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Make Better Renovation Decisions with these 4 Expert Tips from a Contractor

We contractors would be out of a job if renovation was simple and easy. Managing a renovation project is a difficult task, both for us and for you, the customer. Even during a renovation with no mistakes, customers can still experience a lot of high stress, because the decisions made suring the process are a lot more permanent than usual. You can’t exactly Carousell away your mistakes and start over, especially if they’re foundational ones like wall and floor finishes.

Here are some helpful tips that can we hope can make that experience a little easier. This is the first of a two-part series, check out part two here.


1. Making big decisions first helps avoid analysis-paralysis

You’re also going to have to make a LOT of choices. You have to pick almost everything in the home from floor to ceiling, up to and including the kitchen sink. Even if you’re going for a resale unit that might already be furnished, judging whether to keep or replace existing things is also going to demand precious brain-power. Doing it as an individual is tough enough, but likely you’re part of a two-person team, and finding a balance between partners adds yet another layer of complexity.

Therefore, I recommend making the big decisions first. When I say big, I mean things that are both costly and physically large. Choose your wall and floor finishes, doors, carpentry layouts, carpentry finishes, and window dressings first, in that order.

Doing so sets boundaries on your subsequent, smaller choices. Once the big decisions are set in stone, smaller fixtures like lights, shower sets, and power sockets are going to be easier to pick. A good rule of thumb is that If you can order it online, that counts as small work. Even if you end up regretting those small choices, the effort to undo them is trivial compared to repainting or retiling your house.

So, make sure you really love your big choices. Spend most of your time and energy there, and don’t sweat the small stuff as much.

2. Begin with the things you hate

So you’ve bought the house. You’ve got some money in your pocket. But when considering how you want to renovate, where do you begin? The sheer number and variety of possibilities can get overwhelming.

I tell my customers to start with what they hate in their current place, and it seldom fails to get their brains working. It can really help you decide what to do with your new place. Almost everyone has something they dislike about their existing accommodation.


“The towel rack in the bathroom is too near the toilet bowl and it’s gross.”

“The lights in my room are too white and it feels like a tuition center.”

“The green on my walls is the color of a Sembcorp dumpster.”

Write it down! Take note of your complaints even if you don’t see immediate ways to solve them. You’ve just given yourself a basic set of goals, and your contractor or ID might have some good ideas on solving problems you’ve identified.


3. Imagine yourself living in the house when thinking about your renovation.

Ask yourself the question: what do you (and the other residents) do on most days? Now imagine all those activities going on in the new house. This simple but powerful idea will help you set the place up to serve your daily routine.

If you frequently cook fragrant dishes like ayam masak merah on a frequent basis? Then maybe think twice about that open concept kitchen. Those intense smells might overstay their welcome, especially if you have lots of fabric finishes. Spend a lot of time in bed? Get a nice big night stand to hold all your essentials comfortably while you lounge. More than one resident working from home? Make sure there’s enough space and privacy for both to do so simultaneously.

If you have trouble making a decision – say you can’t decide between a 6-seater and 8-seater dining set, err on the side of probability. How often are you going to need the extra seats? If it’s every week, that’s a far stronger argument than twice a year.

Build the house around frequently performed tasks first, with aesthetics a close second. It’s a house for people to live in first and foremost, not a showflat optimized to look picture-perfect.


Prepare images of Singaporean houses for your contractor or ID beforehand

Often when I asked clients if they had any style ideas in mind, they would tell me they wanted something ‘warm’ and ‘cosy’. Unfortunately, those concepts mean different things to different people, and your interior designer is merely human.

Vague input leads to generic responses, and your contractor might have a different interpretation of a given style than you do. The antidote? Take the time to look through images online. If you’re renovating with a partner, do this as a team. Show your set of images to the contractor or ID, and they will have a far clearer idea of what you want done.

A word of advice here – try to look at images from other Singaporean houses. Images of beautiful homes from all over the world are easy to find online, but many of them are centered around layouts and design elements like full height windows or high ceilings that few properties in Singapore even have.

If you found these tips and concepts useful, we've written more on this topic in part two, which you can check out here. If you need more personalised and contextual advice on how you want to renovate your home, you can always arrange a free site visit from Inhouse Interiors.



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