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Renovation Journey: Behind The Lens

November 11, 2015

At a glance:

  • Dominic and Chloe, both in mid 30s, owners of a photography studio
  • Company: Daydream Studio (a commercial photography studio)
  • Cost of renovation: $68,000
  • Interior design firm: Third Avenue Studio
  • Interior designer: Lawrence

Qanvast: Where did you begin your search for interior designers?

Dominic (D): We started off with a popular renovation forum, but we quickly abandoned that because it was a nightmare to navigate, the information was outdated, and we didn’t think it was reliable.

We also flipped through magazines, but the range of portfolios featured in the magazine is quite limited. After a while, you start to see the same few firms.

Chloe (CH): A friend later introduced Qanvast to us and we just used Qanvast.

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Qanvast: How was your experience in using the Qanvast app?

D: Honestly, it was very painful to look for and to shortlist good interior designers before Qanvast came along. I am really glad that the app simplifies the research process. The articles from Qanvast are interesting and I like the fact that I can browse through many portfolios at a go, and the ability to filter down to the designs I am interested in.

The app is very useful for those who are looking to start to renovate their place.

CH: I don’t read the articles but I like to see the many different images presented to me. I agree with Dominic on the point where we can narrow down to what we want in terms of style and budget with just a few taps on the phone. If the price is right and I’m comfortable with the portfolio and reviews shown there, we will contact the firm. Really beats scouring through sites after sites or calling firms to get quotes.

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Qanvast: What do you look for in an interior designer?

CH: Someone who listens and understands what we want, and he/she is able to help us to design our spaces. When we talk to the interior designers, we don’t tell them the budget we have. Instead, we will tell them what we want and our needs, and then they have to interpret the spaces to their best knowledge and design them.

We don’t want to limit what the designer can do with the budget. Once the designer has worked out something, we assessed the design proposal and then trimmed down to what’s necessary and what’s not, and what are we willing to spend on.

D: It’s our first time doing a renovation and we are not sure if the budget we have in mind is being misquoted. We don’t want to be on either end where we either received sub-standard work due to the lack of budget, or overcharged for the renovation works.

It’s crucial that the designer can listen to what we want instead of applying blindly to what a consumer wants. We want to see the value of hiring an interior designer. As this is a business, space to us is important, we are not looking for someone to beautify the space. If the interior designer is creative enough to double the space for an additional $20,000, we wouldn’t mind considering his proposal.

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Qanvast: Since you knew what you wanted, why didn’t you go with a contractor?

CH: I wanted to! I have already taken down all the measurements of the office and we knew what we wanted, but Dominic advised otherwise; it's a good thing he stopped me.

D: That’s one thing I did right there. [laughs] I foresee there will be some nitty-gritty details we would have missed out being first timers in renovation, and having an interior designer to manage and coordinate would be better than us liaising directly with contractors.

Plus, contractors don’t design the space – they typically take references from other works and this is what we do not want. We want someone who can tie the look together, and advise on design and styling aspects such as how to match certain colours to convey a look.

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Qanvast: What made you go with Third Avenue?

D: We shortlisted and met up with 8 firms, and only Third Avenue stood out for us. The other firms initially looked promising but in terms of design, they couldn’t quite grasp what we wanted.

When we met Lawrence, from Third Avenue, it appears that he was the only one who really listened to what we wanted, then went back to internalise and came back a design that really fits the space and our requirements. We don’t see that from other firms.

CH: We also get along well with Lawrence and it’s really helpful to work with someone whom you have chemistry.

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Qanvast: Can you share what it is like to work with Lawrence?

D: Lawrence opened our eyes to countless of design probabilities. Instead of being fixated on what we want, it’s always refreshing to hear from a designer on what we can do to our place.

His workers are also professional and dedicated to their job. For example the brick wall at the entrance of the office, the uncle initially didn’t understand the look that we wanted. Lawrence explained to him and then the uncle started to do his best to achieve that distressed look by randomising the bricks.

One of his tiling guys also looked out for my interests – the initial plan was to level the cement flooring to make it even but the guy discouraged it as he knows that photographers have a lot of heavy equipment and the ‘overlay’ may not withstand hard knocks. He helped us to save $5,000 on that.

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CH: It was really a good and smooth experience with Lawrence. When things go wrong, he quickly steps in to rectify them. We have a lot of issues with the place even before we started the renovation. Without Lawrence, it would be a nerve-wrecking experience so, no complains, really.

Qanvast: Can you share more about the design concept?

CH: We wanted a raw, unfinished look. We think that Singaporeans’ home are too perfect and feels like there is nothing more you can do after you are done with your renovation. To us, we are a bit different. We know that needs and wants are always evolving and, likewise, we want a space that could grow with us. Design is not stagnant; it should be evolving as well.

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Qanvast: Any tips on first-time homeowners?

D: Know what you want in a home instead of getting the designer to think for you. It took us six months to decide the design and requirements of every corner.

With that being said, give yourself a lot of lead-time in your research because it’s not easy to find a good interior designer. Like a life partner, once you find it, you will know it. Don’t save on the $5,000 - $6,000 and spend it on a contractor, only to regret the decision later.

CH: Homeowners must do their own homework, and have to be practical in terms of what they can do, and what they can get with the budget.

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