Revamped: Living Room Renovation & Design Tips

Time flies fast and it's almost 2 years of staying in my BTO HDB flat. This is my first home (with my husband) and I have the flexibility to design to fit into our personal preferences. I've talked to an Interior Designer way before we took my keys but for some reason, we've to give up on the ID. I've shared my Virtual Home Tour on my blog post when we first shifted in and that was also around when Circuit Breaker started.

Having to work, and do almost everything at home, I must make sure I feel comfortable looking and staying inside of my home. I've been continuously looking for new ideas for improving my little nest here. Luckily, there are also two very convenient online e-commerce platforms that I can always search for my lifestyle's gadget from after my online research. I use mainly Shopee and Lazada. I've also heard many people order from Ezbuy and Taobao, which could be a good alternative too. 

(Irregular shapes storage space are especially good for soft items)

After piling up more things at home from time to time, I've decided to take a break from using the temporary lifestyle gadgets... Instead, build some permanent structure before utilising the lifestyle's gadgets in place for maximising spaces as well as to make sure Things are more accessible and convenient when I needed them.

(To utilise space for my music storage, I've requested the carpenter to build extra shelving especially for my CDs collection on the top shelf. As well as drill a Pegboard which I bought from Daiso to hang more music accessories.)

For a start, my first Tip for you is you gotta understand your Lifestyle and Storage needs. The rest of the Tips are as followed if you're designing your own Living space too.


(1) Think Storage first, not design - Understanding your things at home and what kind of storage spaces you need is important, you need to know it in detail if you're not hiring an Interior Designer to think for you. Eg. the size, shape, placement how you like to take it out and how you organise it. Some of these details can let you know beforehand what kind of mechanism you would need for your cabinet space and how the doors should open. 

Also, don't forget about convenience and accessibility. One of the foremost reasons why I wanted a revamp, is because we've the space but not the accessibility... Having customised design cabinets also means the layout and functionality of the cabinet space can be customised to our needs. You may ask other people or Interior Designers for suggestions if you've don't have any specific ideas of what you want, they may suggest ideas through their experiences. However, you're the one who lives in the house in the future, you would definitely know better of what your Lifestyle's needs is better than others.


(This is my initial drawings as an idea proposal and visual to show the carpenter)

Tips for finding out what you need in your home space is stay-in, walking around your house, using the things you need and doing some self-reflection on how you want to improve the lifestyle's flow. I walked around my home many times before I compiled ideas of what I really needed for the space flow and the storage system, you need to do your homework too. 

(Slanted shoe shelves, so dirt won't accumulate inside the cabinet space)

Tips for storage spaces, always Think Extra, never think Lesser. If you need 3 cabinets, just think you would probably need 4-5 instead. You may or may not have the extra space when it comes to shifting your items into the storage cabinets when it is done. Or, rather, as time goes by, you may categorise different items differently and needed more space for some reason. 

Think about how this customisation would help in functionality, before thinking about how the functionality would fit into the design/theme. If not, there's a possibility that you would try to make more temporary storage and uglify the home design/theme or continue to match the theme but live uncomfortably. 


(2) What do I tell myself what this Design needs?

My visual & design requirement: 
- I want to cover up my bomb shelter but not totally cover-up at least one of the ventilation sleeve
- The design cannot look boxy and too boring
- I don't want to make my Living room looks more squeezy or cramped. 
- I want the look and feel to be a little Japandi (i love the simplicity of japan homes yet not too much like minimalist). The detail of the lining has to be very much minimalist yet not the design of the cabinetry. 
- I want light wood colour for the majority surface of the cabinet.
- I want to apply some curves or arch into the design but not overwhelming.
- I hope to have some marble or terrazzo finish too
- Must match house theme
- Covers the wire and gadget mess at the TV area
- I want a wall-hung TV and soundbar

