IR Design Review - Our New Home & Renovation!
We recently bought our first home, a small 62sqm HDB flat in Chinatown and in this blog I will share my HDB search and renovation process which was quite a tiring one but I felt we ended up making really good decisions that may be useful to some of you out there!
Our search for our HDB was a relatively quick one, we saw about 20 flats and in the end settled on a flat in Chinatown. We were initially leaning towards a 3 Room HDB 60sqm flat in Redhill which cost about 380k, then we saw this 2+1 62sqm flat near Chinatown which was 100k cheaper! Simply because it was considered a 2 room and not a 3 room! Oh man what a humongous difference people will pay for such "status" - which really didn't mean much to us. Yes we stay in a small 2 Room flat and I don't care if it means I save 100k thank you very much! Not only was it slightly bigger, it had a far better location literally just opposite Robertson walk and nearer to the city with great En Bloc potential so we figured we would just get that instead and spend the money we had budgeted already on a nice holiday and doing up a good renovation, because clearly, a lot of work had to be done. The flat was in its "original condition" and the neighborhood was really old, one of the other negatives of this flat.
So with that out of the way it was now time for our renovation hunting! This is where renotalk.com was an extremely valuable resource. I spent a ton of time "quality controlling" by spending days surfing through blogs and user reviews, and after many calls and research, it came down to just 3 renovation interior designers I had shortlisted to visit. The first was actually a firm I found on the web before renotalk. I had this flawed view at that time that if the website looks good, the firm probably is successful thats why they had the money to develop a good website, and a nice big showroom to boot and was actually super confident that I found my dream designer when i stepped in the showroom. Oh how wrong I was! It was a huge company with a sprawling and impressive showroom the finishing looked great. The designer engaged to us was like an overweight, smoking and unkempt uncle who didn't seem to care at all at what we wanted. He probably was successful enough based on the company's size / image alone and stopped caring a long time ago. I was quoted 28K and got the vibe that he was a terrible contractor and never bothered to contact him again. My search for the company later on renotalk confirmed what I had learned - flashy showrooms are stlyish websites are not an accurate representation of the service you will get.
The second firm we saw had a good reputation on RenoTalk, I loved the blogs his clients posted and he had a great reputation at his previous company. His office was tiny and he was a 1 man operation so I immediately became skeptical and started asking questions about his past work, experience and for pictures of his recent projects etc. He was very patient ant accommodating and we found him to be very sincere and as for his background, he recently separated from his partnership at his previous firm to make a firm on his own. I loved the past work that he showed me and felt like I could completely trust him, especially since we were newbies we could easily get cheated by "hidden costs" and all of that and I was certain he was not someone who would do that. Still his small office made me feel like I was going to be taking a risk. He also formulated the design with our very weird and vertical kitchen from the floor plan provided which we absolutely loved. He quoted me about 23K
The third firm was a successful and moderately big one which had a good reputation on renotalk as well. The young contractor attached to us seemed to be more like a salesman and had this whole smooth vibe going. I was quoted like 21K, the cheapest of the lot and he promised lots of cost savings everywhere recommending many areas where we could save money. I just didn't feel safe at all when talking to him and felt like I would have to chuck out some hidden fees later. I also got the vibe he was more of a smooth talking salesman than an experienced contractor who knew his stuff very well. Still, the quotes he provided gave us some sort of leverage to gain a discounted rate from the other IDs! So yes, you should always see at least three interior designers for this very reason.
Based on the renotalk blogs we saw but mostly on his sincerity and his creative solution for our weird floor plan, I decided on second person we saw, aka Roy Tan from Ir Design. And it was one of the best decisions we made, as you will be able to see in the pictures shortly! What sweetened the deal even more was not having to pay an extra 7% in GST in Roy and his one man company, which the other companies charged, as they collectively made more than 1 million in revenues per year. Anyway enough talking! Now on to the pictures, complete with before and after!!
The Living Room Before & After
Kitchen Before and After
Bathroom Before and After
Bedrooms Before and After
Roy provided us with:
- Complete trust and sincerity. At no time did I feel pressured or like I was paying for some hidden cost. Yes we were newbies like most people doing renovation are so its important IMO to have trust for your interior designer. And although I did have to pay slightly more in the end of around 1K+ for extra charges, when I looked at the bill they seemed like very valid and reasonable requests for extra materials used.
- Excellent recommendations. He gave us valuable advice based on his past experience, like what tile color/texture would match with what, and what wall color themes / point walls would suit the house and at the same time given us total freedom to choose what he wanted. Most importantly he was SPOT ON in all his advice and the house turned out looking great largely due to this suggestions. A great example of this is the "point wall" bathroom we requested and the bedroom point walls. He also had quality workers who did a great job. He also advised me to replace the window frames which I stupidly thought was unnecessarily as I wanted to save money. I was stubborn and didn't listen to him and thats my biggest regret and now just have to use blinds to cover it lol.
- Nice subtle extra touches. He did lots of touch ups and threw in a lot of "extras" like for example, the door you see was carved with extra lines to look better and the gate chosen was more unique than the usual ones you see. Apparently he does this for his other clients as well which is a really nice touch and our renovation felt extra special. He also tried to bring to life whatever we wanted, like for instance the combined toliet with the basin outside and the bar top counter for the kitchen.
- Went the extra mile. There was a lot of stuff he did for us for free, like he boxed up the pipes at the top which were very unsightly and not included in the original proposal. He also extended the kitchen cabinet area for us by quite a bit just so it looked better and he helped us install all the Ikea stuff multiple times.
- Excellent after service. Even coming back to help us install stuff like the water pipe to the fridge and do some miscellaneous touch ups.
- No pressure at all, he only collected final payment 2 MONTHS after we moved in and were sure we were happy with everything.
Once again, thank you Roy for doing such a phenomenal job. I would rate him 10/10. For those interested his website can be seen at http://www.irdesignsg.com and his contact number is 9007 3306. He was previously from Inzen design and there are a lot of good reviews on renotalk if you search the old thread. There are also a couple of blogs which I am very grateful to his other clients for posting, which gave me the confidence to use Roy. I am extremely happy with his service and the work he has done, and will recommend them to anyone looking for renovation for their dream home.
Some other renotalk.com client blogs