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Renovation Journey: A Small Home With Big Ideas

"Live large with this small apartment that is big on function and style. A modern home that epitomises the utilisation of small spaces."

At a glance

  • Christopher Cai
  • Size: 850 sqf / 79 sqm
  • Location: Bukit Batok East Avenue 2 (condo)
  • Cost of renovation: $50,000
  • Interior Design Firm: Third Avenue Studio
  • Interior Designer: Yi Ping
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Like most homeowners, Christopher was pretty apprehensive about interior designers. His worry was proven right when the first interior designer he engaged stood him up the first meeting and rejected his project after two weeks of absence. Fortunately, he was finally able to find one whom he’s happy with.

Christopher’s interior designer, Yi Ping was basically able to read his mind and help him realise a crib that’s cosy, minimalist and functional. But to his credit, she wouldn’t have been able to do that if he wasn’t clear on what he wanted.

We spoke with him to find out how he managed to turn a potential nightmare to an almost effortless journey.

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Qanvast: Let’s jump straight to the inspiration sources behind your home. What were they?

Christopher (C): I was primarily searching online for inspiration, particularly in the aspect of small space living.

Through different websites and videos, I was influenced by their ideas in organising different parts of the house, and combining my dining and living area to maximise space.

Qanvast: Thanks for using the Qanvast app to help with your interior designer search! What do you think is the main difference between us and other platforms?

C: Qanvast is an easy way to discover and get in touch with interior designers. I used the request for quote function, and Qanvast came back with 5 interior designers that matched my needs. From there, I emailed 3 to 4 interior designers to kick start the conversation.

This has not only helped me in discovering the right design style for my home but also in finding a suitable interior designer that understands me.

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Qanvast: Happy to hear that you like our Request For Quote function! Did you explore other Qanvast feature?

C: Yes, I was predominately using the bookmarking feature. It has enabled me to put together a collection of images that I liked and show them to the designer easily.

Qanvast: What are the other local platforms which you have used?

C: I can’t really remember any specific ones but I definitely came across some local websites. However, the information wasn’t really organised and that made it hard for me to find information that easily.

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Qanvast: What were your criteria for choosing an interior designer?

C: It was mainly down to their level of responsiveness and how they managed quotations and ideas.

Before I came across Qanvast, I was working with an interior designer whom my friend recommended. He actually forgot about our first appointment but I gave him a second chance. He was an hour late and after two weeks with no news; he called to say that he was too busy to take on my project.

What I’ve learnt is that if you don’t know the interior designer, always keep your options open and consider carefully. Once you’ve paid for the work, you will have to stick with the designer even if they do a slipshod job.

When I spoke with Yi Ping, I felt like she had a good understanding of what I wanted. As much as I knew the kind of look I wanted for the house, I wouldn’t be able to accomplish it without Yi Ping’s experience in choosing the right things.

Qanvast: What else did you like about Yi Ping?

C: She is a very sharp person. She picked out a lot of things that I missed initially. It was also very easy to communicate issues that we had during the renovation, as she was mindful of our considerations. It was a great experience.

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Qanvast: Did you have to frequently check on the renovation progress?

C: For the first week, I had to open the door and do the inspection. But for the most part, I did not really have to keep that close an eye on the contractor. I only gave feedback about minor things, such as the positioning of the speakers, and they rectified the issues immediately.

Qanvast: Would you recommend Yi Ping to other homeowners?

Yes, definitely! I have heard many horror stories from my friends. Their renovation projects took a lengthy 4-5 months to complete.

I had trust issues at first, but Yi Ping was very responsive and easy to communicate with.

My renovation completed really fast. We were trying to get it done before Chinese New Year, but I anticipated that it might get delayed. Turned out, I didn’t have to. Everything was done well within my desired timeline. The renovation took less than a month, and exceeded my expectations.

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Qanvast: Besides having a good interior designer, what do you think is needed to make renovation a smooth-sailing journey?

C: I guess it helped that I came out with a few concepts before meeting Yi Ping. I even did some rough 3D rendering to show her what I wanted the house to look like. [Laughs]

As soon as Yi Ping looked at my images, she got a good idea of what I was gunning for. Expectedly, she came back with major changes, but without straying away from my goals.

For example, I initially wanted to have a television in my room for work presentations as well as entertainment. However, she advised that replacing it with a projector would save a lot of space, and the wall behind it could still be utilised. It was important that she understood the real intentions of my suggestions, she gave me constructive recommendations.

Qanvast: Which is the favourite part of your house?

C: I’d say, my desk. The concept was for my bedroom to double up as an office as well. At the risk of repeating myself, I really liked Yi Ping’s idea of using the entire wall as a whiteboard and utilising the projector for both work and entertainment purposes.

Qanvast: Do you have any advice for homeowners?

C: Do as much research as you can to know what you want. The hardest thing for a designer is working on “anything”.

If you have no idea about what you like, get a sense of what is out there by talking to an interior designer first before doing some research on your own.

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###Designer's Thoughts

Yi Ping: The design approach is to create a modern and cosy home that is multi-functional. The homeowner likes to hold gatherings quite often. Due to space constraint, I proposed to hack away the kitchen wall and create an open kitchen concept with an island kitchen and an extendable dining table. Wood and white finishing created a clean, warm and comfortable space.

We created a home office concept in the bedroom to suit the homeowner's lifestyle. Bedroom is not only for rest and sleep but it can also be used as a conference meeting room. That is why I proposed to have a sofa bed, full white board glass and projector screen.

Want to know what other homeowners are experiencing? Check out our previous renovation journey articles.

Third Avenue Studio's portfolio is available on our Qanvast app. Download the app to view other projects and other homeowners' reviews.

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