The modern touch: Interior design and modernisation in post-independence Singapore
Jacobs, Jane M
This paper takes as its empirical focus the advice on interior design and decoration that Singapore’s Housing Development Board (HDB) distributed to residents as part of its programme of universal housing provision. Through a series of regular articles appearing in the HDB publication Our Home (1972-1989), readers were presented with stories that showed how selected HDB residents decorated their newly acquired highrise flats. This unique aspect of the HDB’s otherwise well-documented housing programme has, thus far, remained unexamined. The paper details the relationship between this design advice and three inter-related features of the Singaporean public housing programme: a commitment to modernist design principles, a self-conscious pragmatism, and the incorporation of a limited market logic (‘home ownership’). This paper demonstrates that the Housing Development Board’s vision of the benefit of its highrise housing programme was, from the outset, complexly entangled with cultivating individual investments in the home by way of interior design and decoration practices. It contributes not only to the specific story of Singaporean housing, but also to wider scholarship on modernism, the everyday practices of interior design, and housing consumption.