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This is actually Part 2 of my earlier sharing on parts in a reno contract and things to look out for first timers like me. Below is a review on my pre-shortlisted IDs. It is very long but should be helpful to some people I guess.

Disclaimer: I do not receive any form of commission. The opinions presented are entirely my own personal opinions and are not meant to discredit any companies. I have deliberately left out the names and contact details of the companies that were dropped eventually.

Process:

Before starting to shortlist the list of IDs and contractors, I have read through the forums pages (renotalk, hardware zone and Facebook pages of some of the companies) and read through the negative feedback on the companies that were mentioned. I have also walked into some of the showrooms of the companies randomly or chatted with their staff during their booths at Singapore Expo.

Some of these companies that I read up and were excluded during the first round of shortlisting for various reasons include Weiken, Chew Interior, U-Home Interior Design, *** Interior Design, Rest & Relaz, Cissern, Darwin Interior and a few other random and smaller ones. In addition, I also found that complaints by netizens are generally as follows:

a) Sales staff are the ones doing the pitching; not the actual designers; many promote their package which contain many hidden costs or insufficient measurements which definitely will result in topping up or upgrades e.g. anything 12ft and below is insufficient for a kitchen cabinet; in fact it should be between 14-20ft

b) Inexperienced designers and some who seemed to care more about design than functionality

c) Poor service and attitude after signing on the dotted line with lots of hidden costs etc. or poorly written renovation quotation without much information for unsuspecting customers i.e. need to top up or upgrade

d) Overselling of packages and under-delivering; company too big and taking on too many projects without much QC

e) Too mass market; they produce their carpentry in bulk without much QC; use of workers

f) The better IDs will actually meet on site because they can discuss and take measurements on the spot that may sometimes be not visible from the floorplan unless that ID is super experienced with HDB BTOs.

Out of these, I shortlisted the following (not in any order of preference) : Oxxxxx xxxx (somehow or rather, every time I tried to type this company's name inside the forum, it will not be published-strange), Diva’s Interior (recommended to me), Axxx Furniture and Renovation (Contractor), The xxxxxxxx xxx, Hxxxxxxx, Axxxxxxx, One Inch per square feet studio (my friend’s ID) and Design Guy ID (friend’s ID).

Oxxxxx xxxx is a big company which seems to have the least number of negative complaints amongst the other big names out there. I dropped One Inch Per Square Feet because my friend told me that when the ID was on his project, he was her only client and the company was relatively small. However, after he recommended the firm to a few of his friends and the company got bigger, the feedback wasn’t as positive. Since I couldn't find much information on the firm, I decided to go with my friend's comments. I liked the work by Design Guy but my friend’s feedback was mixed so I decided to drop it as I do not want to be visiting too many IDs as it can get very confusing.

Below is my detailed feedback and comments on the 6 companies that I have visited (at least twice for each i.e. first meeting and 2nd to visit an ongoing/near completed unit to view workmanship with some comments on why they were shortlisted in the first place.

General Requirements

My initial requirements: (some of them were revised subsequently to fit the renovation budget and after discussion but the price quoted was based on the initial list of requirements below)-My tiles for living room etc. are all done up by HDB

a. Shoe cabinet with other storage in living room

b. Brick Wall for TV wall mounting with track lights

c. Bay window and feature wall for queen’s size bed with side table and wardrobe (6ft)

d. Overlaying of floor and wall tiles for both toilets and change toilet bowl and wash basin for master bathroom

e. Workstation for two pax and feature wall (with Japanese theme for study)

f. Hacking of half-wall to create see through effect for study (with tempered glass)

g. Kitchen top and the usual stuff in the kitchen; including backsplash

h. Able to work with my fengshui requirements

My review of shortlisted IDs and Contractors

a) Diva’s Interior Design (HS Lim)

Reason: Highly recommended by a friend who recommended to several people with positive feedback; seen the quotation by his colleague being uploaded onto renotalk and the price seems reasonable for the amount of work done.

