REVIEW: I tried out a staycation in a 1950s heritage site that used to house the Corruption Bureau

·Lifestyle contributor
(PHOTO: Hmlet)
(PHOTO: Hmlet)

SINGAPORE - 150 Cantonment Road was formerly Keppel Primary School before it was converted to the headquarters of Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB). Today, it is a co-living space with 150 individual rooms, Hmlet’s largest facility to date. The 76,000 square foot building has been classified as a historic site, among many in Singapore.

Hmlet is one of Asia’s fastest growing co-living companies, with over 1,500 homes across Singapore, Hong Kong, Sydney and Tokyo. Currently, Hmlet has 38 properties across Singapore.

We were invited to spend a night at the newly furnished Hmlet Cantonment during the weekend before its opening on 16 Sep.

I needed a holiday and a staycation is the closest I can get, so why not?

(PHOTO: Hmlet)
Hmlet Cantonment comprises of 2 blocks, each with 3 floors. (PHOTO: Hmlet) 

I travelled by foot from Tanjong Pagar MRT station and Hmlet Cantonment is about an 8-min walk away. Along the way, I passed by a shopping mall called 100am (6 mins away), Tanjong Pagar Plaza (6 mins away) and Ace Eating House (across the road). Also slightly down the road is a mini-mart to satisfy your late night cravings or run your last-minute errands. You can’t miss the towering The Pinnacle@Duxton in the background from Hmlet Cantonment. Tourist hotspots such as Sentosa, Orchard Road and Marina Bay Sands are 10-15 mins away.

I was excited to see for myself the unique juxtaposition between old-school origins and modern design.

The ‘kampung’-styled surroundings that used to be dotted with fruit trees such as jackfruit and banana as well as curry and pandan leaves, now see potted cacti and eight-meter tall trees dotting vertical gardens around the perimeter.

The sprawling grounds that afforded many recreational activities including football, durian and popiah parties, and barbeques which were the main activity for many Bureau’s gatherings, have now been transformed into outdoor spaces for communal events and activities that are the heart of the Hmlet culture.

(PHOTO: Hmlet)
Mingle and chat with other Hmlet residents at the lounge area in the canteen. (PHOTO: Hmlet)

Block B Canteen

I headed to the canteen to meet the lovely Hmlet team. The general manager Nicolas was on hand to welcome us and I chatted with him about the unique concept of Hmlet Cantonment.

The canteen houses an honesty bar, a kitchen and a spacious lounge area. The exposed brick walls have been done on purpose to lend itself to the old-school feel. Badminton rackets on the smudged concrete wall carry the heritage of the Keppel Primary School it used to be.

(PHOTO: Hmlet)
 Or make coffee like I did. (PHOTO: Hmlet)

This is also where Hmlet residents come together and mingle in the communal living room.

Greenery is a huge part of the interior design as it brings life into the space and this is what local designers Amelia and Pran had in mind. Evoking a Contemporary Scandinavian theme, the furniture and furnishings are sourced for their minimalism and functionality.

More greenery and privacy in the “backyard”. (PHOTO: Hmlet)
More greenery and privacy in the “backyard”. (PHOTO: Hmlet)

Outdoor deck and gardens

Through the side door of the canteen, you can access the outdoor space.

There is more foliage and seating space if you prefer sipping your coffee or having your meals outdoors. Only downside is that when it rains, you have to seek refuge indoors. There is also a designated smoking area in the precinct for those who want to take a puff. If you are like me, you would like the huge and fluffy cushions where you can just laze on under the patio umbrella.

You can also take a dip in the plunge pool if you just want to cool off the heat.

Jump into the plunge pool to refresh yourself in the summer heat. (PHOTO: Sheila Chiang/Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore)
Jump into the plunge pool to refresh yourself in the summer heat. (PHOTO: Sheila Chiang/Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore)


My room was located on the 3rd-storey at Block A. I run my hand across the terrazzo handrails on the original staircase that have been kept to retain its heritage, as I head upstairs (there is also the elevator option if you’d like) to explore the building. The building’s retro elements such as the original staircase with terrazzo handrails and feature walls are kept to retain its heritage.

The terrazzo handrails and feature walls give an insight on the history of the building. (PHOTO: Sheila Chiang/Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore)
The terrazzo handrails and feature walls give an insight on the history of the building. (PHOTO: Sheila Chiang/Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore)

I walked through the hallway that used to have schoolchildren running through it, to get to my room.

My room was The Large size (21-25 sqm). Also featuring the same Contemporary Scandinavian concept, the furniture and the colours used are very warm and inviting. The feature wall behind the queen-sized bed is of a grid pattern, in squares so perfect that anyone would approve.

House plants have been placed in the bedrooms to add life to the space.

The Large room fits 2 people and has that slightly extra space. (PHOTO: Hmlet Cantonment)
The Large room fits 2 people and has that slightly extra space. (PHOTO: Hmlet Cantonment)

It has a fully-equipped kitchen, a washer/dryer and dining countertop with seats for two (that doubles up as a work station). There are basic toiletries namely handwash, shampoo, hair treatment and body wash in the bathroom as well as towels and hairdryer. The only downside is they didn’t accommodate toothbrushes and toothpaste.

They might need to accommodate a wardrobe in the rooms instead of just a few clothes hangers (according to the stats, the average length of stay is 13 months) so the guest definitely needs more sartorial space than that. As I was staying for a mere one night, it was not an issue for me.

The bed was sturdy and firm but pillows are a bit flat.

Overall, the room is the perfect sanctuary for me. I would stay in here all day if I could.

(PHOTO: Hmlet)
The Wellness Studio can accommodate 10-15 people. (PHOTO: Hmlet)

Wellness Studio

The wellness studio was the venue for my yoga session at 9am before I check-out at 11am. It rivals that of a yoga studio in the CBD district.

(PHOTO: Hmlet)
A morning workout starts your day right. (PHOTO: Sheila Chiang/Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore)

In-house yoga is one of the community activities that Hmlet hosts. Hmlet members can also join games night, movie screenings, meditation classes and barbecue parties.

Overall, I enjoyed my stay. The level of comfort is more than I expected and the facility has been designed in such a way that it is a haven for urbanites – if you are hankering for quiet me-time, you can stay in your room as you please or if you are craving for some interaction with people, you are welcome to drop in at the canteen or partake in Hmlet activities.

There will always be community managers on hand to assist you. What more, Hmlet has their own app which is essentially room service within an app. You can request cleaning, laundry or ironing services as well as check if the washer launderette down the hallway is available.

Hmlet Cantonment offers short-term stays of six nights and above. Room rates start from SG$870/week for The Small to SG$1,920/week for 2 Bed with Kitchen.

Visit their website for more information.

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