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Renovation Journey: The Artisan Co.

Renovation Journey: The Artisan Co.
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At A Glance

  • Shop: Only Brown
  • Shop Owner: Kelvin, age 42
  • Location: Everton Park
  • Size: 300 sqft / 28 sqm
  • Cost of renovation: $25,000
  • Renovation duration: 3 weeks
  • Interior designer firm: Design Collective Studio
  • Interior designer: Melissa

Dubbed as the next hipster enclave, Everton Park, the 50-year old estate has seen trendy tenants, from gourmet delis and cafes to independent lifestyle shops.

Residing in this quaint neighbourhood is Only Brown, a purveyor of fine small leather goods. It’s hard to miss the bright blue doors once you exit the multi-storey carpark. We spoke to Kelvin, the shop owner who shared with us his experience in renovating his workspace and his brand.

Renovation Journey: The Artisan Co.
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Qanvast: Tell us more about your brand.

Kelvin (K): Only Brown started off four years ago as an online retailer selling customised leather goods such as briefcases. I wasn’t doing full time in this and it was much later that I decided to focus on Only Brown. I bit the bullet, quitted my day job and got the business to focus on small leather goods.

We bring in non-mainstream labels with quality workmanship from countries like Scotland, England, and Japan. We only go for companies that focus on leather goods, producing items that are classic, exclusive and good.

I like how various hues of browns can bring out the best in leather. Black is boring - thus, the shop name Only Brown.

Renovation Journey: The Artisan Co.
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Qanvast: What type of leather does Only Brown carries?

K: We specialise in bridle leather (cow hide); which is an expensive grade of leather as it is a labourious process to produce them. It’s also easy to maintain. If white blooms (which is often mistaken as mould) occur on the product, just take a damp cloth and wipe it.

At the moment, we are working with a Japanese craftsman and we started to bring in their leather products.

Renovation Journey: The Artisan Co.
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Qanvast: The shop décor is really interesting and unique. Tell us more about the design concept for this shop.

K: I wanted a more English concept for the shop initially but after seeing what tailor stores look like – with lots of greens and browns, I thought it was a little stuffy. Since I will be facing the shop interior for long hours everyday, I want a décor that I wouldn’t get bored easily.

I also took into consideration that our unit is small and I didn’t want these colours to make the spaces feel cramp.

We used loose pieces of furniture and quirky conversational starters such as the goat's head from Funny Museum to give the shop a more unique edge. I like how our shop’s façade drew attention from passers-by.

Renovation Journey: The Artisan Co.
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Qanvast: Where do you look for design inpirations?

K: Mainly Pinterest – it has the answer to almost everything and I like how visual the app is which is very pleasing to use.

Qanvast: How then does Qanvast fit in?

K: The app is very timely as it helps to speed up the search for an interior designer. I could quickly narrow down the firms who had done commerical projects before and view their portfolios and reviews from there. I’m a very visual person so I like the visual aspect of the Qanvast platform.

Renovation Journey: The Artisan Co.
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Qanvast: What are some qualities you look out for in hiring a designer?

K: I need someone who is experience in doing commerical projects so that they don’t miss out certain things that is important to the business. The project size matters as well. I personally prefer someone who does projects for SMEs rather than big enterprises to align with my budget and expectations.

Next is the portfolio. I have a rough design concept in mind and I’m looking for someone who can develop the idea further and execute it. Design Collective had done a project that is similar to the design theme, and thus we reach out to them.

Renovation Journey: The Artisan Co.
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Qanvast: Why did you pick Design Collective out of those you have met?

K: Including Design Collective, we spoke to about three firms, including a contractor. We explored different design options across the firms and found that Melissa’s sense of aesthetic is quite close to what I wanted and the budget fits.

As we have a timeline to meet, we chose Melissa.

Renovation Journey: The Artisan Co.
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Qanvast: How was the renovation journey like?

K: Things were quite smooth in the beginning but got rocky towards the end. There were some discrepancies in the communications that led to a slight delay in the renovation works. As a business, we are time-strapped as we have only secured a two-week rent-free period. It is inconvenient to run the business if there are delays.

Renovation Journey: The Artisan Co.
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Qanvast: Any advice you can give to business owners who are looking to do up their workplace?

K: First, find out what is the design concept you are looking for and set a realistic budget to it. There are some creative designers who go all the way out to present a good idea to you, but they fail to take your budget into account. Then after, they start to scale down their design to fit your budget.

Project management is important too. Understand how the firm and your designer work so as to better manage both the client and designer’s expectations.

For businesses, renovation delays while inevitable, could be disruptive to the business. Check if your designer has been able to consistently deliver projects on time and do your part to pay site visits regularly.

Renovation Journey: The Artisan Co.
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(Before Photo)

Qanvast: What lessons can you draw from this?

K: Look beyond the aesthetics and design. Sometimes you could be carried away by the designs and you fail to look at other aspects on delivering a project.

Always jot down your communications with the designer in black and white, and understand that project management is the underlying skill is to execute and deliver the project well.

Both client and firm must take steps to ensure that the renovation runs smooth learn how to manage each other’s expectations.

Designer's Thoughts:

Melissa: In order to create a "one-of-a-kind" store that best suits the different products sold by Only Brown, the interior of the space had to be cosy with slight touches of masculinity, charming and filled with variations of vintage furniture. The exterior needed to be unique among the other Everton shopfronts. This being Only Brown's first official retail store, the shop front had to have a strong appeal draw in curious passers-by.

We decided to take the French old-world theme to the next level by giving it a modern colour. This variation of blue that we chose suited the brand well and the direction Kelvin had in mind for the store. We also introduced gold trimmings and accents to elevate the brand. Many times we spoke about "creating pockets of Instagrammable spaces" - we wanted people to be curious of the spaces, and share what they have seen.

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