Our First Home Reno Before And After

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There was definitely a period of time when me and some of you thought that this post might never happen. Not because the reno didn’t meet our deadline (more on this later) but I was too lazy to update the blog for 4 months while in my new home. No, not really…actually we got ourselves busy with a kitten (that got ill) and to be honest I kept thinking my home is not “photo-ready”.

We used to lived in rentals for about two years, then we moved to live with my in-laws for another two years. We had very little stuff with us (it’s easier to move when you don’t have much). Now that I have my own home, I have nothing to decorate my home with and buying stuff takes time…and money. We essentially start from zero. And we don’t buy just any stuff, I want them to speak to both our styles, luckily I converted Jim into liking brass and light wood (as long as they’re of good quality). 

I’ve teased about the floor plan of my 700 sq. ft. previously here. If I remember correctly, we enlisted a contractor about two months before key collection to my new home (it’s a new build). In between talks, I wanted to change the kitchen floor plan really bad but Jim jumped in to warn me about last minute changes and I think he’s right. I still ended up flipping the fridge and hob, the fridge was originally intended to be next to the sink. 

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I came up with at least 10 designs for our home (well, I had three years to plan). The biggest challenge might be the two TVs situation. Jim wants to do gaming while I still get to watch my TV. And they can’t be too far apart because we want to use the faster and more stable LAN connection when we do play games together (we have two PS4 and used to have two PS3). I also have a now defunct YouTube channel. The obvious solution is to put two TVs on the longest wall in the living area but this means we have to get a small ass couch and I don’t do small ass couch.

What I meant to say is I didn’t want to get a loveseat because when you finally have your own home, you’d want a proper sofa. You see, if we put a proper sized sofa along the short wall, there won’t be enough space for dining and it means we have to switch the dining to alongside the “storage room” wall (next to the living area). And then…we’re left with an awkward space at the “originally intended” dining area. And this is why you play with your floor plan and furniture placement before renovation, folks…to avoid the regret later on, trust me it’s a terrible feeling that will keep you awake at nights. More details on our living room coming up on the blog, I’ll show you how we put two TVs in without them looking awkward. Stay tuned.

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You know I would love to include the 3D of my home. And I did not go back and (cheat) tweak it (the 3D were done before the start of renovation). I want to reflect the reality that it won’t turn out to be 100% identical, but let me just say this…looking back, it’s definitely harder to pull off some decisions without the 3D designs (I wanted a navy blue kitchen so bad but I know it’s not right when I saw the 3D). Seeing how it all came together on my computer screen gives me an assurance that I’m on the right track (especially for first time homeowners like us). And an “end result” that I look forward to during ups and downs before moving in. When the negative feelings kicked in, the image of my completed home lifted my spirits. My home…is waiting for me, I just gotta be patience. See more of my 3D works here.

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Entering our 700 sq. ft., on your right is an enclosed galley kitchen (my unit doesn’t come with floor tiles except in the kitchen and bathrooms). A shallow built-in on your right house the electrical board, I turned it into a shoes storage (on the bottom) and a middle niche thinking I’m gonna decorate it (maybe I should have gotten an additional entryway table/shelf). The shoes storage works fine for two people (just me and Jim) as of now.

This niche doesn’t look like this on our normal day (actually it never looked like this, I styled it for the blog). It’s usually the ready-to-be-thrown-garbage-bag and kitty litter bag (with you know what’s inside), then either one of us would throw it into the general rubbish chute behind the elevator area. Because this spot is high enough that an active kitten can’t reach and starts tearing everything apart (YET!). 

I got all my brass handles from Etsy, they were shipped from United States (link below). We love it very much because it sets our home apart from most of the homes in our country where it’s mostly Contemporary kitchens (stainless steel appliances and integrated/chrome handles). I love that it feels so Mid-Century Modern. Just last month, I jokingly told Jim that I’m gonna take them handles with me when we moves. Maybe

SHOP THE LOOK

Samsung digital lock (door), Yale digital lock (gate), Digital peephole with door bell My Digital Lock // Brass Pulls And Knobs Etsy // Schneider Electric Pieno Champagne Gold Choo Chiang Marketing //  Pendant Light Black And Brass  Catalogue Singapore 

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Both our gate and door locks are now electronic locks (no more keys, yeah!). The more why there’s really nothing to be placed on the niche because we don’t even carry keys now (and we love it). We also replaced our gate together with the locks. 

You cannot imagine how much I wanted to paint our front door black/dark grey (it would look so much better!). I was told the vinyl surface doesn’t take paint well and if we ditch this door we will have to replace it with a fire-rated door like this one. Funny how all I wanted was the kind of “painted wood door” found in older apartment estates.

My home is still not complete (at least not photo-ready). It’s missing a lot of arts such as wall behind the sofa and wall at dining area. I love the idea of arts in bathrooms but I’m still figuring how to do that with that much humidity in ours. The paint color for our living-dining is Nippon Paint Bluebell White. It’s a neutral paint color with blue undertone but looked greenish before the furniture arrived (I asked Jim at least 5 times the first time I saw it on our walls, is it too green or is it me?). The undertone changes with the weather and time of the day, when it’s dimmer it looks like grey paint (which I prefer). The greenery outside our window could be the reason why on a bright and clear day our walls look greenish. The grey in our second bedroom turned out really nice and I sometimes regretting not painting the living-dining grey (grey being my favorite color). I once joked to Jim that Noah has the best looking painted room in our home (not that he actually care what color it is, urgh typical human nitpicking I guess, ha!)

