From interior styling, furniture customisation, to even car buying, Imago Dei 3’s Lesley Koh has more to offer than the usual home makeover with his firm's turn-key renovation service.
Having been in the interior design industry for more than 27 years, Lesley Koh has had his fair share of interesting experiences on the job.
“It was a unique, once-off job, but there was this one time I had to help a client buy a car,” recounts the Principal Consultant of local design firm Imago Dei 3, which specialises in creating turn-key homes that are ready to be moved in.
“He was planning to settle down here and he wasn’t familiar about local procedures on buying a vehicle. So, I helped him get one, on top of renovating his home! [laughs]”
To find out more about Imago Dei 3 as well as the wide-ranging services that it provides, we sat down for a chat with Lesley himself.
Tell us more about Imago Dei 3.
Lesley (L): We’re a mid-sized company with eight people, but we’re a capable team that’s capable of handling most, if not all types of renovation needs and styles.
As for the reason why I wanted Imago Dei 3 to be a one-stop service it’s because I’ve seen many new homeowners struggling to coordinate so many different aspects of their renovation and having a total solution can help save them headaches.
What differentiates your idea of a “one-stop service” from the rest?
L: When we say “one-stop”, it means that we’re aren’t just capable of doing all sorts of renovation work but are also able to handle total purchases or turn-key projects. We’re talking about buying everything on the behalf of our clients, from furniture, to bedsheets, to dustbins, to even a car!
Personally, I feel that this service has been especially helpful for homeowners who aren’t locals, because it can be a bit harder for them to find their way around the country and to buy the things they need to settle down here.
What are your clients like?
L: We work with all sorts of homeowners. Most of our clients live in either condominiums and landed properties, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t work with HDB dwellers. Having said that, they tend to have budgets between $60,000 to $120,000.
They’re also mostly busy individuals, who rarely have the time to discuss their renovation or are too busy to handle the nitty gritty details.
Could you tell us more about Imago Dei 3’s team structure?
L: We have three departments, which allows us to have a systematic work flow.
The first is ‘Design Consultancy and Build’, which focuses on the creative and aesthetic aspects. The second is ‘Revamp and Contracting’ and they tackle technical and construction matters, such as doing up older houses. The last is our ‘Home Staging’ arm and it’s focused on simple revamps.
On a day-to-day basis, what does the team do?
L: For myself, as the principal designer, I oversee most of the projects and I work with the other designers to meet and discuss matters. This way, our clients can be reassured that there’s always someone on hand to handle their issues and/or queries.
In addition to that, we also hold weekly brainstorming sessions to discuss projects and to ensure that we maintain a consistent level of quality for our work. Essentially, having two brains is better than one! [laughs]
What is it like to tackle a turn-key project?
L: There’s a lot understanding needed. To fit-out the whole place, you need to get to know everything about the owners, down to the smallest details. What they like, what their kids like, what their lifestyle is like.
Aside from that, a lot of trust is needed between the designers and the homeowners because it can get personal because of the amount of disclosure that it involves.
How different are turn-key projects as compared to a regular renovation?
L: For our clients, they get to take things a lot easier. They hand us the keys and they get to come back to a house that’s fully equipped with everything they need, from coffee machines to even detergent. Basically they don’t even have to buy anything at all to move in – it’s completely hassle-free.
That said, the completion time for turn-key projects is also longer, depending on the amount of detail and work that has to be done. For regular projects, it usually takes about 12 weeks, but for turn-key projects it can take as long as four months.
What do you feel is the hallmark of a good designer?
I think that a good designer is someone who's able to achieve maximum value. And by that, I refer to the ability to tap on past experience, technical know-how as well as expert knowledge on materials to help a client spend his or her money wisely.
Of course, there’s the challenge of keeping the budget in check and coming up with something that’s aesthetically pleasing – but that shouldn’t be too much of a problem for someone capable, right?