Hello world! There’s a strong reason why I haven’t been writing on this site as much as before.
Work may be busy, but it’s not the reason.
The main reason is that I’ve bought myself an apartment! And it’s the first apartment in my life. Since it’s gonna be my new nest, I believe it has to fit my lifestyle and reflect who I am. Which means… it has to have some otaku element, since I’m a huge fan of Japanese pop culture! As such I opted to plan and design the apartment by myself, instead of engaging an Interior Designer.
At this current moment, the apartment is not 100% furnished yet, so let’s start all the way from the beginning, as I bring you through the process of purchase, planning, renovation and choosing furniture! Feel free to skip any part you’re uninterested in. 🙂
As you may already know, I live in Singapore. Since I was 5, my family (including my extended family) live in the west in Singapore. It’s convenient since everyone lives within walkable distance. Hence I narrowed my search for an apartment within the same area as my extended family. My search was for a Resale HDB (pre-owned public housing in Singapore) since I do not need the condominium amenities and I didn’t want to wait for a BTO (build-to-order public housing in Singapore that requires you to wait a few years for the apartment to be built).
Throughout the flat viewing process I’ve seen about 5 apartments. One was almost confirmed if not for the price. But I’m glad I didn’t give in and waited longer instead. When I first stepped into this apartment I already felt at home, even though it wasn’t my kind of style. The layout was squarish without any weird corners. As a corner flat it has lots of privacy. The view is great. The windows were well taken care of and the flooring were made of marble.
Right at the second visit, I made my offer and the process to purchase was smooth ever since.
I find that planning is the most important stage in the whole set-up. If you take into consideration the small details during planning stage, it can make the renovation and decoration process much faster and cost-efficient, since you will minimise changes along the way. Planning is also important to ensure a consistent style and look with every decision you make, and every item you purchase.
The first step for me was to choose a style that I like. As a Chinese who grew up with Japanese pop culture influence, I wanted my home to have elements from both. A little bit of Modern Chinese decoration, and Minimalist Japanese style that’s timeless, like MUJI. I’ve never been someone who chase for the latest (except gadgets, of course). So having a few pieces from different eras is fine, but they have to be in basic shapes.
Next, I went online to various sites – Tumblr, Pinterest, MUJI House, Instagram, etc, etc – to source for visual references, and put together a mood board:
I’ve actually made a mood board for each room, but I’ll just share one above. From the mood board, I then picked up the colours and textures I loved the most to create a colour palette:
From here, I placed the colour palette beside me as I plan the layout for every single room in the apartment. There bound to be changes after checking in with the contractor for feasibility. But I’ve never skipped redrafting the layout, as I find it important to see an overview of the apartment before renovation starts. It’s also helpful to have a final layout for furniture buying.
Not forgetting about the engagement of contractor. Fortunately, my family used to run home renovation business in the past and hence, has contacts with contractors we could trust. For my apartment, I engaged with only one to look after all aspects of my apartment. Drop me an email (miki -at- digihara.net) if you are interested. The experience has been really positive, where my contractor put in lots of effort in bringing my plans and ideas to life, treating my apartment like his own.
Feasibility can change the design quite a bit. Initially, I wanted to construct a bathtub, in an onsen style. However, due to the structure of my home, my contractor explained that leakage could cause a problem a couple of years down to road. So I had to go for the regular bathtubs instead. I think that my bathroom looks more like a glam hotel than an onsen now….
This is the most tiring yet fun part. If you’re starting renovation, my first tip to you is to take pictures of every process. As you look back once your home is set up, you’d feel a great sense of achievement!
Ok, let’s go into renovation. Your contractor, if you engage one, will first bring you to choose materials and tiles. If you’ve done your homework during planning stage, it’d be easy, since you already know what you want. If not, it’d feel like the hardest task on Earth, because there are so many to choose from! There’ll be a paradox of choice! The best tip I could give is to lay the tiles side by side if they are to be put together. Also bear in mind the colour of your lighting as it’d affect how your tiles and furnishing look. For instance, if you’re planning to have warm lights, don’t go for tiles that have a deep yellow tint, otherwise they’d look even more yellow!
To be honest, throughout the renovation process, I was only around half the time as I always have to travel for work. But it’s important once in a while to drop by and check the place, as it’s better to catch the contractor to give him your feedback before things are set in stone!
Throughout the renovation, new ideas popped up for me as well. For instance, I decided to put together open shelvies in my open kitchen instead of having dish rack mounted on top. New ideas are great… if they fit into your initial plan. Always go back to your initial plan and make sure it complements your look, not ruin it!
The renovation period is also when you start buying furniture. When it comes to furniture, you can either get a carpenter to custom make one, or purchase one from furniture shops. Having a custom made one would make the most use of your space, and allow you to personalise all compartments. But they are typically more expensive than regular ones sold outside, except for designer pieces. For my apartment, most of my wardrobes and cabinets are custom-made, as I have no intention of moving it around, and I wanted as much storage space as possible. I drew the layout I wanted and passed them to my contractor to do the magic.
For other pieces, such as sofa and dining table, I purchased them from furniture shops. Mainly an online shop in Singapore called castlery, and from MUJI, which is my primary source of inspiration during the planning stage. For smaller pieces, I turned to Chinese eCommerce site Taobao, through Singapore’s agent service ezbuy, which saved me quite a bit of money, but it’s important to examine material and read reviews before making the purchase.
Following my interior design plan, I only selected pieces that have simple shapes and are timeless. I loved the colour of light oak and dark brown walnut wood, and have chosen pieces that match those colours (again, back to colour palette). Wood material selection is important in order to make sure your wood furnitures match one another. Either choose the same wood type, or wood with same tint (reddish, yellowish or greyish).
Also think about your possession and what you need. For me, as I’m a huge fan of anime, I started to buy a few figurines (maybe not a few only…). I love sneakers and I own many shoes as well. So huge display cabinet and shoe cabinet are a MUST for me. And they can only be custom made not purchased. I’ve installed LED lighting strip at the top of my display cabinet to provide the figurines (and other displays) some top-down lighting too.
Take note of the duration the shop takes to put together the furniture, as it can sometime take 1-2 months! My furniture buying process was quick since I’ve already started scouting for furniture that fits the style I wanted during planning stage. Again, if you haven’t done your homework during planning stage, you’ll face a paradox of choice when choosing furniture!
That’s all for this post, as my renovation is reaching completion in the next few weeks, and my furnitures are starting to come in. Will update with a new post once it’s completed!
To be continued…