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dreambeast

Simply Scandinavian

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Hi all,

I have been wanting to write about my renovation experience for a while now but have been putting it off until now :lol:. We took our keys back in July 2013 and officially moved in in Nov 2013. This forum has been a great source of information for me and I would like to give something back to the community. Hopefully, it will be of some benefit to anyone who is reading this :).

First of all, the floor plan:

gallery_58707_3_20018.jpg

We started researching for our renovation since 2012. We read forums and flipped through home decor magazines at the library or bookstores etc. Take pictures - they might come in handy in future when you meet with contractors. A good idea is to write your notes in Google Drive so you can access them anywhere. We also kept a spreadsheet with all the quotation breakdowns from the contractors/IDs we contacted. This keeps things neat and easy to compare. Do include the prices of everything else you will need to budget for e.g. furnishings, electrical works etc. In this way, we knew for sure how much we spent in total for renovation (including all hidden costs!).

Try to know what you want before going around asking for quotations. For example, we knew (after looking through countless magazines :) ) that we want a Scandinavian look for our house. That means:

- furniture with simple and clean lines

- bright, open spaces

- light-color themes

- wood-looking flooring

- minimalism

In short, there are lots of planning and research to do even before getting your keys. Do walk around home exhibitions (regularly at Expo) and furniture stores (IKEA). Shortlist the stuff that you like. Take note of prices and put them down in your budget spreadsheet. We had planned for a renovation budget of 40K (including furnishings) and I was quite proud that we spent within our budget AND did not compromise on the Scandinavian vision ;) .

Preview:

gallery_58707_247_160444.jpg

I will try to narrate and dissect our renovation process in future posts in this topic so stay tuned! (I am rather slow in writing, so bear with me, hopefully just need a few weeks! :lol: ).

P.S. In the meantime, you can head over to my wife's blog (http://yunzhijian.blogspot.sg/) for pictures and her views on our renovation (YES she has already finished her blog!! And I am still on my first post!!)

Edited by dreambeast
 

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As mentioned, to get part of the Scandinavian feel right, we need some wood-looking flooring. So one of the first things we had to decide on was which kind of flooring. The different kinds were:

- laminate flooring

Simply a photograph of wood on top of a synthetic piece of flooring. Can pass off as real wood to an average person. Generally cheaper and easier to install than the rest.

- engineered wood flooring

A mixture of different types of wood in a single piece of flooring. I believe that it has the properties of solid wood minus some of the cons of solid wood because it has been processed.

- vinyl flooring

Seems similar to laminate flooring except that it is more water resistant. Compromises on the feel.

- solid wood flooring

Real wood in every sense. Have all the pros and cons of wood. If you are very particular about the feel of wood beneath your feet, then you will need nothing less than solid wood flooring.

and a couple of hybrids like HERF (marketed by Evorich) and more exotic flooring (bamboo, linoleum). I have even seen tiles that look like wood (from Hafary).

Initially, we wanted to go with engineered wood flooring. We were planning to do wood flooring for all the bedrooms and living room. However, contractors were quoting us a figure of around 10K for the flooring! Then, we chanced upon Supreme Floors, which specialises in laminate flooring among other things. I did a quick research of Supreme Floors online and seems like most people are satisfied customers. We met one of their sales executive, Kenny, who was friendly, helpful and wasn't pushy at all. Laminate flooring comes in different thickness (8mm-12mm) and toughness (AC3-AC5). After some deliberation, we went for the thickest and toughest they had, seeing as flooring is quite a permanent part of our house. We settled on a price and paid a deposit. The total amount will be less than 4K, we were reassured.

After we started our renovation, we confirmed the colors for the flooring. As we wanted the living room and the adjoining study room to look spacious, we chose white wood color for them. We then chose champagne color for our private rooms i.e. the wardrobe room and bedroom to have a warmer feeling.

A look at the flooring in the living room:

gallery_58707_247_80186.jpg

And a look at the flooring in the wardrobe room:

gallery_58707_247_32434.jpg

Naturally, we need to research on how to take care of laminate flooring. We bought a 3M microfiber super mop, which can be used dry and wet. Usually, we will need to clean the floor twice, once using the dry mop to pick up dust, and then second time we will use a mixture of vinegar and warm water. I have read that it is essential not to leave puddles of water unattended to, especially near the skirtings and parts where the laminate floor connects to the kitchen or the bathrooms.

After renovation, there were some gaps in the skirtings which were not done well. We called Kenny immediately to rectify and he was responsive, getting his workers to do it on the same week. So far, we are satisfied with his services and will recommend him to anyone who is looking for laminate flooring.

With anything else, there will be trade-offs, regardless of which flooring you choose. So as long as you know the pros and cons of your chosen flooring and can live with it, I'd say that's good enough :good:

 

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The most expensive purchase in our flat should be justifiably the bed, since we spend more time using it than anything else, say the sofa, or TV. We visited the usual suspects i.e. Sealy, Simmons, Serta, Englander, Dunlopillo etc. I find most of the mattresses in their respective hotel collection comfortable, but prices vary. We had an initial budget of 3K for the bed. We planned to put a king-size bed in our bedroom and nothing else. Wardrobes will be placed in the adjoining wardrobe room. With the size of HDB flats nowadays, you can hardly put a decent sized wardrobe and a king-size bed in the same room :lol:.

