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Sunday, March 27, 2022

This is Home, Truly

This article was first published at Hipvan here.

Our contractor escaped.

The nightmare that every new house owner feared the most landed on us. Nevertheless, we were still grateful that he was literally contactless during the last few stages of our home renovation.

Oh, before I move on, my name is Thomas, a 30-year-old home-grown boy. Together with my beautiful wife, Lydia, we got ourselves one of the biggest investments of our lifetime – a 5-room HDB (113 sqm) located at Punggol. I once told myself I will never move to Punggol. Prior to moving, we reside at Beach Road, where we could walk to our favourite hangouts such as Suntec and Marina Bay Sands, so Punggol is considerably further (but again, how big is Singapore?).

Getting our nest

Considering the long waiting times for BTOs nowadays, we decided to opt for a resale flat. Psst, they offer huge grants for resale flats now. We visited a few places at Seng Kang and Punggol, before choosing this flat. It was brimming with laughter, children running around, and the whole family was really amiable towards us. Without thinking much, we told the property agent, this is it and we dealt at $620K (down from the original $638K), which to be honest was still more than our budget.

The great thing was that, it is already well-furnished with the previous renovations, so we get to saved huge ka-chings on renovation. We had in mind what we wanted. A warm, cosy, Scandi-mix-modern feel to our house. We made a renovation list, which roughly reads:

1. Refurbish living room wall.

2. Retile two toilets.

3. Paint entire house.

4. Laminate headboard in master bedroom.

With that, we approached three interior design companies in Singapore, which quoted us close to $20K. Our budget was $10K, which includes $2K to buy furnishings, such as fluted panels, toilet accessories, etc. So, through a business contact, we got to know Mr. A (to remain his integrity, I will not name him), a freelance contractor. He could do it within our budget and we were delighted. Long story short, manpower was short, he did not pay his workers, did not do the final checks, resulting in our renovation being 90% completed. Thank God I was smart enough to withhold the final payment, which was later utilised to fix his errors.

So, here’s a useful advice: Make the last payment after completion and checks are done!

Planning the space

With a huge living room, we decided to combine the dining area beside the windows so there’s sufficient daylight and walking space. The three rooms are utilised as such: (1) master bedroom for the masters (me and my wife) and our daughter, (2) a walk-in wardrobe with our baby’s cot and helper’s bed, and (3) a play room, which will be converted to a shared bedroom for our children in a few years’ time. Without further ado, here are the rooms:

Our living space

Introducing our living room and dining area, where we spend the nights away watching K-dramas. When we first saw the house, we were intrigued with the floor tiles, which look like undone reno work and resembles cement. We decided to retain it because we have no budget like the unique design. With the modern Scandinavian as a guide, we opt to have two major colours – (1) white and (2) beige, completed with wood furnishings and (a growing collection of) plants. The Scanteak bookshelf was one of our earliest purchases, which is currently housing our wedding vows, paintings, and small décor items. For lighting, we have track lights all over, so the IKEA floor lamp lends a nice ambient lighting to the living room. As expected with a family with children, most corners have to be covered, because they are terrible roadsters.

According to my wife, a huge TV, sofa and dining table are necessary for a huge living room. As you know, the wife is always right. Even though at that point of time, we only have four pax (including my helper), we got ourselves a huge 65” Prism TV, a 2.5m 3-seater L-shaped leather sofa, and a 1.8m dining table made of solid teak (because we hold parties every day. Just kidding.) I don’t believe in bringing work home so I don’t have a dedicated workspace, but when I need to handle something urgent or work from home, I will do so at my dining table.

We recently self-installed two wooden shelves to bring more layers and provide more feature space for our small décor, including my rock collections from Iceland and New Zealand. Anyone else collect rocks here?

Master bedroom

One of the major pluses of our flat is the size of our bedroom and ensuite (fancy term for toilet). As compared to the average size, I’m confident to squeeze three, or even four, king-size mattresses length-wise. For our bedroom, we had only the bed board laminated and the walls painted. As with all the other floorings, we decided to retain the original design as it suits our theme. The bedframe is of king-size, while our mattress (in picture) is only queen. We took the chance to insert a rectangular cushion, initially used for our dining bench, to form a “stair” for Olivia to climb onto the bed.

For curtains, I recommend a black-out curtain and a day curtain, which gives you sufficient shield and privacy for both morning and night.

Happy place

Due to COVID, there’s a lot of places that our daughter, Olivia, can’t go. So, my wife we decided to bring these places to her, and that includes a playground with slides, swings, and rope-climbing stuff. My friends joked that the toys are sufficient for five children - talking about spoiling your first child. But she would have to share this space with her little brother in the near future. For some reasons, she likes dinosaurs, so you may spot some of that ancient creature lurking in her toys. Amidst the fun stuff, we have a reading corner for her, where we pick her favourite books to read to her.

Storage is a huge must especially if you’re a neat freak, so we decided to go with both pull-out drawers, and a few open ones to display toys she plays frequently. Parenting tip: We have trained her to keep her toys before she goes to bed, so it’s neat and tidy every time (almost).

Wardrobe, helper’s and cot room

Probably the room with the least décor, we are using this room as a major storage solution (besides the storeroom). Since it is mostly unused at night, we added a foldable bed for our helper to rest at night. Now that our second child is here (at the time of writing), we have transformed this into a little cot room for our little one to rest.


The original design was from HDB, and we didn’t like it with all the white tiles, so we decided to overlay the tiles (as hacking is more expensive). For the tiles, we chose matte grayish tiles, paired together with white ceramic sink, wooden furnishings, and matte black shower set.

Master chef at work

Although my helper is usually in charge of our meal times, I love to cook up a storm in the kitchen on some days, serving my signature seafood platters, pastas, potato dishes, and sweet desserts. I am thankful that the previous owners who are avid home chefs themselves have installed beautiful white carpentry with wooden tops, paired with a BOSCH oven and stove top, which could have set me back by a few thousands.

For me a good mixer and coffee machine are necessities, and I am a blessed son and husband, for the most important ladies of my life to gift me these beauties.

Initially, my wife wanted an open concept kitchen with an island, but the layout wasn’t feasible as the wall of the bomb shelter cannot be knocked down, so we have to hold this thought for our next home.

Service yard

Behind the kitchen lies our service yard, where our helper does and hang the laundry. As this is the only place that get direct morning sunlight, we love to give our plants a good sun-bath here before moving them to the shade (depending on the species).

Smart home or not

“Alexa, on the lights” Do this, do that, and all the cool Jarvis stuff. That was our initially plan until we figured that maybe a smart home isn’t that smart. The number of settings and add-ons were not worth the convenience, unless you are so lazy to lift your fingers to flip the switches or open the curtains.

The only “smart” appliances we incorporated are probably just the automatic lights that we placed at the corridor, toilets and below the bed frame, which costs us less than $20 in total.

This is home, truly

Having shifted thrice thus far, our Punggol home marks our first official property we purchase. Although this will not be the last, we desire to make it as cosy and warm as possible during our stay, one that exudes happiness and blessings from within – a happy place for us. By itself, no matter how big or beautiful, a house is no more than a physical structure. It is the people residing in it that transforms it into a place called home. And home is where the heart is. And the heart should always be centered around the family, especially your spouse.

As you all know, happy wife, happy life.