Saturday, August 14, 2010

Making a Long-shaped Living room feel Spacious

Our flat layout is a long rectangular shape.
Thus, it feel narrow and long, more like a corridor than a living room.

This particular layout was one of our main concerns before signing on the Option. But my wife likes the location so much and I thought maybe we can figure out a way to re-design the layout so it feels more spacious. Indeed, this has become one of the most challenging issue in our renovation.

Together with our ID, these following methods were applied to create a more squarish spacious feel to the living hall.

1. Colour Scheme

Found some useful resources  paint supplier's website. There is also a simple video commentary of the effective use of colours. The following is a summary.

How to raise ceiling?

Colours can be used to change the size of your home. You may use 3 different shades of colour to make a low ceiling appear higher. Simply use the strongest shade of colour on the base of the room, then paint the medium shade of colour for the walls, and finish off with the lights tint of the colour for the ceiling.

Choice of colours in Living Room

We chose the 3 different shades of Cream for the florr Magnolia yellow for the wall and white for the ceiling. We wanted an earthly version of the european classic feel. What do you think of the effect?

How to create width in you hall?

A long narrow hall will appear shorter and wider if the end walls are decorate with a dark or warm shade of colour, and the side walls with a light or pastel colour.

Choice of colours in for the End Wall

The end wall was painted with a Dark Cocoa colour to try to make the living room feel wider.

2. Feature Window & Glass Door between the Kitchen and Living Room
Our ID guy proposed this glass door and feature window to allow break the long walls of the living room.
It also allowed for visual communication for the people in the kitchen and the living room. My wife agreed to the idea saying that it will allow her to monitor he helper cooking while she is in the livving room.

3. Floor Tile orientation
The tile chosen was a creamed coloured homogenous with light brown streaks running in 1 directon.
Our ID recommended that the brown streaks run across the width of  the living hall to make it look wider. But I feel the effect was not obvious as the brown streaks were too faint.

Also See
Kitchen design concepts and specifics
Choosing right fan for your room
Glass door and kitchen living window
Chandelier Lights

Monday, August 9, 2010

Improved Toilet layout

For the toilet, we wanted a spacious "hotel toilet" feel. Perharps a lot to ask for on a tight budget.
Our ID had some good input by proposing the following:

1. Shared shower-sink concept.
This concept starts with the removal of the traditional shower glass partition which isolates the space used for sink and shower. Instead the sink-user and shower-user share the same standing spot. The saved space goes on to allow for a large vanity top. To prevent the vanity top from getting wet during shower, a shower curtain is installed.

Old and New Toilet Layout

Previous toilet with Glass Shower Partition
Toilet after renovation (with Vanity Top and shower curtains)

2. Vanity top with sink
The vanity top gives a the sink area a spacious table top and hotel feel (a cheaper version that is). This is in comparison to a tiny sink, usually typical of HDB toilets.

3. Full wall mounted storage cabinet
The wall mounted cabinet provides enough storage to keep the toilet clutter free. ID guy also suggested that the cabinet doors can double up as a mirror. these helps to make the toilet feel more spacious.

Wall mounted Cabinet provided Storage Space

Mirror finished cabinet doors
Also see the Improved Toilet Layout- Feedback Dec 2012

4. White colour was chosen for the wall and floor tile to make the toilet brighter and feel more spacious

5. Installed a cove light under the cabinet for a "hotel feel" (cheapo method)

6. Classy looking toilet bowl:
We chose the Baron Toilet bowl for its classy look (look-a-like TOTO, but at a fraction of the cost), water saving features and position of down-pipe (aka "size" in the dimension below). will do another write up about the toilet bowl "size" as I have learnt a lot the hard way and wanted to save you from the hassle.

As a feedback to all, after several weeks of use, we found that the original toilet seats does not provide comfort for long sitting, probably due to the curved profile. But we decided against changing the seat as it was too much trouble.

