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Denise's Taobao Home Makeover: The Shopping

September 17, 2018

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 second article of a three-part series on Denise's Taobao Home Makeover.

Check out the rest of the series:

Part 1: Denise's Renovation Process

Deciding on a mid-century Nordic look to complement the ventilation blocks in her 40-year-old walk-up, there was something else Denise had to pay great attention to besides overseeing her home’s restoration/renovation. Choosing furniture!

Shopping on Taobao for the first time, Denise sought the help of her designer Elaine from Authors • Interior & Styling to pick the right furniture for her home's look. All that, whilst juggling with her home's renovation works at the same time! Here, we check out how the two did it all, and their eye-opening experience buying from the online platform.

Your Dream Taobao Home Starts Here

Psst, free shipping on selected bulky furniture from 20 to 22 Sept 2018! Scroll to the end of the article for more deets.

About the type of furniture they wanted

Elaine (E): To match the mid-century modern theme we had in mind, we decided to go for dark, wooden furniture to provide contrast to the home’s minimal finishing and lighter wall palette.

Denise (D): We also shortlisted a couple of furniture pieces that we needed to have. Mainly the sofa, TV console, dining table and chairs, study table and chairs, plus the bed frames. We bought most of our furniture items from 林氏木业 and 卫诗理/Visney which had items that were more aligned to our theme. The best part about these two stores is that most of their furniture is actually made from solid wood! It’s hard to find furniture at those prices in Singapore.

Your Dream Taobao Home Starts Here
Your Dream Taobao Home Starts Here

In the Living Room: Leather Arm Chair from 林氏木业

D: For the living-cum-dining area, we got two fabric) and one leather armchair instead of the usual sofa. We also got a dark-wood coffee table, TV console, a house-shaped display shelf and a display cabinet with patterned-tile fronts to tie in with the shapes of the ventilation blocks. In the bedroom, we got a classic, mid-century double bed frame.

Your Dream Taobao Home Starts Here

In the Bedroom: Wooden Bed Frame from 卫诗理/Visney

About challenges faced

D: While we managed to get most of the furniture to deck out the living and bedroom areas, there were some that we had to replace as the item went out of stock or was unable to ship within our timeline. For instance, we initially wanted a blue armchair to lend a pop of colour to our living room, but it was unavailable. In the end, we settled for a leather armchair instead. Likewise, there was one dresser which was absolutely gorgeous and we were already planning to buy it, but that went out of stock as well, and we had to scrape the dresser idea altogether, replace it with a study table configuration.

Your Dream Taobao Home Starts Here

In the Bedroom: Dressing Table and Mirror from 卫诗理/Visney

E: While we had a clear idea of what we had in mind, it was a different story searching on Taobao. As we had to search in Chinese, we needed to find the right keywords that could generate the products that we wanted. For instance, we used keywords like ‘ 北欧‘ ‘中世纪复古’, ‘欧洲丹麦‘ to discover mid-century Nordic pieces. It takes a little bit of guessing (and observing of what the furniture merchants name their products on the page) to find out which keyword is relevant. But soon, we got the hang of things (laughs).

Your Dream Taobao Home Starts Here

At the Entryway: Wooden Shoe Cabinet from 林氏木业

About the pros and cons of online shopping

E: Of course, the good part about online shopping is the fact that we didn’t have to step out at all to look for furniture. Everything can be found online, and the information provided on the Taobao merchant and product pages is often enough to make an informed decision. It helps that they usually take their furniture items at every angle, so you can better visualize how it’d turn out in the space. It saved us a lot of time, petrol fuel and physical effort having to hop from one furniture showroom to another!

Your Dream Taobao Home Starts Here

In the Guest Bedroom: Duo Tone Wooden Bed Frame from 林氏木业

D: That being said, nothing beats being able to actually see, feel and test out a furniture piece in real life. There’s only so much pictures can do, and sometimes, the colour and texture of things aren’t exactly what you see on the computer screen.

Some Taobao furniture shopping tips

D: I always make it a point to see the worst reviews on any shopping site, Taobao included. Positive reviews are great, but some of them might be biased, paid reviews. No one would pay a person to write a negative review! From those bad reviews, I’d make a judgement as to whether I’m comfortable with an item or not.

Your Dream Taobao Home Starts Here

In the Bedroom: Mattress Topper from 慕思/DeRUCCI

D: Also, another thing home owners should look out is the manufacturing timeline. Most of the items on Taobao aren’t ready to be shipped instantly. Check what’s their production lead time before committing, especially if you’re on a tight schedule!

Tip: Chat with the sellers to find out about their production lead time - note that you'll need to download the chat app from!

Your Dream Taobao Home Starts Here

In the Living Room: Eclectic Cabinet from 林氏木业

About the overall experience shopping for furniture on Taobao

D: I was impressed at the sheer variety of stuff on Taobao. There’s really something for everything at any budget. Most people have the impression that furniture bought from here are often ‘cheap’ or ‘badly made’, but that’s definitely not the case. There are a lot of merchants selling quality (and sometimes very expensive) furniture items here! Also, I feel that the items sold on Taobao are much more on-trend and forward than the offerings in Singapore in terms of design.

Your Dream Taobao Home Starts Here

Wide variety of furniture styles available at 林氏木业

D: You can find many fittings, accessories and furniture pieces that you can’t find in local stores. I was tempted to even get tiles from Taobao, but the timeline was an issue.

E: The potential downside of things is simply the language! It can be confusing and tough at the beginning navigating and reading things on the site (if you’re not proficient in Chinese). But with Google Translate and enough time, you’ll somehow know where to click and search for things.

Get Denise's Shopping List

Next up, it’s the big reveal! We take a look at the final result of the newly renovated walk-up complete with furniture pieces from Taobao shifted in. Will expectations meet reality? Stay tuned to find out!

Your Dream Taobao Home Starts Here!

Your Dream Taobao Home Starts Here

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