· 22/12/2014 1449hrs: Sent a text message asking for quotation ; replied within 30minutes requesting to meet onsite without any prompting; Lim was polite and even called a day in advance to confirm appointment and greeted clients by name

· 30/12/2014 1100hrs: 1st meeting on site; I arrived at 1045hrs; Lim was already there waiting for me; He is a Malaysian Chinese and worked in the industry for a fair number of years. Cordial conservation where we discussed our requirements and he gave me some suggestions on the furniture layout including the pros and cons of some ideas and materials; no hard-sell and voluntarily took me to a unit at the next block to advise me on how to "run" the air-con trunking.

· 07/01/2015 1500hrs: 2nd meeting arranged at XXXXXX Condo to view carpentry; all carpentry works are internal coloured PVC with ABS trimmings; not the cheaper white PVC kind.

· 13/01/2015 1230hrs: 3rd meeting arranged at showroom office to discuss quotation and to go through layout plan. Lim advised on the pros and cons of the design and materials and also showed me a draft lighting plan (the only one to do so). We spent about 75 minutes when he went through the quotation (one of the three more detailed ones that I received) with explanation on what he is doing. Quotation was in the range of 38k+. The only drawback was his company was the only one which charged GST without which the original amount was 36k. The quotation included almost 90% of all my requests which I sent in detail via email with mood pictures etc. Positive feeling generally.

· 22/01/2015 1800hrs: 4rd meeting arranged at showroom office to discuss and fine-tune some of the design proposal and quotation. There was also arrangement to meet up with the fengshui consultant to go through the design requirements which Lim agreed readily. He will also revise the quotation after the meeting with the fengshui consultant.

Comments: The first impressions of Lim was favourable as he was the only person who greeted prospective clients by name when he called and he came earlier for the appointment and also called a day in advance to confirm. Lim was generally proactive in contributing ideas and in discussing the pros and cons of my design concept. (Although he did not reply to my email; he is very responsive to calls and text messages though) He is also open to discussion and I find Diva’s pricing (while not the cheapest) to be amongst the top three most comprehensive and detailed. Workmanship was nice with internal coloured PVC and during the 3rd meeting; he also showed me a lighting plan (only one to do that) which I personally find it to contain too many false ceilings. The only drawback was that the company charges GST which came up to quite a sum. However, I have met Lim on four occasions and all four of them were favourable. Being an experienced designer, I am fairly confident that he is able to take responsibility for the renovation project. Besides the design and aesthetic aspect, Lim/Diva’s has come across as being focused on the practical part of it and he was on site to take measurements apart from merely seeing it on the paper layout plan. All, in all, I find Diva’s Lim to have the right aptitude and chemistry for our renovation and the pricing is reasonable with relatively sound design inputs although he did mentioned that his electrical works might be slightly more expensive than others but still within the range of 1-3k+.

(Selected)

Update: We are now in the 3D rendering stage and we met twice subsequently to fine-tune certain details, design and also to select the tiles for the kitchen and bathroom. The quote was also revised accordingly although sadly, GST could not be waived. The reno is expected to begin in early March. Still favourable impression although Lim is more contactable via phone than email.

b) XXX

Reason: XXX is highly recommended in forums and design magazines with many of their works being featured. Feedback is generally positive and they are more of a boutique kind of firm as opposed to those super mass market kind. I also liked their work that they have showcased from time to time in magazines and on Facebook.

· 29/12/2014 1230hrs: I did a walk-in to their showroom cum office somewhere in the East but was told by the admin staff there that the designers don’t come in so early and so I was given the name card of the firm’s Director to fix an appointment instead. I texted him on the same day and he replied within 30min saying that he will call me back. However, he only texted me two days later on 31/12/2014 at about 1800hrs and we finally fixed an appointment to meet on 03/01/2015.

· 03/01/2015 1330hrs: Finally met up with XXX and we chatted for about an hour on the requirements including his comments on some of the pros and cons of the materials etc. Was given an explanation on his carpentry and the type of materials that they used; for instance, they used Blum hinges as a standard with internal coloured PVC and coloured ABS trimming. Their carpentry seems to be the most aesthetic appealing of the six companies especially from an untrained eye. They used plywood like everyone else; if anyone else is not using plywood don’t select them. He also got the site supervisor (who is the actual person who is going to do the design and supervision since XXX is actually the Boss and he seldom take projects) to sit down at our discussion. The site supervisor XXX was writing notes based on what I said although there was no proposal for any further discussion on-site.