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I don’t really have a Before picture of the original door and window. This Before picture is actually after we put in the floor (wood-look tiles). Floor in the After is closer to our actual floor, I don’t know why it looked orange in the Before shot. 

We originally requested to hide these pipes but it was still not done near our move-in date so I told my contractor to just leave it as it is (by then they had already painted the pipes white).

We do not plan to hang our laundry outside to air dry naturally (which is a norm in my country BTW). One of my must-haves is separate washer and dryer. We used a washer-dryer combo before and it took way to long (like 12 hours) to completely wash and dry, you also can’t turn off the door lock by switching off the power. We used to live in a studio rental and I had to sleep very close to a machine that was tumbling throughout the night. Awful. My current Electrolux washer quick 18 is a godsend and my dryer promises me dry clothes even during rainy days. I can even dry bedsheet, quilt and our daily load of clothes (total 2 cycles) all done (like done done; inside the closet) by the evening.

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I requested my contractor and tiler to lay the wood-look tiles in random pattern so they more closely resembles hardwood. I was told that many people in Singapore likes to lay them the “H joints or ¾ pattern” a.k.a wrong method which obviously I did not comment to him that it’s wrong since it isn’t entirely wrong because this is how you lay tiles. See above, ideally you do not want the stairs riser a.k.a staggered pattern. I’m sorry but these stairs drive me crazy, they look highly unpleasant to me. Visually you shouldn’t be able to trace your grout line like this because you want the tiles to be the focus not those lines. Both correct and random patterns looked the same at first glance, but the correct method has all same sized tiles, the random pattern has a mix of shorter tiles.

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I have a bit of “stairs” on my floor too, it either reaches a wall/built-in or it breaks away from the stairs pattern. I told the tiler to lay them parallel to the entrance. I chose to do parallel to widen the space visually, we use one type of wood-look tiles continuously throughout the entire space with no change of direction. The tiles are perpendicular in the kitchen and the walkway to the master bedroom which helps to draw your eyes in, you can do perpendicular depending on the size of your tiles—all these warrants an entire post by itself. Our home feels larger visually after the tiles are in (the raw concrete floor was dark and gloomy). We put in anti-slip tiles for both bathrooms.

I was lucky to be present on the day the tiler applied grout to our floor, he wanted to do a light tan but I told him I wanted a darker tone that matches the color of the tile itself. If your grout is white, too light/too dark it will look like you have tiles on your floor (obviously not a problem if it isn’t wood-look tiles). I have guests who took a double take on our floor and had to ask if it’s wood or tiles. As you can see it turned out really well for us (we wanted wood floor but we value more on the convenience and ease of maintaining tiles). We are really pleased to have the best of both worlds now (and I will so do it again for our next home!).

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I love this picture so much. We had at least two huge arguments during the reno that almost destroy us (and our marriage). But we also bonded and cherished each other like never before. I remembered we spent days waiting hours outside our home for deliveries of appliances (sometimes going to the nearby McDonald’s for breaks; chit-chatting over coffee). From time to time my legs would get really tired from standing and waiting for deliveries, it’s so bittersweet thinking back now. I truly think that the sweetest part is that Jim has been every part of this from start till end.

our-first-home-reno-before-and-after_view-from-living-room

Above is the view from our living room. To conclude, we did gave our contractor a deadline (always set deadlines for your renovation even if you feel generous). We moved in after a month of renovation with the kitchen uppers half done and done wrongly (more details on this coming soon…stay tuned). One month renovation is pretty fast due to the fact that our unit came to us with no flooring (some of the units here came with flooring installed), although bear in mind we have limited custom built-ins because I prefer buying my own furniture and I am glad I did not commission for more built-ins (more on the disaster on the blog soon). Most renovation here in Singapore takes close to two months to complete.

We accepted the custom wardrobe in our master bedroom with zero rectification even though it’s NOT perfect (and differs from my design plan!). We almost never request any rectification work unless it’s a jarring mistake. I would have insist on pushing a lot more to be done if this is my forever home (I kept saying this but who knows, maybe we’ll live here for 10 years??). Jim would love to live in a two-storey house (like the one his family had before they moved). Having this huge passion in design has convinced me that no matter the size of my home, I can make it work for us. Small and tiny homes can be beautiful and functional too.

Our renovation budget is $35,000 SGD and we ended up spending within $40,000 SGD. On top of the renovation cost, we sourced curtains, lighting, bathroom fixtures, furniture and appliances ourselves. Overall, I believe we spent $80,000 SGD for our home. I did not plan or budget for a kitten, Jim dropped me the bomb of “let’s have a kitten” weeks prior to moving in. Our active furball Noah (a mix of half Persian, ¼ Maine Coon and ¼ Domestics Shorthair) is aptly named after the biblical Noah, it signifies a new beginning in life.

Contractor contact will only be shared in private as I strongly recommend finish reading my home renovation posts (more coming) first. Need help with your home design planning, click here or read How To Start Planning For Your New Home.

All words and images by me. This is a non-sponsored post. All items are subject to availability by respective seller(s).

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