How a couple with a $65k renovation budget created a cosy environment in their Pinnacle@Duxton home, Lifestyle News

As a young couple, it’s always an incredibly exciting time when you’ve managed to secure your first home. 

But once you get through all the stress of finding the right home, you’d soon realise the next part of the journey can be equally, if not even more taxing. 

There’s a certain pressure to getting everything right during the renovation process, as once it’s built it’ll be hard to change. Or even if you could, it may just be really expensive to do so. 

For Bryan and Tiffany (@jingwensathome), they were fortunate to find their 4-room resale HDB at Pinnacle@Duxton which was somewhat already aligned with what they wanted. 

“The flat was excellently maintained,” Bryan said. “It had minimal built-ins and already had quite an open concept.”

They also love how breezy the house is since it’s located on a higher floor.

That’s not to say that they had an easy renovation journey, like almost everyone else during the pandemic – they had a few challenges they had to overcome. And now, together with their four cat bosses – August, Austin, Audi, and Auri, they are enjoying the fruits of their labour.

Let’s join them as they share how they turned their vision into reality.

How the renovation journey turned out

The couple was ready to shell out up to $65,000 for their renovation. “We were prepared for around $60,000 to $65,000 as the total number for the cost,” Bryan said. “And so, we wanted to cap the initial quotation to $55,000, before all the adjustments and additional costs for lighting and electricity works along the way.”

He said their final renovation cost was around $63,000. This excludes the aircon and cat grills which totalled about $8,000.

Their approach helped them to stick to the budget. It prevented adding more to the cost while at the same time having a buffer for any additional reno expenses.

Like many others, Bryan and Tiffany were particularly inspired by, “a lot of overseas Instagram posts.”

One example is their kitchen cabinetry.

He shared that the green cabinets in their kitchen were inspired by a photo they saw online and loved. They tried to find a laminate with the closest look possible and ended up with what they have today.

“We love the random green carpentry and tiles around the house,” he added. “We feel it adds more life to our home, which is mostly brown and wooden-toned.”

The couple only had to make a few changes to the home’s layout compared to the original floor plan since it’s already aligned with their preference.

For instance, they always were of the view that the standard 93 square-metre living room is relatively small, especially since they like hosting their friends and families. Thankfully, the previous owners had the same notion.

“One common bedroom was already knocked down by the previous owners,” he said. “So we only had to hack away the kitchen walls to make an enlarged living area and accommodate an open kitchen concept.”

Let’s take a closer look at the outcome of their home renovation. 

Living room

As soon as you enter their place, the living room obviously shows the open concept the couple strived for. The choice of vinyl flooring, clean, muted furniture colours, and DIY limewash wall paint all add to the area’s bright and airy vibe.

The view of the cityscape creates an illusion that the room, including the dining area – is larger than it actually is.

In fact, it adds an amazing urban charm to their place.

With carpentry, they were able to conceal the household shelter and make it blend flawlessly with the rest of the theme.

Dining room

And so because one of the rooms was already hacked, it allowed for the luxury of a dedicated dining area. Now it can comfortably host up to 10 people, including a settee they built.

The sconces on the kitchen wall create a cosier ambience, especially when they’re dining in the evening.

Kitchen

To make the kitchen blend seamlessly with the home’s open concept feature, they also hacked the walls in the kitchen. The kitchen island they added served as a subtle yet effective partition element.

Using open shelves also worked well with their place’s overall theme as opposed to using top-hung cabinets.

What really makes the space though, is the captivating petal pendant lamp hung above the kitchen island.

It really provides a cosy vibe with the warm light, and the nature of the shades really adds a more delicate touch to the space. 

Bedrooms

Bryan said they did nothing much to this space except for the built-in wardrobe. One thing they made sure of, though, was for the master bedroom to have the same clean look as their living room

They had one of their bedrooms set up specifically for their cats. Here, they DIY installed one of their own cat wall climbers.

Bathrooms

Their bathrooms went through a major overhaul.

The tile colours provided a striking yet bold contrast to the home’s overall decor. They also added shower screens and open shelves while retaining their common bathroom niche.

Bringing the vision to reality

Bryan admitted that the final outcome of the reno was not what they really had in mind before the project started.

“I think this was because we weren’t very fixed on what we wanted from the beginning,” he added.

The couple was originally aiming for a more rustic look.

