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  1. In advance: sorry for the long post! This first post is pretty much a summary of 4 months, so bear with us, the newer posts are going to be shorter After being married for a few years, my wife and I were finally ready to purchase our first home. The wait for a BTO would be too long, so after a search on the resale market we found a 4 room flat in the west of Pasir Ris that matched our needs. A corner unit, 108 square meters, with a layout that we can work with. The state of the interior of the flat was nowhere near what we were looking for, so we already knew from the start that we wanted to do a full renovation. In February we sat down for two weeks, purchased the floor plan of the unit from HDB, and started thinking about what we wanted. We came up with a revised floorplan, more or less to-scale drawings of kitchen cabinets, laundry room, even some very rough perspective drawings of our feature wall in the living room, the feature bed head and the bathroom. With the help of the enormous amount of information on this forum (too many different threads and people to thank, so just a general THANK YOU towards this entire community!), we shortlisted about 10 interior designers and contractors. We sent our package of the original floor plan, the revised floor plan, and all of our drawings complete with a list of specifications to each of these companies in late February, with the expectation of receiving quotations that will help us compare apple to apple. I have to say it was quite successful. With some minor exceptions we received quotations that were comparable, and we visited each and every company that responded to us. Some were very eager, some sounded eager and then their excitement died down, while others maintained a bit more composure. I'm going to write down the companies we visited and our experiences with them, so anyone looking for a contractor can draw their own conclusions. It's really important to find the right person to work with. My wife and I both work in the creative field so we can handle the design conceptualisation portion, but we need someone who can bring our ideas to fruition, someone who can tell us "no" when we need to hear it, and who has the right connections and time to do the coordination, which I believe we found. Anyway, the contenders: ROUND 1: Sense Ideas Design We met with Renato twice. He's an incredibly friendly, talkative guy, who had a good understanding of our design intent. Ultimately, we ended up not shortlisting him further due to his price being slightly higher and us having a better gut feeling about the others. Summit Design Studio When we visited Summit, we were met by one of the staff who had definitely taken a close look at our drawings and knew what he was talking about. The problem here was the quotation. Summit has a "no hidden cost" policy and it shows. Their quotation was easily 30% higher than the rest, and it was just something that could not be overcome. We had to cut somewhere and unfortunately we didn't continue with Summit. ID Note We heard so many great stories about Henry from ID Note that we could not leave them out of the list. We eventually met up with Henry's colleague, whose English wasn't too good. Their showroom cabinets were nearly falling apart and their incredibly competitive quotation was competitive because everything was priced at its absolute lowest. Lowest range tiles, lowest range laminate, no additional works like screeding. It's a practice that we felt a little tricked by and we decided to not go with ID Note. Ideal Design Interior Christine from Ideal was actually the first to respond to our package, and met us at McDonalds in Pasir Ris, which was easy for us. Our biggest issue was that we prepared this set of documents to give everyone all the information they needed, but she never took a good look at it. We worked a solid 2 weeks to get this done, so we felt a little disappointed with that. Ultimately, this was probably the main reason we didn't continue with Ideal. Earnest Interiors Earnest Interiors was one of our favourites at the start based on several raving reviews and their impressive portfolio. Unfortunately, when we finally met the guy, there just wasn't a click. He didn't make us feel very good about our house by calling it very small (I know 108 square meters is no mansion, but tiny?) This together with a non-competitive quotation made it easy for us to not go with Earnest. Carpenters When we first met the girl from Carpenters, she hadn't taken a look at our drawings prior to the meeting. She also hadn't printed them out, so we had to bring out our own copy. Since this was the second time this had happened (first time with Ideal) I was already a little frustrated, but I walked her through our entire design from start to finish. She had not heard of Caesarstone before, or even quartz for that matter. She saw no possibilities to shift the sink to the other side of the kitchen, and her overall logic was just flawed. The quotation was also littered with errors and was not itemized. It was very easy to cut Carpenters from the list. ROUND 2 Rezt & Relax Ivan Lin from Rezt & Relax was the first one that got us really excited about the process. He took his time with us, we spent a solid 2 hours in his showroom to discuss the details of what we wanted, his quotation, and how we can try to keep it within budget. His design aesthetic seemed really good, and the company itself comes across as very reliable with a focus on quality. We met him two more times for some value engineering, trying to make the entire package affordable. Unfortunately, we eventually found ourselves in a situation where we took out quite a few significant things from the quotation, and it was still over budget. My wife and I were both quite sad that we had to make the decision, but we dropped Rezt & Relax in the last round.ROUND 3 Artrend Zhi Qi from Artrend did not follow our initial quotation. She made a few small changes to our design that made the overall cost lower than the others. When we met her at their Balestier showroom, she showed us a sketch of our living room that got us extremely excited. There were two moments where we almost signed with Artrend, but didn't as there were still some small things nagging at us. Small details omitted from the contract: no replacement wall for a hacked door, no main gate, etc. Albeit small things, they still added up to a few thousand dollars in all. Telling her that we decided to sign with another company was the toughest. She had a great design aesthetic, my wife (designer) and her really hit it off and were on the same page when it came to the look of our home, and she came across as very knowledgeable and experienced. If money was less of an issue we probably would have signed on our second appointment when she gave us a really good discount. I would definitely advise anyone to at least visit and see what they can do for you.W.J. Design & Renovation Contractor A few days after we sent out our drawing package, I got a call from Clifford Lai from W.J. Design & Renovation Contractor (let's just call them WJ from now on because we're going to be using this name a lot). There was a small issue with our drawing: we had shifted the position of our toilet in our proposal, and that is something you can't do in HDB flats apparently. I called HDB to check and he was right. He was the first to point this out to us, while some others didn't even point it out at all. His quotation was definitely competitive and transparent, itemized, and when we met him we immediately had a really good feeling about working with him. His strengths made up for our weaknesses, he has a similar design perspective, he told us when something is impossible immediately, and he thinks about the end result even during the concept stage. Example: we wanted a glass shower screen at the bathtub, and from plan he could already tell that we were going to have a problem with opening the ventilation panels. If he hadn't and it would have been fabricated, these are the kind of things that I would feel annoyed with. After visiting him three times and emailing back and forth with amendments, and questions, and value engineering, and more changes, we finally decided to sign with him. He was even able to add in a few FOC items to sweeten the deal. So here we are! The contract is signed, the renovation loan with RHB bank approved, initial payment is made and we ran through the process with him. Step 1 was going to be to select the tiles. He gave us three suppliers that we could go and visit together, and we decided to stick with what's probably the most known supplier: Hafary. More on Hafary in the next post! We hope that with this blog we can give people inspiration through our concept ideation and design aesthetic. We also hope that through this blog, first time home renovators can understand a bit about the processes involved in a full home renovation and also the challenges that come along with it. Most of all we just want to have fun with our renovation and share this experience with like-minded people who will enjoy reading our posts and hopefully gain some valuable insight. We are both very open-minded people who welcome constructive criticism. Feel free to comment or feedback on any of the decisions that we have made. We are also open to any ideas or suggestions that you feel might work in our space that we may have overlooked or not considered. Cheers! Chrizz & Hilikusleech