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Project First Home: Rustic Industrial Maisonette

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I chanced upon Renotalk's t-Blogs while doing research for own renovation and thought it'd be a good idea to document this exciting process and our experience. Let me get started with some background info first!

Home will be a maisonette in Clementi with my husband (let's call him Mr K) and our playful Burmese cat. We bought the place in January 2015 and started shopping around for interior designers shortly after. The house was in very good condition and was very well-maintained. Truth be told, it was in move-in condition but there were quite a lot of design flaws (in our opinion) and it just didn't suit our taste at all.

Mr K and I like a similar aesthetic ie. minimalist but his taste veers more to the masculine side ie. industrial, while I prefer white and airy ie. scandinavian. Not wanting the fittings/bare structure of the house to look schizo, we decided to just go with one theme and stick with it.

So, industrial-minimalist it was. The catch was that I get to choose softer loose furnishing to make the place look less like a man-cave. Before I talk about our ID selection process, here is the original layout and some before pictures.



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Some before pictures.


Yellow walls, claustrophobic window grilles, false ceiling everything and a lot of built-in furniture


More built-in furniture...


A common problem for HDB maisonettes is that the staircase tends to be dark. This was blocked by the altar cabinet left by the previous owner.


To the right of this picture is the front door. Yes, open the front door and you are greeted by a big rounded wall.


You may not be able to tell from this picture but the entrance to the kitchen is tiny.


Just for laughs... the drain cover that doesn't fit into the shower fully

Next up... ID selection.

Edited by thehappykowple

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How we selected our ID

Once we settled on the overall theme of the house, I browsed Home & Decor's mood board page, and Cromly to get a sense of ID companies, their portfolios and what they specialise in. A personal pet peeve, I eliminated companies with strangely spelled namezzzz coz I'm sorry, it juz doesn't scream professional to me. And it's trying abit too hard.

Anyway, we narrowed it down to four companies and set up meetings with them with a list of requirements. Due to budget constraints, we told them that our priority was the two bathrooms and kitchen.

Theme: Industrial-Minimalist

Colour palette: Black aluminium, white walls, medium-brown (no red tones) wood, plants

Design requirements: - As open and airy as possible, therefore remove all false partitions and ceilings

- We couldn't stand the fact that the front door opened up to a big wall so we were ok with an open kitchen BUT it must be able to withstand heavy cooking if we wished to do so

- While the kitchen was big, there is no laundry area

- Maximise the small small toilets and the weird corners/placement of pipes

- Breakfast bar good to have

- Two extra rooms to be furnished minimally; will be used as a study/future play room and cat's room/future kid's room

A couple of hours before meeting our first ID, we found out that he had worked on three of our friends houses and his style totally suited what we wanted. From the first meeting, there was chemistry and we felt it not from the suggestions he gave, but from the physical samples he pulled out in his office to show us what could be done. We felt very comfortable after our first meeting but continued with our other meetings just to give a fair chance to everyone and get a sense of other possibilities for the house.

At layout proposal stage, we were 100% certain on using him but it just boiled down to cost. Actually, we kept asking ourselves if we were being too emotional in our decision but the fact that we could remember his layout proposal from that one meeting says a lot. The other proposals were just... either too complicated or too forgettable.

One thing we've learnt about dealing with designers is to balance their creative input, your style and practicality. Your designer is not going to live in your home and any inconveniences that crop up due to their design won't be his/her problem to solve. However, it is also another thing to put your designer into a box and limit their creative freedom. We gave our designer quite a bit of creative freedom to experiment with little projects and while not all worked out, we all learnt something in the process.


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... And I present to you, our floor plan! It already looks so much nicer with the pink outlines and pencil drawings. Anyway, we did not purchase any 3D renderings from our ID as he advised us that drawings are good enough. He usually sketches on the spot for the contractors so they understand what needs to be done anyway. We are already 60% into our renovation journey so far, and all I can say is, we've never had the need to use any 3D renderings.


Reattaching the old plan for easy reference below:


We were literally blown away by the simplicity of the layout and that all our requirements were fulfilled.

1) Annoying wall at the front door, gone.