They knew they wanted a design which included elements such as a kitchen island, dining settee, herringbone tiles, and subway tiles. They also wanted some pops of green around their house.

As such, the final outcome was one that was leaning more toward Scandi since it has a cleaner look.

“No complaints, though,” he said. “We’re very happy with how everything turned out.”

Bryan and Tiffany reached out to approximately 15 ID and contractors before they ended up with Cherrie from Lemonfridge Studio.

As for how they made their final decision, Bryan and Tiffany had a list that was very helpful for them:

  • Vibe: Bryan said the renovator needs to be on the same or similar page as them. This can help them build upon ideas easier.
  • Thoroughness: The couple had strong preferences for an ID who could give a good first impression – those who have great attention to detail. The moodboards presented to them can easily help identify those renovators who adhere to the couple’s open concept. For them, it clearly shows that the ID understands the style they wanted. It also resulted in a more accurate quote.
  • Timeline: Their renovation took place during COVID, and they’ve heard about multiple reno delays happening all around. As such, it was important for them to look at the reviews of the companies. They also made sure that the ID they would be engaging with was not managing too many projects simultaneously.
  • Cost: Transparency is very significant to them. More so, since they had a budget to work with. Comparing every line item from various quotes they received, instead of just the total cost, helped them pick which company provides better transparency.

As for the rest of the home, their furniture sourcing process took on a lot of the same inspiration sources such as Instagram. “We looked at Instagram for a lot of home furniture inspiration. Once we saw a piece of furniture we liked, Tiff was relentless in sourcing.”

He said they didn’t restrict themselves to shops in Singapore only. Aside from Taobao, they got their wall lights from Australia with the help of a friend who’s staying there. Their design inspiration also came from France.

Everyone has their favourite area for their home, and for Bryan and Tiffany, that would be their kitchen.

“Before the renovation, the kitchen was half opened and was very simple,” he recalled.

“Now, it is the heart of their home, where Tiff tries to cook every single meal.” He added that they both love spending their time in the kitchen area.

They’re also very satisfied with their DIY limewash painted wall in the living area. He said it added so much more depth and texture to their home. “At the end of this year, we might be limewashing more parts of the house.”

Lessons learned from a successful reno journey

Choosing tiles was one of the greatest challenges Bryan and Tiffany encountered in the course of their journey.

“It was challenging because there were repeated delays in shipments during COVID.” He elaborated that a lot of the tiles they selected for both their bathroom walls and kitchen backsplash were either OOS or did not come anytime soon. This happened on their first choice, second choice, and even on the third.

It created a domino effect. The new master toilet ended up with a look they didn’t envision, and the kitchen backslash had a costly error.

“Thankfully, we managed to rectify the kitchen, and we’re satisfied with how the bathrooms turned out,” Bryan said.

As for the lessons they learned, Bryan shared that there’s definitely more than meets the eye. For instance, one of their first hiccups was the huge water pipe in the kitchen.

“That wasn’t something we had noticed before, until everything was torn down. We had to either box it up or build carpentry around it.” He said it was a bummer for them since they wanted everything completely open. While boxing it up offered a solution, it looked bulky.

As first-time homeowners, things like aircon trunking, water pipes, and beams didn’t naturally occur to both of them.

Bryan admitted that they were fixated on the more obvious things like tiles and big walls. He said they would be keeping these things in mind when viewing future homes as well as when designing them.

Last but not least, Bryan shares these three valuable tips with homeowners who are planning to go through their own reno journey soon.

“Familiarise yourself with various themes, furniture, ideas and brands,” he said. This can help you discover your tastes and what you really want.

There are a ton of resources online, such as home accounts, feature videos and magazines. Aside from gaining knowledge about different themes and designs, they can also show the best and worst reno decisions from others.

His second piece of advice is to get a good renovator who meets your design needs and aligns with your character. “We’ve been really lucky to have Cherrie,” he said, “as she’s responsive and has excellent service recovery.” The pair is still in touch with them even today.

Finally, he recommends planning as much as possible.

“There are so many aspects to a home renovation, from costs and sales to comparing across brands, to aesthetics and design.” Keep in mind that the more structured you are, the smoother the process will be. You will less likely fall into a reno decision fatigue state.

ALSO READ: From harsh lights to sharp corners: Couple share their renovation regrets in their 4-room BTO flat

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