My storage & display requirements: 
- I need a large space to put a lot of Plush toys, I want a glass display shelf for it yet cannot be too fragile just in case we've baby plans.
- I need an open shelf for Feng shui items to be displayed near the window.
- I need a shoe cabinet near the entrance
- I need a lot of closed storage.
- I need tall storage for all my cleaning tools as well as one customised cabinet for my huge vacuum machine and another one for my robot cleaner to come and go wherever we want. 
- I want to make good use of the ceiling space for storage. 
- I want to make full use of my cabinetry, the design needs to waste as little space as possible. 
- I want a TV feature wall but don't want to waste the space around it.
- I need a wooden settee that can be a 2-in-1 for toy display & humans to sit (height measured must be able to fit in my Giant Rilakkuma plush) 

Knowing what you want and don't want is important and making sure you won't regret your want and don't want is important too. Think Thrice before settling... 


(3) Design Tips if you're Doing-It-Yourself

I. Balance the Soft and Hard

In any home, comfortable is commonly one of the most important aspects. Be it the one, with a theme or without. In every home, it is important to create soft touches especially when we are surrounded by hard walls. Building a cabinet with doors may seem to be on the hard side, to create soft touches balancing it with sufficient display shelves where you can add soft decorations such as soft toy display, flowers & more to balance the visual and feel of the room.

(Soft Toys brings softness to the surrounding)

2. Balance the Sharp and Curve

Curve looks and feels good in homes, it brings softness and balance to homes. Bringing soothing and relaxing vibes to the home. It also adds a soft contrast to the sharp edges in homes, reducing harsh lines and composition in the overall home. 

(To avoid my Living room looking crampy with lots of cabinetry surrounding it, I've given up on having more closed-cabinet at this side of the wall. Instead, I've made it as a half-statement feature wall and half that could be an extra open-shelves display which the bottom shelf is able to carry the weight of humans - 2-in-1, can be a Settee too.)

3. Add Contrast into the Space

If you're not going into a Minimalist theme, add 5% of the opposite Contrast into your design. Let's say if your house is a dark colour, the opposite will be a bright colour. Vice versa for a bright colour home. If your house is loud and bright, try to add a little darker tones to the design. 

4. Add some Texture or remove some

Select a 1-2 texture you love, try not to mix them together in the whole spread. You can mix the textured finish with a solid colour if possible. When choosing colours for your home, try to keep it to a maximum of 3 colours, Match the overall house theme and colour palette altogether.

5. Functionality, Heights and Flow

Functionality is important especially if you've a small and compact space. Work on the Height and size of the things you need to add to the storage space. As well as plan your walking flow and opening door flow. The natural traffic flow of your lifestyle in your home will make you feel comfortable in your home. Therefore, trying and testing out your lifestyle before starting to work on the design is important. 

6. Understand your Resources

Understand what can be done by your carpenter and what not is important, design accordingly to your resources to avoid disappointment and minimise changes. There will be a lot of changes when it comes to design, sizing and more. Understanding a few aspects such as what you want and need, can it be done with the resources you and your carpenter have... would definitely help fasten the process by having fewer changes and it can definitely be less stressful and less confusion. 

7. Align door lines, and Shelves line

If you love irregular shapes and patterns, you won't need this Tips here. If not, Align door lines and shelves line for neater visuals, let your carpenter know beforehand so they can plan the details behind the cabinet's door as well. I've also especially aligned the storage cabinet with the TV console area, I heard most of the time the TV console area depth is slightly thinner. I didn't want to have in and outlining for my cabinets, so I've aligned them all neatly in a single line. It really does make it looks neater and I totally love it. 

8. Adding ambience lighting (for atmosphere) 

For comfort and ambience, it is essential to add warm atmosphere lighting into your home. It illuminates a sense of warmth and depth in the space. Most people will build the ambience lighting in the false ceiling but not me, I've built it in part of my cabinetry so I won't have to worry about pests going into my ceiling to start a nest there. Even if the pest appears in my cabinetry's light, it is at least accessible to remove it by ourselves.

