When Heartland Boy’s supervisor at work asked him how his renovation experience was, he replied matter-of-factly, “No major issues so far and they handed over within the timeline as well”. Heartland Boy’s supervisor was surprised and commented that Heartland Boy was incredibly lucky. Indeed, luck could have played a part but Heartland Boy thought that due diligence efforts should not be overlooked either. This is his HDB BTO renovation experience with an interior design company and find out why he would recommend the services of his interior designer in this blog review.
Interior designer or renovation contractor from hell
Amongst his peers, there would always be a few horror renovation stories in them. Even in the BTO Facebook group where he is a member of, some neighbours were already warning others about their own bad experiences.
As renovation is a big-ticket item, Heartland Boy felt that it was worth the effort to spend more time to ensure he minimized the possibility of having a bad renovation experience. In addition, as time was a precious commodity, Heartland Boy was clear that he needed an interior designer and not a general contractor as he did not want to play the role of a Project Manager coordinating the jobs and schedules of the various sub-contractors.
With these parameters firmed up, he first asked his peers (A big thank-you to each of them who responded!) for Interior Designers that they would personally recommend before running each referral through a personal checklist.
Heartland Boy’s Checklist To Shortlist Interior Designers
1. Reputable company with long track record
As the barrier to entry to the renovation industry is very low, there is a high likelihood that some fly-by-night operators linger amongst them. These operators may not be familiar with HDB renovation rules and guidelines or worse, could run into cashflow problems and default. To avoid these service providers, Heartland Boy looked out for companies with industry accreditations such as Singapore’s CaseTrust. Here is an example of the credentials of the ID company that he worked with:
Do also ensure that you hire only HDB licensed contractors as well. Note that having such accreditations does not mean that these companies will not perform badly or default, but at least this is one level of precaution that home-owner can take.
2. Excellent Workmanship
To verify the quality of the ID’s work, Heartland Boy requested (politely of course) if he could visit his friends’ homes. Simply seeing photos on online platforms such as Qanvast is insufficient for him. Factors that Heartland Boy looked out for was thoughtful space planning, quality of workmanship such as carpentry, tiling, wet works etc.
3. Online Reviews
Finally, besides positive reviews from his peers, he would also read the reviews of past customers online. Such third party feedback are valuable in forming first impressions.
Interior designers who satisfy these 3 criteria would then make it into his shortlist. From this shortlist, he contacted 3 of them to start initial discussions. Once again, Heartland Boy has his own set of factors to help him decide on the one.
A) ID’s Ability To Provide Design Concepts And Solutions
Part of the reason why an ID would be preferred to a renovation contractor is his/her idea generation. Such renovation ideas might or might not be dependent on the years of experience that the ID possesses. Firstly, interior designers should be quick to “catch” the design brief of the home-owners so that they can provide design concepts and solutions that resonate well. Secondly, it is way more important for ID to anchor their solutions on practicality and functionality over visual appeal (which is often driven by the desire to create Instagram-worthy homes). It would of course be a welcome bonus if an ID’s idea successfully marries all these traits. Here is how Heartland Boy’s ID resolved his issue of space constraints of a small house.
As Heartland Boy and Heartland Girl often work from home, it was important to them to have a very comfortable home office. Due to the space constraints of a 3-bedroom BTO, he has to accommodate this home office in the living room. (Master bedroom is for Heartland couple while the remaining bedroom is for Olympia and the transfer maid). One interior designer came up with the proposal of combining the work desk with the dining table and the TV console in the living room. This one-piece furniture turned out to be an elegant solution. That was one of the eureka moments whereby Heartland Boy felt that the particular ID (Jessie) has truly earned her keep.
B. Communication Process
The second important factor is the communication process. IDs who follow up with emails after the initial meetings can quickly earn brownie points and gain the trust of the client. Jessie was quick to provide her proposed space planning on the floorplan and the initial quotation. Subsequent sessions to clarify line items in the fee quote helped to build up some form of chemistry and trust between them.
This continued into the actual renovation process as well. Jessie would send videos/photos of the works done via whatsapp to keep Heartland Boy informed of the progress on site. As a result, Heartland Boy seldom found it necessary to go down during renovation except to take delivery of his home appliances. Even as his house is still under the defects liability period (2-year warranty), Jessie remains easily contactable.
On the outset, Heartland Boy wasn’t looking for a cheap and good renovation contractor/interior designer. He just wanted a feasible fee quote that could conceptualise his house design. Strangely, only 1 out of the 3 interior designers brainstormed hard enough to come up with a proposal that fit within Heartland Boy’s renovation budget. It turned out to be Jessie as well. Note that examining an absolute lump-sum is meaningless because it depends on the extent of the works done proposed by the ID. It is more important to compare per unit cost such as per square feet (psf) of carpentry works across the quotations that you have received.
After 2 rounds of discussions, Heartland Boy felt confident enough to sign on the dotted line for a $31K renovation package contract with Jessie from Weiken. It might not be the cheapest available in the market, but Heartland Boy still feel it is value for money considering that he did not purchase any materials under HDB’s optional component scheme.
The proposed space planning, 3D drawings and selection of materials were done before Olympia was born in Oct 2018! Therefore, when he finally received his HDB BTO keys in January 2019, he simply handed it over to his Interior Designer for her company to commence works. The ID applied the HDB renovation permit on his behalf and approval was swiftly obtained. For Heartland Boy, he quickly purchased home contents insurance (very critical, can’t emphasize this enough) to protect the value of the renovation works and his electrical appliances. 8 weeks later, this was the result:
Jessie suggested a U-shaped wardrobe that adjoins the wall outside the master bedroom toilet while the other side of the wardrobe faces their queen-sized bed. This created an illusion of a walk-in wardrobe without the need to hack any wall. She also added a full-length mirror which not only helped to elongate the corridor and made Heartland Boy’s apartment look bigger than its 68sm (common mirror trick deployed in showflats), it also contributed to good fengshui. Her solution for the master bedroom satisfied all the parameters that Heartland Boy instructed her to work with.
The kitchen was the area where Heartland Boy was most intimately involved in. Instead of a man shed or a gaming room, the kitchen is actually the part of the house where he lets his creative juices run wild. He was very clear in his vision the equipment (oven, wine chiller, dishwasher) that the built-in carpentry needed to accommodate. Once again, he was very pleased with the end result as all the equipment managed to slot themselves in nicely in such a small kitchen. Careful space planning also went in to ensure that there was sufficient countertop left for mi-en-place.
The theme of trying to minimize wastage and save money continued at the master toilet as Heartland Boy asked Jessie to work with the floor and wall tiles and toilet bowl that were provided by HDB. This were the same wall and floor tiles that were already installed in the kitchen too. Without any overlay of the toilet, Jessie managed to create a simple and functional master toilet.
Considering that HDB did not provide additional materials, Heartland Boy was quite satisfied that the entire renovation cost came up to $31,000. The renovation journey was no doubt one of the more time-consuming milestones in adulting but equally rewarding as well.
His heart is full when he has a cozy home that he looks forward to coming back to after work. For those who would like to set up a meeting with Heartland Boy’s interior designer, Jessie of Weiken.com, you can write in to [email protected] or simply leave a comment below and he can help link you up. His ID has also promised that she will be able to extend a goodwill discount on the contract sum to Heartland Boy’s readers. In addition, if you have further questions on your renovation process, Heartland Boy will be happy to address them to his best ability as well. He can also share tips on what he personally did to facilitate the meetings with the panel of IDs that he shortlisted.