You wouldn’t be able to guess by looking at this easy-breezy minimalist home that it was not designed by an interior designer. Instead, it was a couple with no background in interiors who designed their second home together.
For the overhaul of their 28-year-old five-room resale flat in Tampines, Patrick Lim and Furry Ang decided not to engage an interior designer (ID). Instead, they designed the 1,410 sq ft apartment themselves and engaged a main contractor, Majestic Construction Engrg, to carry out the works.
Both of them do not have a background in interior design, though their day jobs did come in handy in this process. Furry is a mumfluencer and freelance social media strategist with a side hustle selling toys, and was largely in charge of the aesthetics, from sourcing to styling. Patrick’s job as a 3D artist in the urban planning field turned out to be very useful during the renovations as he would draw up 3D renderings for the couple to better envision things, from changing the layout of the house, right down to deciding which kids’ beds to buy for their two sons, Jonas and Joel.
While not hiring an interior designer (ID) and going directly to a contractor for home renovations is more cost-efficient, renovating your house without an ID involves a lot more work on the home owners’ part, as Patrick, 38, and Furry, 34, would tell you. It’s more than just about not having someone to come up with an IG-worthy home design for you, okay? It meant that they had to be more hands-on in the whole process, even if their main contractor would liaise with sub-contractors.
After deciding on the theme of their home, Patrick would then put it in a 3D drawing to show their contractor. They also had to research and pick materials, laminates, lightings and other finishings, and grapple with technicalities that an ID would normally advise on. Furry also sourced and shipped most of the furnishings and fittings — even their dining table and master bathroom shower screen — from Taobao. As if all that wasn't stressful enough, all this took place after the circuit breaker, when Covid-19 restrictions led to many delays for home renovations across the island, and shipment delays globally.
After five to six months of renovations, the family moved in to their light, bright IG-worthy home in mid-December, when it was about “80 per cent done”. “We’d already been staying at my in-laws’ place for four months, so we needed to move in even if it wasn’t fully completed. We just needed it to be in a livable condition,” says Furry. Minor works, such as some painting and work on a double vanity in the master bathroom, were ongoing for a month before the home was ready just in time for Chinese New Year this year. Now that the family of four has settled in to their new nest, the Lims have just launched their YouTube channel to share their home with the rest of the WWW (link below).
8 DAYS: Why did you decide to go with a contractor, instead of an ID?
Furry: The first reason is budget. To hire an interior designer and have this space done up tastefully to our liking would probably cost about $150,000. But our budget was $100,000. And because I work from home mostly, plus the fact that we did our first place — a four-room BTO flat — ourselves, and Patrick can do all the 3D drawings, we thought we’d try designing our place ourselves and go with a contractor instead of hiring an ID. In the end, our renovations cost $80,000 and furnishings cost about $20,000, so we were on budget.
Patrick: We already had a concrete idea of what we wanted, so going straight to a contractor is okay. And we’d seen online the projects that our contractor had done before and they were in tune with what we wanted, so we went ahead with them.
F: Of course, if we were to do this again in future for our third home, I might get an ID instead. (Laughs) It’s really a lot of work!
What’s the process like when you go with a contractor? Did you have to project manage the whole thing?
P: We hired the main contractor, who will liaise with sub-contractors. But you have to tell the contractor exactly what you want, and you need to be very specific — right down to the exact measurements for certain things and what laminates you want, everything. There’s even some formula to work out the distance between the stove and the position of other things in the kitchen. All these things we learnt ourselves by reading up online. If you hire an ID, they will recommend these things to you.
F: Even when we’ve chosen our tiles or laminates, you still feel some fear, not knowing if it would really work or not. You know when you hire an ID and something doesn’t work, you can scream at them and say ‘This isn’t what you showed in your 3D drawing!’ But for us, we couldn’t scream at anybody; we just had to suck it up. (Laughs) It was fun doing up the house, but yet, it was very nerve-wracking at the same time. The journey is pretty intensive but we’re happy that everything came together nicely in the end.
What was your design process like?
F: We did a lot of research on Pinterest and Instagram and modified it to fit our layout. Then Patrick would visualize it in 3D to see if we liked it. If we didn’t like it, we’d change it. We went through about eight to 10 rounds of 3D changes. We then shared the 3D with the contractor and they’d tell us if it’s doable or practical. We have to thank them for their advice ’cos there were things we proposed that weren’t so ideal — a lot of very technical things like how to run the electricity and all that. It was always a tough decision between practicality and aesthetics. I think because of Patrick’s skills in 3D, it made it slightly easier for us to communicate ideas to our contractor.
Plus, being second-time home-owners, we knew what we wanted and what we didn’t want in a house. Our first flat was a four-room BTO and we kept it very basic. It was Scandinavian style, and is very different from our current place. We spent only $11,000 on renovations then, because we knew we were moving out after five years. We kept the default tiles and flooring and went with a lot of loose furniture.
So what were some things that you knew you wanted or didn’t want, after living in your previous place?
P: Previously, we had open shelves in our kitchen, but we went with closed cabinets this time. With open shelves, you can’t hide the mess. We also knew we needed more storage space in the kitchen.
F: When we designed our previous home, we didn’t think about kids. Now that we have two kids, we wanted everything to be concealed and be as clutter-free as possible. The only open shelves we have now are kids’ playroom which is intentional, so they can pick up the toys and be more engaged.
P: We also chose not to have built-ins at places where we’d use often, like the dining table. Our dining table is from Taobao, and if it’s damaged, we can just change the whole table instead of having to hack carpentry.
After all this work put into the renovations, do you plan to stay here for a long time?
F: Patrick has said that the moving house process is so tedious, the next time he’ll move is into his coffin. (Laughs) That’s how tedious we thought the house moving procedure was! But of course we are very proud of how it turned out in the end. It was a project for both of us, and the kids love it.
Full house tour video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXSMee66qVA.
Photos: Courtesy of Patrick Lau Photography