2) Open kitchen but we have the option of getting a sliding panel to close up when we do heavy cooking (this was one of the major push factors for us because all the other IDs proposed a semi-open concept which still made the kitchen feel very claustrophobic. We decided not to do the partitioin yet though because of cost factors but will definitely do it once we save up!)

3) Breakfast bar was a good to have but he managed to fit it in!

4) Balcony bar counter to make use of the playground view that we had. We were very impressed with how he even thought of our external surroundings instead of just the interior.

5) Simple remodel of the toilets but solved the weird pipes and angles

6) Open concept doesn't mean no storage! He still catered for a storeroom, albeit smaller.

One thing he kept advising us to do was concrete screed, which I absolutely looooove but came to terms that we weren't gonna do because of cost and because of our homogenous tiles, which were in extremely good condition. Anyway, we agreed in the end as it really did bring the whole look together and my husband, who works in the design and build industry, could get us a good price. So that was that!

After finalising the cost and layout, we sat down for a 3 hour long design session with our designer where we went through every aspect of the house and chose materials, colours, finishing etc. Then, it was on to electrical plan. Then, lighting plan. It was really fun though!

In the end, this was the mood board we came up with!


Edited by thehappykowple

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And so... hacking began in April, around the same week that we got married. Even before the new coat of paint and new layout began taking shape, you can already tell that much more light is in the apartment.



For the first floor, all of the homogenous tiles that were removed will be replaced with cement screed, except for the kitchen, which will be chevron tiles. I love how it adds abit of a visual element and it also softens the feel of the house. The laminate on the stairs and second floor were also hacked away and because the cement underneath was in relatively good condition, we did not need to do a new layer of screeding. Hooray, savings!!! (Which actually went into other aspects of reno unfortunately. :/)


Here is the kitchen! Cute tiles right? Fun but not overly cute. The metal structure in the middle is the skeleton for our island counter, which will have a granite counter. There will be a cupboard on one side and our induction cooker on top of it. The other end will not have any storage underneath so as to give a floating look. Can't wait to see the final product!! Our cabinets and wash basins will be behind the island counter so the kitchen won't actually look that big. This extends to the yard area where we will do our laundry... more on that later. (:



Edited by thehappykowple

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Thanks for all the comments and visits so far to my fresh new thread! It's been really fun posting updates. These are about 2 months back-dated and I'm really enjoying looking at throwback pictures of the house and how it looks now.

I'm going to talk about walls today! For our minimalist look, white walls were a no-brainer. Our ID was really curious to see what was behind all the false partitions left behind by the previous owner and told us to be ready to make some decisions if he liked what he saw behind those walls. And so, after the partitions were removed, we found a textured wall like so!


Our ID decided to grind off the paint to see what was beneath that. This was what we found. It wasn't conventional like your brick wall and while my husband and I were undecided, we decided to follow our ID's suggestion. If we didn't like it, I guess all we had to do was paint it white.


I totally expect a great divide in opinions regarding the walls because it is really raw but what's design without some calculated risk? (:



It certainly looks like a hot mess in the above but here's a sneak preview on what it looks like with white paint for contrast against our polished cement screed floor. (This is progress as of June)



Edited by thehappykowple

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Been quiet for a while because I've been lazy. Anyway, just wanted to move forward in time with regards to my updates and share pictures of the completed grinded walls with white paint and lights. We love the results. It's raw but not cold thanks to the soft cove lighting and definitely unique. Don't think I've see anything like that around.






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Not sure if this has been done before but I thought our cement screed flooring deserves some special mention. When doing cement screed floors, it is really important that you accept that it will crack over time and this is part of the look. Hairline cracks, in my opinion, do not compromise the integrity of the floor. It's just how it is.

Our ID made sure this was minimised though as we intend to stay in this house for a long time and needed to ensure it could last long-term. He used steel inlays to demarcate different areas so that sections of the floor are subject to normal expansion and contraction, instead of the entire floor area. Quite smart eh?



Geometric patterns too for the laying of steel strips. How thoughtful!


Just so you know how it turned out, here's the completed picture. You should be able to see two subtle lines forming a triangle in the picture above. We had about 4 strips in total for the first floor. None for the second floor as it doesn't get much sunlight and the rooms are smaller so no need for strips.

We also reused the concrete flooring under the laminates and just re-polished them to save cost.

Edited by thehappykowple

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