My personal favourite was a mattress from Sealy (marketed as Merlot) but the price was about 3.3K. We were hesitant to increase our budget and decided to shop around more. When I came across a model from Dunlopillo which had the same feel but only cost 2K, we immediately put down a deposit! :thumbs up:

Our bed (with bedside table from IKEA):

gallery_58707_247_89496.jpg

I learnt a lesson from this experience of buying a bed. Humans tend to associate high price with high quality and vice versa. I tried a 10K mattress from Simmons (Beautyrest Black) and it was indeed very luxurious and comfortable. But I checked myself and wondered how much of that perception is real and how much is actually psychological. So to be more objective, it will be advisable to tell the salesperson your preferred feel (soft, medium, hard) instead of your budget. Lie on the mattress first and decide if it is for you, before you check the price, so you will not be unknowingly biased.

As a side note, bed sizes in Singapore are a tad different from the rest of the world. Our king size is 183cm x 191cm, which is shorter than the usual king-size in hotel rooms in other countries. Both Sealy and Simmons have models that come in longer lengths i.e. 198cm and 203cm at extra cost, of course. Might be an important detail for taller people :). Ah, I might be tempted to get me one of those beds someday, but that will be another bed for another house :lol::lol: .

 

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I'd like to talk about my contractor, Aaron. Among all the quotations we have gotten, his was the lowest generally (no one contractor will quote uniformly lower than the others - they usually have some low prices in one area e.g. carpentry and make up the "loss" by marking up in other areas e.g. hacking works). Our quotations ranged from 16K (Aaron) to 33K (one of the ID firms recommended by friends). For the same amount of work done! Our renovation included hacking a L-shaped wall between the living room and study room and replacing with glass, carpentry for wardrobes, bathroom and kitchen cabinets, study table, doors, painting, plumbing and electrical services, service yard windows, among other usual stuff like warranty and general washing before handing over.

As I mentioned about trade-offs in a previous post, there will be a compromise between quality, speed and cost. In this case, I reckon it will be the speed. We took about 3 months to finish the renovation. Also, Aaron just started out so he is not very experienced. But we thought we could work with that since we knew quite strongly what we wanted and just needed to rely on him for his contacts.

All in all, I thought the work done was decent. There were hiccups along the way and after we moved in, but Aaron will get his workers to rectify any problems we found. I will recommend him to people who know what kind of design they want and are not in a rush to move in to their new flats :rolleyes: .

 

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One of the first things we shortlisted for our home was a dining table from FrancFranc, which we grabbed during their 20% sale. We had to find a dining table less than 1.5m in length due to our flat design, and also something that looks Scandinavian i.e. white and wood.

Dining area:

gallery_58707_247_126769.jpg

The dining light is from lightings.com.sg, which is quite popular in these forums. They were having a 10% discount. The chair is a copy of the iconic Eames plastic chair, which we bought from Star Living. There are many copies of this design out there, from Picket & Rail and XTRA, all selling at different price points. The pricier ones will be sturdier and heavier. You get what you pay for :) .

Our aircon contractor is Tim Wong from Imperial Distributors Pte Ltd. They are widely recommended in these forums. We purchased a Mitsubishi Starmex Inverter System 4 from them to have aircon for all our rooms (we don't intend to have fans). Although I think their price is on the high side, I have no complaints about their service both before and after the installation process :thumbs up: .

One of the many things we got from IKEA was a shoe bench:

gallery_58707_247_193428.jpg

People usually think of IKEA stuff as cheap and skimping on quality. While I generally agree (I think their mattresses and sofa are terrible :bleah: ), I will still buy their stuff if it fits in with my design vision. Personally I avoid IKEA for big-ticket items e.g. sofa, bed and only buy from them those smaller, easily replaceable items in the house.

 

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hi dreambeast, when was the 20% sale? love this table...looks a lot like the IKEA one I'm eyeing for my study.

One of the first things we shortlisted for our home was a dining table from FrancFranc, which we grabbed during their 20% sale. We had to find a dining table less than 1.5m in length due to our flat design, and also something that looks Scandinavian i.e. white and wood.

Dining area:

gallery_58707_247_126769.jpg

 

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hi dreambeast, nice house.. i read your wife's blog and really love the laminate flooring.. too bad mine already came with flooring and hubby refuse to let me change it >.<

can i have aaron's contact as well as my budget is very close to yours.

Thanks

 

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Hi tarzanboy,

there are no unpleasant sounds, if that is what you mean.