· 04/01/2015: I dropped them an email about my requirements and we finally fixed a date 20/01/2015 at 1400hrs to discuss the quotation. (Initial non-reply to the email and I had to drop XXXX a text message asking when we could meet for the quotation discussion even though he promised that he would get back to me within 1 week)

· 20/01/2015 at 1400hrs: Met at XXX showroom somewhere in the East. The site supervisor XXX was the one discussing with me and this guy seems down-to-earth and responsible. We spoke in Chinese as he said that his English is not very good but he was able to explain the quotation carefully including the pros and cons of their design. He was also the one person who gave me a copy of the furniture layout plan. They have very good design ideas in general and were one of the three companies which actually proposed some practical solutions to my concept and showed me some of the materials. GST was waived and the quotation came up to the range of 47k. It was very detailed and included a few optional choices so the actual pricing is within the range of 42-45k.

Comments: As mentioned previously, XXX has come across in both forums and design magazines as a nice boutique kind of interior design firm. Their quotation is very detailed and pricing generally reasonable (after you compare across the various firms using the same pricing for tiles and kitchen-top). Their workmanship is also nice. They are also able to offer practical design inputs and frankly they have moved up to number 2 in terms of my choice from being the last choice on the list initially as I felt that their Boss was not very sincere in wanting to do business. I mean, if one take his time in replying etc. at this early stage, anything can happen after the deposit is paid and the contract signed. The site supervisor was actually rather easy to talk to. However, after much consideration in terms of pricing and the feel, we decided to drop them this time round. However I would recommend going to XXX to request for a quotation to compare and you realize how complete their quotes are as opposed to some others. At the end of the day, it bores down to the feel. I meet Diva’s Lim on four occasions and all were generally positive in contrast to the fact that I only spoke to the site supervisor once. (The first time he did not say anything but just said besides the boss) Besides, they were also not on site to survey the unit which is regrettable. (This might lead to some impractical ideas which might be changed subsequently i.e. costs involved)

(Dropped)

c) XXX

Reason: I know the owners of XXX personally and the ID is an experienced ID and has worked both in-house and freelance before venturing out on her own.

· 29/12/2014 1730hrs: Met up with them to discuss the requirements and to view a completed project. Their carpentry is generally good with a local carpenter and local factory but they use the cheaper white internal PVC; coloured PVC may be requested at a slight extra cost. I was shown pictures of their ongoing and past projects and I also noticed that they used a very systematic filing system for every ongoing project with detailed perspective drawings (not just 3D) with measurements and a time-line which would be pasted on the unit itself. They are the only company that showed me this and I find it very organized. Discussion went on about 65min and they are one of the two companies that acknowledge receipt of my email on the design concept. Earlier on they were already at site to visit the unit because they happened to be nearby when I texted them. Proactive and enthusiastic.

· 17/01/2015 at 1400hrs: We met on site to discuss the quotation. Their quotation was also very detailed and frankly, I really liked the design concept and the mood pictures that they showed me. They are the only ones who proposed the best concept of how I can achieve my feel for my study room. However, the quote (no GST) came up to more than 58k and even after a mental deduction (if I used cheaper tiles etc), it would still be in the range of 45-50k which is way beyond the budget.

Comments: Firstly, I must commend the service attitude and the design inputs of the designers. One can see the effort that they made in the “designing” aspect of it and not just those run of the mill kind of quotation and design. The mood pictures that they showed are rather nice. However, I am a little worried that some aspects of practicality or the cons of each design element might be overlooked in the name of aesthetics. Other than that, I like the way they organised the items and being personal friends, I would seriously love to give them the business. However, their quotation is seriously beyond budget. Coloured interior PVC is unfortunately also not a standard and have to be charged at a slight cost. Nevertheless, I would continue to recommend them as a company i.e. no harm looking at their work and getting them to quote.

(Dropped)

d) XXXX

Reason: As mentioned earlier, out of the other big names, they seem to receive the least negative feedback and I generally liked their designs that were featured on renovation magazines and website. I decided to do a walk in instead since those at exhibition seem to be bent on promoting their packages.

