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Renovation Journey: The Home Barista

July 13, 2015
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At A Glance:

  • Gerald, 29, works in HDB, Nicole, 28, eldercare agency
  • Home to 2 newly wed couple
  • Located at: Sengkang, Anchorvale
  • Size: 93sqm (4-room flat)
  • Renovation cost: $30,000
  • Interior Designer Firm: Fuse Concept
Renovation Journey: The Home Barista
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More homeowners are creating their dream home based on what they like. Taking cues from hipster cafes sprouting around the neighbourhoods, Gerald and Nicole emulated the ‘café-chilling’ experience at home.

All was not smooth and cool as they embarked on a rollercoaster ride during the renovation process. Find out what happened as the couple recounts some of the frustrating moments when working with the designer.

Renovation Journey: The Home Barista
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Qanvast: Let’s start off with the design concept. Where do you get your inspirations?

Gerald (G): Pretty much everywhere actually. I asked my friends for recommendations, went to their homes to get some ideas, flipped through magazines, browsed online and met up with some and a couple of online sites.

Qanvast: Was this design a unanimous idea? How did both come to a compromise?

G: We like how cafes have the 'Scandustrial' design, where it is unique and makes it a nice place to chill at. thus our designs are inspired by cafes. Not to mention the fact that we love coffee. In fact, we have 3 types of coffee machines at home (laughs)!

Nicole (N): I like bright colours but it is hard to fit them into the industrial design. I wanted coloured Peranakan tiles for the kitchen and bathroom. Gerald advised otherwise, and thankfully I didn't insist. Thus, we only reserved colours for the study room.

Renovation Journey: The Home Barista
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Qanvast: With so many ideas in mind, how did you manage to narrow down to what you really like?

G: After researching what we like, we tried to put together all our ideas and take away what doesn't fit into the theme. We had some good references, like with magazines, I got to know brands of materials used for certain parts of the house, and through the Qanvast app, I like how I can filter by budget, style and location.

I looked at overseas inspiration as well. The ideas were good but it wasn’t practical to implement it here.

Renovation Journey: The Home Barista
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Qanvast: How did you choose your interior firm among the few that you have met?

G: We were in the phase where our friends are renovating and have renovated so we got some suggestions from there. We met up with four firms in total and requested for their quote and portfolio. We shortlisted two firms, one from a friend’s recommendation, while the other is through our own research.

We weighed between the comfort level between us and the designers, and the price.

Qanvast: Did Fuse Concept meet your expectations?

G: To be frank, we believe the firm is professional and have a strong portfolio, but the designer we worked with need to improve in a few areas as he was pretty 'noob' (meaning inexperience). There was a lapse in terms of the service, and our expectations were misaligned. We had to undergo a few iterations of the house before it turned out to be what we envisioned.

Renovation Journey: The Home Barista
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Qanvast: Tell us about it, what went wrong?

G: We were actually impressed with his design concept when during his first proposal. He had the creative mojo and that we liked to see in our designer. However, the issues started to creep in after we confirmed the initial round of requirements and concepts. There were a number of issues that were not flagged out earlier, such as floorings and tiles were out of stock. We felt that the design should have checked before the discussion.

Then, we requested a new mockup to better visualise with the new flooring that was selected. They were not keen to give it to us and we had to insist and force it out from him before he gave us a proper one (with the correct flooring). [laughs]

There were also other oversights in the planning such as bad ergonomics in the kitchen. We had to re-lay the vinyl strips as there were some unevenness in the flooring. There were also the lack of updates from the designer. We had to reach him a few times before he got back to us.

I managed a few master projects before and I know that these issues can be avoided if there was enough planning. As we were not in a rush to move in, we told him to take his time and he literally took what we said – the renovation works had stretched for more than four months!

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Qanvast: How did you cope with the hiccups?

N: Our trust in him started to decline with increasing frustrations along the way. We got to scream at him or else we would have to pay for rectification works. [laughs]

G: We understand that he is new too, so we try to be more forgiving. The entire renovation process was a rollercoaster ride. I’m glad that it is now over!

Qanvast: How would you advise homeowners based on what you have experienced?

G: Project management is key. Get someone who is experienced and things will run smoothly. We are unfamiliar when it comes to renovation and we relied on our designer to flag out issues.

N: Like the vinyl flooring we picked, we didn’t know that it would take the shape of our (uneven) flooring. When we asked our designer about uneven flooring caused by the vinyl strips, he assumed that we knew vinyl would highlight the unevenness of flooring, making the issue more obvious. We made him rectify the flooring for us without any cost.

Renovation Journey: The Home Barista
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G: Always have a theme in mind too. We have a lot of ideas and when we put what we want together, it doesn’t gel with the theme.

N: Do it once and do it right. We spotted some flaws and we got the designer to fix it immediately. Don’t live with the problem.

Qanvast: How about furniture shopping?

G: Do your own research and shop around places. My designer did recommend us some of his contacts and I felt it was expensive. I bought my lightings from a shop my designer recommended and I felt like a 'giant carrot' (meaning ripped off) after seeing a similar one elsewhere. [laughs] Always look for cheaper alternatives around!

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