2008 volume 40(3) pages 572 – 595

Cite as:
Jacobs J M, Cairns S, 2008, "The modern touch: interior design and modernisation in post-independence Singapore" Environment and Planning A 40(3) 572 – 595

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The modern touch: interior design and modernisation in post-independence Singapore

Jane M Jacobs, Stephen Cairns

Received 3 April 2006; in revised form 3 October 2006; published online 11 June 2007

Abstract. The authors take as their 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. The authors detail the relationship between this design advice and the commitment to modernist design principles, the self-conscious pragmatism of the HDB, and the reliance on a limited market logic (‘homeownership’). The HDB’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. The paper 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.

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