In collaboration with e-retailer Taobao, we follow the home transformation journeys of three homeowners, as they build their dream homes from scratch! From renovating to shopping online for their home, will the result be what they had always envisioned… or better?
This is the first article of a three-part series on Denise's Taobao Home Makeover.
Check out the rest of the series:
It all started with a bad smell that was wafting in the air. ‘We didn’t know where it came from the first few times, but we soon realised it was because the rubbish chute couldn’t be properly closed,’ said homeowner Denise.
Before the Renovation: Denise's Apartment
Having bought and rented out the 1970s walk-up apartment for the past 8 years, the flat was beginning to show serious signs of wear. The windows were dropping off; cabinets were in bad shape and falling off their hinges. ‘We initially wanted to do only minor repairs, but after seeing how dire the condition of the flat was, we knew we had to do a major overhaul,’ says Denise. ‘And since we had to go all out with a renovation, why not do the space up well enough so that we can simply shift into after?’
Particularly taken by the vintage ventilation blocks that came with the house (which were unfortunately boxed up by a previous owner), Denise sought the help of Elaine from Authors • Interior & Styling to conceptualise a style which would fit perfectly with the nostalgic feature.
3D of Proposed Living Room Design by Elaine
Their conclusion? A mid-century Nordic look that would play up its old-school retro vibe, whilst still retaining a classic, cosy air. Here, we chat with Denise and Elaine as they share with us their process of giving the rundown, 40-year old walk-up a new lease of life.
Homeowner Denise (left) and Her Interior Designer, Elaine (right)
About the homeowner
Denise (D): I’m Denise and I previously worked in the construction industry. My husband also works in the same industry, and we’re both in our 40s. In my free time, I enjoy watching documentaries and home makeover shows on HGTV.
About renovating her 40-year-old house
D: We bought the house 8 years ago to rent it out, so at that time we didn’t do much renovation works to it. But it was built in the 1970s and was falling apart - for example, the rubbish chute door couldn’t be properly closed, so there was a stench wafting throughout the house. We also realised that the windows and cabinets were in very bad shape as well.
Electrical Plan of the Walk-Up Apartment with Furniture by Elaine
About her must-haves:
D: It had to be practical, and nice. It shouldn’t have too many details or flowery accents. One thing I realised about walk-up apartments is that dismantling and moving can be very expensive, so the less items we have, the better.
3D of Proposed Dining Room Design by Elaine
Things Denise wanted to keep and change about the house
D: I was greatly inspired by the ventilation blocks that came with the apartment. It’s in the living area, in the bedrooms and by the front doors. It isn’t something that you’ll find in homes nowadays and I wanted to retain that retro, nostalgic aspect of it! In fact, the entire design of the home was worked around this.
Elaine (E): The previous owner actually boxed the blocks up, so we had to set aside time to remove the existing plaster, repaint, replaster and do waterproofing.
D: As for the things we wanted to change - well, almost everything else. I didn’t like the old terracotta-hued floor tiles, and the sickly green tiles in the kitchen. The walls were also a bit stained, so there were a lot of things to be done.
3D Render of Proposed Kitchen Design by Elaine
About working with Elaine from Authors
D: Having been in the construction industry, I’d say I have a better understanding of the more technical aspects of the renovation, like what fittings, measurements to use than a typical homeowner. However, I needed someone who could advise me on the design, colour and styling side of things, which I felt Elaine was able to provide. She understood the overall look I wanted, and was not afraid to propose something she think I’d like. She was also the only one who really went through the notes I provided and listened to my needs before developing a design. I also liked that she doesn’t just settle for the ‘ordinary’. If it’s common, she isn’t going for it!
Floor Plan with Detailed Measurements by Denise
About the home’s proposed design
D: I got a lot of inspiration from Qanvast, Pinterest and even the IDs that I’ve met, and even compiled a 25-page moodboard of sorts of what style and features I wanted! But when Elaine proposed the idea of going for a dark, mid-century modern look which retained an old-school, classic air, it really resonated - and that’s why we went ahead with that.
About researching for ideas
D: I enjoy reading up online, and I’d share new mechanisms or features that Elaine could check out and incorporate into the home. She’d always ask me, ‘Do you think you’ll like it years down the road?’ whenever I propose a new idea. It helps me to stop, really think and refine what I really want! (Laughs)
3D of Proposed Kids Room Design by Elaine
About the renovation works done
E: As Denise and her husband wanted a room for kids, it's better not to have a lot of fixed, built-in carpentry that cannot be rearranged or replaced to match the family’s changing needs. The bedrooms are left bare and we'll use loose furnishings to build up the space. However, extensive renovation works were done for the recovery of the ventilation blocks, the kitchen and the bathrooms.
Older units often come with pesky beams and pillars, so we masked them up; we boxed over the ceiling beams, and patched up the recessed areas between the kitchen columns for a seamless look.
3D of Proposed Bathroom Design by Elaine
About the renovation process
D: Very exciting! As in it was a roller coaster ride all round. Our electrical wiring was pretty tricky, as it is all cast-in. So, if things are done wrongly, we’d have to re-do again. As a result, me (and Elaine) often stayed back to oversee the electrical work. We also had quite a tough time looking for tiles - especially those grid-like, 1950s-style tiles for our bathroom.
During the Renovation: Bathroom Tiles from Hafary
E: We went to 6 tile showrooms in search for the perfect tiles! Thankfully, we managed to find what we wanted from Hafary and An Huat. We planned around our furniture, as that will determine which flooring colours, wall colours to go for, and even where we’d place the electrical points.
D: There were a couple of delays as well, due to stuff that I had imported over. I imported a farmhouse kitchen sink from Germany which I came across at the Rice Lab. It’s still in transit, and will take another week or so to arrive… It’s all these little things that add up, but I’d rather spend more time getting things right the first time around than going through multiple rectifications or changes.
Next up in Denise’s home transformation journey, she and Elaine share more about picking the right furniture pieces for their home, and their shopping experience on Taobao! Click here to read on.
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