· 29/12/2014 at 1330hrs: I walked in to XXX and was served by XXX. The initial feel was a bit dull and ID seems a bit aloof (not the super friendly and enthusiastic but professional distance kind) but she got progressively warmer and brought out various materials to show me. She subsequently mentioned that she just came back from leave. Request to view other projects was greeted with lukewarm response and she insisted that I take a look at the quotation and agree on it first before visiting other projects as she does not want to waste the owner’s time. (which is reasonable I guess although ideally one should still view the workmanship first if possible) She also emphasized on the payment schedule that for the last 10%, the owners cannot withhold payment even though they are dissatisfied but they must pay first and the company will do the necessary touch-ups subsequently. When I asked about her workers, she mentioned that there are many groups of carpenters and some of the workers are from China but the head foreman is not so I have nothing to worry about.

· 10/01/2015 at 1200hrs: ID was proactive in arranging meeting to discuss quotation and responded to my email about my design concept within 2 days (1 out of the 2 to do that). However, the quotation wasn’t detailed and it left out several of my design ideas which she said that as an ID, she only include the essential items and those non-essential items she would include later. It so happened that some of these "non essential items" are specifically requested by me. The quotation wasn’t detailed and her pricing for one of the materials for kitchen table-top (Kompacplus) was quoted at $140 psf although I already told her I know the pricing for the product. It was only after I left that she texted me informing me that the price is now reduced $120 psf for some unknown reason. The quotation was in the range of 24k although several items that I requested for was missing and she mentioned that GST could be absorbed if I sign with her on that day itself. Items like internal coloured PVC would be thrown in FOC if I confirmed the package but she did not include it inside the quotation. I told the ID to revise the quote on the spot adding in the items that I have requested for and the revised quote came up to about 30k.

Comments: I didn’t have a good feeling about this ID and she seems to empathize more on her own ideas than the client’s ideas with use of words like “strange”, “as an ID, we only do the essential and important items first…” etc. Although she was responsive to email and her quotation is cheap, I felt that at some points, she was dismissive of my questions and was trying to smoke me. Furthermore, she only has one project on hand which can be good or bad (good: full attention; bad: can have a negative inference on her popularity). I also think that there would be communication breakdowns in future (all IDs would have but try to minimise) and frankly, her space planning was not fantastic. For example, she kept insisting that my request for a 6ft or 7ft wardrobe was not in enough for the wife based on her experience and I should do it another way. (I have discussed this with the wife previously and we have measured the size of our current cupboard). Besides, there was also an error in the address of my unit in her quotation. But on a good note, her quotation is cheap and she is generally responsive.

(Dropped)

e) XXX

Reason: XXX is a regular contributor on renovation sites on Facebook and many of their designs are very nice. The feedback on the forums is that their designs are superb but due to their large number of projects, their response is a little slow. They also have many new and young designers (vibrant or inexperienced depending on how you look at it) and have many Open Houses (I attended two). This guy was recommended in the forums as one of the more responsible ones from the company. In fact, one can say that he is quite highly recommended.

· 24/12/2014 at 1854hrs: I texted XXX (number from forums) requesting for a meeting and quotation for renovation. He responded within 3 min proposing to meet up at their Open House on 27/12/2014 at 1000hrs at XXXX area.

· 27/12/2014 at 1000hrs: I received call from XXX 5minutes before 1000hrs claiming that he has forgotten some documents and would need to go back office to take. I also realized that he has given me the wrong street name and after circling the estate for 15 minutes, I arrived at the Open House show-flat but he was not around. His colleagues and I texted him separately and he appeared 15-20 minutes later and was not apologetic. (okay la since I was late as I got lost) Anyway, we went through the Open House tour and he showed me some pictures of his portfolio and informed that he has 8 projects due for completion. I discussed briefly my concept requirements and he listened attentively although he did not offer much suggestions.