Also see Feedback of Water Cabinet Baron W303- 4 years and
Changing Toilet Bowl Seat Cover- Baron W303

7. Other toilet accessories
Purchased most of our toilet accessories from Heritage in Geylang. We were very impressed by Irene's service and knowledge. The other thing we liked was that they offered a best price straight away. No bargaining was entertained. when we compared against other shops, we can only get the same price after a long bargaining session.

Stainless steel toilet bin @ Heritage

Shower Head and holder @ Heritage

Simple Bidget $22 @Heritage

Also see toilet related posts:
Wet Floor Toilet
Feedback of water cabinet baron W303

For unique Renovation ideas, see:
Kitchen Design Concepts and Specifics
Making a Long-shaped Living room feel Spacious
False Ceiling and Lightings

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Shopping for Lightings

We had a simple lighting plan. These are those we selected.

Simple energy Saving Bulb with Holder for Toilets and Store Rooms

Cubic with yellow lighting for corridors

Ceiling hung Chandiler

Ceiling fan with lights
Also see
Lighting Concept- cost saving
Lighting Concept- Living Room
Choosing a ceiling light- How to ask for good quality
Ceiling fan comparison chart

False ceiling & Lightings

During the proposal stage, our ID convinced us to install a false ceiling to hide the lighting (Down light and L-lighting) in the ceiling depth. You can see the dismantling of the existing false ceiling and its steel frame.

Interface between Down light, L-light and the false ceiling

Typical Down light
Typical Down light (operable for bulb replacement)
We had some doubts about the proposal as
1. We will loose 150mm of headroom and the
2. L-lighting (aka cove lights) would be difficult to maintain.
3. The above system also required a lot of  lighting points.
For you information, 1 lighting point is required for each independent wiring requirement. That simply means each bulb, fluorescent lamp will require 1 point. Also note it is also subject to the definition of your contract. Mine was charged at about S$30 per point.

However, my better half was so bought over by the romantic ambiance the reflected light would bring, that we budgeted for it in the quotation.

Fortunately for our budget, while searching for the lighting, my wife fell in love with hanging chandeliers that require every inch of headroom available. We finally decided to swap the false ceiling plus approx 30 lighting points for 3 spectacular hanging chandeliers, 2 wall lights and 1 ceiling fan with light. That result in nett saving of almost S$1000.

Without the false ceiling, the wiring's will be covered by the cornice and typical electric capping.
Cornice helps to conceal wires in the absence of a false ceiling
Also see
Lighting Concept- cost saving
Lighting Concept- Living Room
Choosing ceiling LED lighting how to ask for Quality
Shopping for lighting

Floor Tile Selection

As usual, we did some casual research on a few type of flooring available.

1. Natural stone
The 2 common type are marble and granite.
Marble was our favourite as my partner and I both loved the wavy natural patterns and cool feeling of marble. But marble is probably the most "capital intensive" and high maintenance of all our options. It needs to be polished every few years to maintain its glossy look, each costing about S$200 plus (depending on floor area) and major furniture shifting. Marble is also more susceptible to staining from deep coloured drinks like red wine.

Granite on the other hand is extreme durable but cheaper than marble. Our problem with granite is that the patterns did not appeal to us very much. Granite patterns are usually speckled and it looks too heavy for our theme of Classic European

2. "Man-made" stone
Commonly known as Homogeneous tiles. These are factory-made tiles compressed under high temperature and pressure into form and pattern. we learnt that homogeneous tiles come in a large range of qualities. Not that we understood how to tell the difference. Homogeneous tiles comes in a large variety of patterns and are known to be more durable and easy to maintain than marble. Plus it is a fraction of marble price.
3. Laminate
If you have seen our blog, the pre-renovation was using wooden laminates. the system consist of interlocking wooden panels that is laid on a tile or concrete slab surface.

Considering the functionality over ascetics, budget over luxury, we picked homogeneous tile. We had 1 young boy and another one coming then. Milk spillage and crayons is something marble cannot withstand.

