paint or overlay your beams with a different finish to help differentiate living areas at home.

Interior Designer: ELPIS Interior Design

2. Install a glass partition…: Use the beams as a convenient frame for partitions and panels, such as this kitchen with set with a see-through sliding glass door.

Interior Designer: Livinz Synthesis

3. …or a bar counter: If you’d prefer an open-concept, then use your beams to seamlessly frame your bar counter. 

Interior Designer: Icon Interior Design

4. Create a TV console area: An attention-grabbing TV console will take attention away from your protruding beams.

Interior Designer: Livinz Synthesis

5. Erect a screen and storage cabinet: If going full-length isn’t your style, here’s a practical alternative – a half-wall screen that comes complete with a storage compartment to stow your dinnerware.

Staircases (in Maisonettes and Loft Units)

Interior Designer: JDC Interior

Sorry guys, quirky ladders, stylish spiral staircases or any other sort of fancy designs are a no-go with maisonette or loft-style HDBs. While the typical staircase design can be clunky and obstructive (and you can’t hack or move them anywhere else), there are still many other things you can do to make this feature a practical standout.

How to Work It:

Interior Designer: KDOT Associates, Fuse Concept

1. Change it into a functional storage compartment: You may not be able to change the structure of your stairs, nor its location, but you can certainly maximise the space underneath it by including smart storage solutions – from pull-out drawers to built-in bookshelves.

Interior Designer: Fifth Avenue Studio

2. Create a reading nook: If your staircase curls up, transform the space in the centre into a cosy nook to curl up into with a book, or enjoy a warm cuppa.

Bomb Shelters

Interior Designer: D’Initial Concept

Bomb shelters have become a compulsory feature in every HDB block, since 1996. Though we all know its practical purpose, it’s plain, ‘unfinished’ appearance may be in stark contrast with the rest of the home!

How to Work It:

Interior Designer: Meter Square

1. Build a shoe cabinet: If you’re already planning to cover it up, consider allocating enough space to keep your shoes, so that you can access them when you open the partition door.

Interior Designer: Design Chapterz

2. Camouflage: If full-on carpentry comes with too high a price tag, then this quick, low-cost method may be just up your alley. A little paint will do the trick in concealing your bomb shelter – if you don’t look hard enough, you won’t even notice that it’s there.

Interior Designer: Juz Interior

3. Turn it into a fun (and functional) display: Who knew a door be so much more? Convert a bomb shelter door into a handy blackboard with a little chalkboard paint; even the air vent is transformed into a useful clock.

Create a space you love

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