· 10/01/2015 at XXXX hours: I sent a text message on 10/01/2015 inquiring about the status of the quotation and XXX proposed a 2nd meeting at another Open House on 17/01/2015 when he replied to text message with a phone call about 3.5hours later on the same day. However, he called me the next day (11/01/2015) informing me that he has lost the two emails that I sent him with regard to the design concept and asked me to send it to him again. I did so. Evening checks with him on the same day requesting for the address and time of the meeting on Sat; he replied that the venue is still being finalized and he only has two slots on Sat. I told him I can meet him on Sunday or at his office (before Wed). He said he will get back to me by Sunday but he only replied on Monday.

· 17/01/2015 at 1000hrs: XXX again changed the block of the meeting place ten minutes before and when I arrived (10 minutes getting lost again), he texted me saying that he is having breakfast at another block and his colleague will showed me around the Open House first. After a quick viewing, his colleague and he explained the quotation to me as well some general comments on the space planning. He also pointed out the list of freebies (including $1000 air-con voucher, free hob and hood and some other accessories). Hacking of wall as requested by me was not included and I deliberately asked him but he seems to be clueless about the requirement. The quotation came up to the range of 46k+ inclusive of GST. The address and contact number in the quotation was completely wrong and I assumed it probably came from a template and was a last minute job.

Comments: I must say that I am surprised at how seemingly unprofessional XXX is despite the general positive comments in the Forum. Maybe he is busy (8 projects to be completed) but he assured me that once he is being confirmed, he will be “on the ball” and even showed me a list of WhatsApp messages between him and the owners. But on both occasions when we meet, he got the address wrong and was late and worse, he even lost the email that I sent him on the design concept and most probably he only discovered it when he wanted to start work after he was probed about the progress. The quotation contained several mistakes in the sense that are not specific to my requirements and even the home’s address and the ID’s contact number on the quotation were wrong. That shows his unprofessionalism at this early stage and I do not have the confidence to engage him further. In fact other than the quick response when I texted to invite him to meet up for a quotation, the rest of his responses was slow and he did not respond at the time that he said he would. (Usually late by a day at least) Besides, the quote is not cheap and not detailed and he is the least experienced amongst all the other IDs and contractors that I have shortlisted i.e. only 2 years’ experience. I have my doubts both about XXX sincerity. In fact, on the quotation meeting, he actually got his colleague to sit in at the discussion and it was his colleague who called me a few days later asking me what I think of their quotation. In addition, I personally think that their showflat is not as fantastic as the ones that they always posted on Facebook. The designs are normal although the carpentry is okay (coloured PVC with Blum hinges).

(Dropped)

f) XXX

Reason: I wanted to look for contractor to have some sort of comparison And XXX is one of the highly recommended ones in the Forums. The other one is Ideal something (can’t remember the full name) and there were many positive accounts on his work. But in the end, I only picked one of the recommended contractors.

· 24/12/2014 at 1256hrs: I texted XXX (number from forums) requesting for a meeting and quotation for renovation. He responded very fast at 1316hrs proposing to meet on-site. Initial positive feel.

· 30/12/2014 at 1430hrs: I was waiting at 1430hrs but there was no call or text message that XXX is coming and so I texted him to “confirm” our meeting and he said that he is on the way. He was late for about 20minutes on our 1st meeting. The discussion was over in 20 minutes and he was very to the point and said that the requirements were very simple. He told me that there are no 3D drawings but asked me not to worry as he has done so many houses. I requested for a visit to a completed unit and the appointment was fixed on another day in the same week.

· 03/01/2015 at 1230 hours: The quotation came within 24 hours; very fast and it was very affordable i.e. about 23k+ and there was no GST. . However, there were many missing items and mistakes (those things I specifically said I do not want such as the wrong colour for the kitchen backsplash) i.e. basically, it seems more like a template than a quotation specific to my requirements. In fact, he did not even wait for me to send the draft design concept and did not revise the quote when I sent him the day after. In anycase, during the 2nd meeting, he was again late for 20minutes and only responded that he is on the way when I was waiting for him for a while and decided to drop him a text message. During the quick tour of his work (less than 10 minutes), I found that they use the cheaper white interior PVC and although acceptable, it is again not something unusual i.e. you get what you pay. Whole thing was over in 10 minutes and he did not showed me to the door but carried on talking with the owner.His carpentry was okay though.