However, we choose as big (600mmx600mm) a homogeneous tile size as possible from a pattern that resembled marble. That's as close as we can get to marble... ...

Pre-renovation Preparation

Finally signed the OTP for our own flat! Seems like a high in the property market cycle though at that time. But that's another story.

Anyway, we decided to do some preparation while waiting for the 1st appointment.

1. Brought a Fengshui Master to see the place for peace of mind.
There are somethings that cannot be changed like the location of the kitchen, structural column and walls and general apartment shape.
For the things we have control over, the fengshui input will helps us lock a few important variables. So the ID has a basis to proceed on. According to my fengshui master, important things subject to your birthday are
a. Location of sofa in Living room
b. Direction and Location of Bed in Master bedroom
c. Direction facing of the Refrigerator
d. Direction of the stove
e. Layout of the Kitchen should avoid clashes between fire and water.
Don't think I am qualified to explain too much in detail. That's why we hired an expert. Anyway, if you are interested, we did some brief research here so we knew a few basic questions to ask.

2. Brought several contractors/ ID to view the flat.
This will give the contractor a fair chance to price the project correctly. This step will reduce the chances of contractors underpricing and subsequently cutting corners. Things they will look out for are whether the flat is on the lift floor and demolition works required, conditions of windows and door. Remember that you will probably get a fair market price if you have at least 3 independent quotations.

The other advantage is that you will get to tap the contractors' experience on how the renovation can be done. collect all the best ideas and fit them into the feng shui determined variables. Saves a lot of time and brain cells!

3. Do some research work on the theme you and your partner would like.
It can be retro, classic, cottage, Bali resort etc. We picked a Classic European style. One of our favourite design we liked very much was a similar long living room shaped apartment. It helped us conceptualize the colour tone and details that make our home look classic European.

Researched Long Living Room design
A white kitchen design
Spacious Hotel Concept Toilet

4. Start getting quotations early from at least 3 contractors/ ID.
If it does not work out, you can still get someone else to quote. For us, the first contractor was very "high end" (aka super expensive and no bargaining allowed). There are also a few "celebrity" contractors we researched form the forums. However we did not engage them as they were very difficult to book.

Like to share some photos of the place before the renovation.

The kitchen (before renovation)

Long Living Room

Read about Shopping for lights


The renovation contract was finally signed with my Interior Designer (ID) and he had his contractors start work ASAP. The contract was accompanied by the agreed scope of work and time frame allowed for completion.

Should there be floor or wall hacking involved in the HDB renovation, the contractor whom is carrying out the works must be a HDB approved contractor. They will apply for the HDB permit on the owner's behalf over the period of renovation. Please take some time to look at the permit carefully. HDB will hold the owner liable for unauthorised works.

Make sure that all demolition works agreed in the contract are clearly mentioned in the HDB approved permit. To protect your own interest, it is a good idea to have an agreed layout drawing attached to the contract.

The other consequence in an unauthorised renovation will surface when you resell the flat. During the resale transaction, HDB has a right to insist the seller (which will be me) to "make good" to the original state. Future money, time and effort can be saved by due today's diligence.

Typically, HDB's work permit includes 3 specified weekdays for heavy hacking. the contractor will try to finish up all the hacking within these 3 days.

Dropping by to spot check on the works, not a pleasant part of the renovation to be monitoring. Gotta be careful not to trip. Remember to wear covered shoes.
Living Room

Long Living Room

Entrance to Kitchen from Living Room


Toilet bowl from the Master bedroom toilet (yucks!)
I recall meeting an elderly neighbour in the lift who was staying at the unit directly below mine. She was complaining to me that she cannot take her afternoon naps due to the noise from the hacking. It is obvious why HDB limits disturbing works to 3 days.

Trying to start on a right foot into the neighbourhood, had to do some PR and talked to the adjacent neighbours and told them about the hacking should end in 2 day's time. :P