Thank bro for your infor that what i mean and how the feeling walking on it as i intend to do a HERF for my resale flat still searching but after i read what you base on the flooring of pro and con i reconsider about the laminate floor you had done with the new CLICK system and cheaper than HERF as only different is water resistance and water proof :)

 

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A picture of our kitchen:

gallery_58707_247_114024.jpg

First thing we insisted on is that the cabinets are all flushed, with no protruding handles or knobs. Secondly, we insisted on soft closing cabinet doors and drawers. I was glad that our contractor and his carpenter managed to achieve both our demands! Selecting the worktop material for your kitchen is another chore, just like selecting your flooring. There are many choices in the market but the three most popular choices are:

- solid surface

Generally cheapest but need to take care while cooking. Recommended for light/non-kitchen users.

- granite

Tougher than solid surface. Limited colors. If you like the natural look of stone, use granite.

- quartz

Generally most expensive. Seems highly recommended and all those who have used it have no complaints about it.

and other less popular ones including marble, glass, concrete etc. After deciding on the material you want to use, you still need to choose which company's product to use. For example, for solid surfaces, you have LG Hi-Macs, Corian, just to name a few. For quartz, you have Caesarstone, Zodiaq, iQuartz etc. Or you can just go with your contractor's choice of supplier.

The worktop we selected was a Corian solid surface which was a little more expensive than budgeted, but so far we have no issues with it. The installation was smooth and was coordinated between the Corian in-house installer and our contractor. To be frank, I feel that no matter which material you use for your worktop, if you take care of it (by wiping stains off diligently and not put hot stuff on it), it will last. If you abuse it daily, it will not last. Simple as that.

Our fridge:

gallery_58707_247_177755.jpg

Initially, we ordered our fridge from Mega Discount Store, based on measurements from our floor plan. However, the reality is - your flat will be smaller than it is supposed to be in the floorplan :angry: ! We wanted our fridge to flush with the side of the entrance so that it will not protrude out. Our selected fridge has to be thinner than 650mm, which pretty much eliminates 95% of the models in the market! When selecting a fridge model, other than the volume (personal choice) and tick rating system (choose those with 4 ticks), you should look at the energy consumption too. A 4-tick model from Hitachi and a 4-tick model from Panasonic may differ greatly in energy consumption. I have observed that Hitachi models tend to have one of the lowest energy consumption in the market. Also, in general, the more drawers a fridge has, the more energy you will save. But of course, you will observe that the price goes up along with more drawers :lol::lol: . Happy fridge hunting!

 
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Most people like to hack the wall between the master bedroom and the adjoining bedroom, so they can have a walk-in wardrobe in the adjoining bedroom. We initially had the same idea too, but decided against it, in case we have guests staying over. Saves on the renovation cost too. We designated that room as our wardrobe room. We got our contractor to build a 10ft long full-height wardrobe with soft-closing doors and drawers. Pretty pleased how it turned out :good: :

gallery_58707_247_97381.jpg

This room is also where we do our ironing and laundry stuff. One thing to take note when doing full height wardrobe with casement doors is to make sure that when the doors are fully open, they do not hit your ceiling fan or lights! We do not have any ceiling fans in our home, but some of you might. If you have sliding doors, then you will be fine but generally, sliding doors cost more than casement doors. Also, you will be unable to see all your stuff in the wardrobe at any one time if you are using sliding doors, because one portion of the wardrobe will always be blocked by one of the sliding doors.

Edited by dreambeast
 

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The sofa area:

gallery_58707_247_27606.jpg

Our sofa is from Air Division, during a 30% sale. They only accept full payment upfront as the sofa color will be customised for you. They have a rather nice collection of furniture so you may want to drop by their flagship store at Wilkie Road to take a look. Another of my favourite stores will be Grafunkt, which has a store at Park Mall and the (less accessible) flagship store at Playfair Road. We got our coffee table from there, during their 20% sale. Cushions are from MUJI, which are admittedly slightly expensive, but they have a real nice feel when squeezed :lol: , so we just went ahead and bought them without much consideration. I believe you may be able to find similar ones at Spotlight.

The TV area:

gallery_58707_247_88856.jpg

You will notice that we do not have any feature wall or console table. That was because we did not want to have too many built-in cabinets and walls that will reduce the size of the living room. Instead, we opted for smaller and moveable pieces of furniture that can function as the console. The two pieces of "consoles" (Kartell) were bought from Space Furniture at Bencoolen Street, which is simply a HUGE, amazing and exciting showroom with lots of nice designer pieces! We fell in love with many of the pieces there, but could only afford to bring these two back :lol::lol: . We were lucky to get them at their end-of-year sale period!

We bought our TV (Samsung) from Mega Discount Store, which has generally cheaper prices than the usual mega-stores in neighbourhood shopping centres. I especially liked the glass frame around the TV which makes it seem like a picture hanging on the wall, especially after wall-mounting it. Since we have no feature wall, we had to hide the cables somehow. We bought a cable pipe from IKEA, painted it white and voila! Cables not so ugly now :good: .

Other than the places I mentioned above, you may also like to check out Lifestorey and OM (both at Tai Seng). They had some nice pieces, but unfortunately, we did not see anything that could fit both our budget and taste. Of course, remember to try to get your furniture during sales periods, which usually have the biggest discount at mid-year and year-end!

 

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