Comments: I have no doubt that XXX is an experienced contractor who will deliver the basic BTO set up. However, I am troubled by his rather seemingly nonchalant attitude and is worried about our communication should I engage him. (maybe too busy la; I don't know) Being a contractor, I don't expect any design input, advice and no furniture planning advice. But I don’t like the fact that our meeting seems rather slipshod and he is late on both occasions and don’t have the courtesy to tell me. I do not have the comfort level or chemistry even though his quote is really cheap. And for those who cannot visualize. 3D drawings are actually quite helpful especially when it comes to selecting colours and materials.

(Dropped)

 
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b) XXX


Reason: XXX is highly recommended in forums and design magazines with many of their works being featured. Feedback is generally positive and they are more of a boutique kind of firm as opposed to those super mass market kind. I also liked their work that they have showcased from time to time in magazines and on Facebook.


· 29/12/2014 1230hrs: I did a walk-in to their showroom cum office somewhere in the East but was told by the admin staff there that the designers don’t come in so early and so I was given the name card of the firm’s Director to fix an appointment instead. I texted him on the same day and he replied within 30min saying that he will call me back. However, he only texted me two days later on 31/12/2014 at about 1800hrs and we finally fixed an appointment to meet on 03/01/2015.



· 03/01/2015 1330hrs: Finally met up with XXX and we chatted for about an hour on the requirements including his comments on some of the pros and cons of the materials etc. Was given an explanation on his carpentry and the type of materials that they used; for instance, they used Blum hinges as a standard with internal coloured PVC and coloured ABS trimming. Their carpentry seems to be the most aesthetic appealing of the six companies especially from an untrained eye. They used plywood like everyone else; if anyone else is not using plywood don’t select them. He also got the site supervisor (who is the actual person who is going to do the design and supervision since XXX is actually the Boss and he seldom take projects) to sit down at our discussion. The site supervisor XXX was writing notes based on what I said although there was no proposal for any further discussion on-site.



· 04/01/2015: I dropped them an email about my requirements and we finally fixed a date 20/01/2015 at 1400hrs to discuss the quotation. (Initial non-reply to the email and I had to drop XXXX a text message asking when we could meet for the quotation discussion even though he promised that he would get back to me within 1 week)



· 20/01/2015 at 1400hrs: Met at XXX showroom somewhere in the East. The site supervisor XXX was the one discussing with me and this guy seems down-to-earth and responsible. We spoke in Chinese as he said that his English is not very good but he was able to explain the quotation carefully including the pros and cons of their design. He was also the one person who gave me a copy of the furniture layout plan. They have very good design ideas in general and were one of the three companies which actually proposed some practical solutions to my concept and showed me some of the materials. GST was waived and the quotation came up to the range of 47k. It was very detailed and included a few optional choices so the actual pricing is within the range of 42-45k.



Comments: As mentioned previously, XXX has come across in both forums and design magazines as a nice boutique kind of interior design firm. Their quotation is very detailed and pricing generally reasonable (after you compare across the various firms using the same pricing for tiles and kitchen-top). Their workmanship is also nice. They are also able to offer practical design inputs and frankly they have moved up to number 2 in terms of my choice from being the last choice on the list initially as I felt that their Boss was not very sincere in wanting to do business. I mean, if one take his time in replying etc. at this early stage, anything can happen after the deposit is paid and the contract signed. The site supervisor was actually rather easy to talk to. However, after much consideration in terms of pricing and the feel, we decided to drop them this time round. However I would recommend going to XXX to request for a quotation to compare and you realize how complete their quotes are as opposed to some others. At the end of the day, it bores down to the feel. I meet Diva’s Lim on four occasions and all were generally positive in contrast to the fact that I only spoke to the site supervisor once. (The first time he did not say anything but just said besides the boss) Besides, they were also not on site to survey the unit which is regrettable. (This might lead to some impractical ideas which might be changed subsequently i.e. costs involved)


(Dropped)



Hi, can pm me who is the (b) you mentioned?


 

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Hi singasamurai,

Would you mind PM me the IDs (from a to f) that you had reviewed on? Would appreciate the information since i am currently sourcing for an ID to my new home.

Thanks

 

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