A community to hang out with at your convenience

The first thing I spot is the beer tap. Right smack on the counter, it is sleek, shiny and holds the promise of free-flow, locally brewed craft beer.

It is 9pm on a Friday and I am checking into Hmlet Cantonment, the newest addition to co-living giant Hmlet's portfolio of properties.

The company was launched in 2016 by Singapore-based founders Yoan Kamalski and Zenos Schmickrath, and now operates 38 locations here, including a building of 80 rooms in Sarkies Road in Newton.

Cantonment, which opened its doors to its first residents last month, is Hmlet's largest dedicated compound to date. Located at the quiet end of Tanjong Pagar - a stone's throw from Pinnacle@Duxton - it houses 150 private rooms in the style of a hotel.

It is Hmlet's first property to adopt this concept, which gives tenants greater privacy. At the other properties, tenants, usually strangers, rent individual rooms of an apartment.

Rooms come in six sizes, from small to two-bedroom with a kitchen, and rates range from $1,105 to $2,240 a week. Consider it a bundle price for utilities, Wi-Fi access and weekly housekeeping.

Over one weekend, I was a guest of a sponsored media stay by Hmlet. My extra-large studio comes fitted with a kitchenette, washer and dryer. Smaller rooms do not have the washer and dryer, but guests can use a central launderette for a fee.

The best part of the bedroom is the smart TV that swivels. Having a television with streaming is important, Mr Schmickrath tells me, because, when was the last time a millennial switched on the TV to watch a local channel? Later, when I binge Friends on Netflix in bed, I can't help but agree.

Also new is the minimum stay of six nights - it is usually three months. You can also book via Airbnb, which Cantonment partners to lease out rooms.

But there are still communal spaces throughout the building. The Cantonment Canteen - where the aforementioned beer tap resides and which doubles as the reception - is the largest common area in the property. It is furnished with couches and dining tables should you want to hang out with neighbours.

General manager Nicolas Westen says: "If you want to dip into the community and mingle, you can come outside. However, if you want privacy, you can also get that."

I end up having most of my meals at the canteen. Where else would I get to tap my own beer any time I like?

In the mornings, I make no-frills lattes on the coffee machine. The communal pantries - smaller, fully equipped kitchens straight out of a catalogue - in the residential block are great if you do not feel up to socialising before your morning cuppa.

There is more to the space than its millennialapproved aesthetic. Cantonment sits on a heritage site - it was home to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau headquarters from 1998 to 2004 and Keppel Primary School in the 1950s.

Interior designer Amelia Koo made sure to pay homage to the history by recreating a "school spirit".

The property's star feature is the terrazzo staircase in the residential block, which had been tiled over during numerous change of hands. Now stripped and restored to its original condition from the 1950s, the speckled flooring and winding stairwell remind me of bygone days sprinting down corridors in primary school.

Other parts of the original building have been adaptively reused - obtrusive pillars in the middle of the rooms are used to hang full-length mirrors and a raised deck out in the courtyard that was once a parade square for the school is now a fairy light-strung alfresco area.

Hmlet organises weekly social activities such as springroll-making, tennis sessions and movie nights across all its properties. Cantonment also hosts daily yoga classes at its wellness studio.

We go on a sketch walk with illustrator Alena Kudriashova, a resident in Hmlet's Tanjong Katong property for six months now. A self-confessed introvert, she moved in after three years of renting condominiums and pays around $2,000 a month for her Hmlet studio - "cheaper" than her condo rent.

"Last time, you go home after a long workday to your condo and there's nobody there and you don't know your neighbours," says the Russia-born graphic designer, 35, who has lived here for four years.

Her favourite thing about co-living is that there is no pressure to join in. "It creates an opportunity for me to socialise when I do feel like it. I don't have to do much, just show up."

On the last night, midway through a roaring dinner party, I slip away for a drink at Tras Street, a couple of blocks away.

I could definitely get used to this home away from home - if I had $3,000 on hand for rent each month. The thrill of having the Central Business District at your doorstep is near priceless. The hefty price tag reaps its worth in membership to a community, convenience, location and gorgeous design.