9.  Make do with Gadgets & Technologies

There are many short videos of creative and useful homewares on Social Media Apps such as 抖音 (Douyin) and 小红书 (Xiao Hong Shu), especially if you haven't explored how Home & Lifestyle could be better with these newly invented Gadgets (especially from China). Some are simply making life easier with its product's shapes and some, mechanisms, some are technologies that would upgrade our lifestyle and it is not very costly. Some things can be applied in the carpentry work you designed. So go do your homework before starting your design. 

If you're not an online person, you can go explore Ikea & Daiso for some affordable and convenient home products as well.

10. Balance the Closed cabinets and the Open shelvings

Balance the space visually, a similar logic to the soft and hard... the open and the closed cabinet, both cannot be too overwhelming.

Design not too many shelvings, and not too many-closed door cabinets too... both have to look balanced. If you plan a lot of open shelving, you will need your things to look aesthetically nice and neat + match the colours of the house theme, and balance the height and sizes visuals. If not, it would look like clutter everywhere... It is always easier to have closed-door, but do work on the open shelvings as well. 

11. Leave Workmanship to the Carpenter

It's definitely not easy to find a good Carpentry that fit your budget, speed and quality. But you just have to find one who can understand what you really need so your effort and design won't go to waste. Let your carpenter know the reason for your design, and so they could advise through their experience. Listen, doesn't mean accept... learn from their perspective so you can work on the final design better. Ask them for advice especially for the opening direction of the cabinet, materials (you can suggest, but let them suggest too), design details as well especially when it comes to the heights and usage details. 

It's alright if you're not 100% ready with your design, as long as you have a rough idea.. draw it, write it down... and the rest of the idea may slowly come through discussions and measurements. 

(The bigger piece of paper drawing is done by the carpenter, the first drawing is done after discussion with my initial drawing.)

Every cabinet and shelves sizing are discussed, I've measured everything that I needed to place in the cabinet so as to make sure I use the space efficiently. I've also measured all my Plush toys to plan a greater visual while displaying them on the shelves when the display is done. 

Tips for Soft Toy Display shelves with LED light: never put the LED light behind the cabinet as plush toys cover the majority of the space from behind. I've requested it to be at the frontal of the shelf and placed at both sides of the cabinet. (For hard toy figurines, you can place lights on top or behind) 

for displaying your Toy collection, for aesthetic presentation it is better to arrange your toys in matching colours or in series. 

Tips, try putting your collection altogether in the same area. When it's a lot of them together, it's collection. When they are seperated, sometimes it seems like clutter. 

Tips for Budgeted Arch design style, try to make sure your design doesn't need any wood bending to save cost and future maintenance fees. In the long run, wood would bend slightly over the years... be it the straight ones or curve ones... It won't be very long-lasting for the curve ones as well. I utilise curve design open shelves that carpenter only needs to cut curves in shape and not bend. You can use laminate to design the arch and curves shape as well and see if that works for your carpenter. For me, because my home has an existing theme, I didn't want to apply too many curves and arch to complicate it. Minimal and not overwhelming is good enough. 


(4) Do your research on the cost before settling down

Check the price, and knowing what is included and what is not is important as well and is it worth it? 

Tips: Simple design doesn't mean it's cheaper. Approx. 30-40% of my Cabinetry cost goes to the lamination. That also means if you reduce areas that need to have lamination it will cost cheaper. Eg. if you have a lot of open-shelvings it may require more Lamination for it to look good and you can replace it with colour PVC or white PVC for closed cabinet internals to save a little cost instead of laminations. 


The price breakdown for my Living room renovation by Carpenter is:

Woodwork: approx. $2800
Lamination: approx. $2000
Electrical & Lighting: $700
Glass Door: $500
Design: FREE (my own design)

Timeline: Approx. Two weeks of 8hrs per day Renovation

The Carpenter, Michael (+65 9062 8199) had done such a great job... the workmanship and details are above my expectation. There is very useful input by him as well. I had a wonderful renovation journey and fulfilled the design I wanted.

Please note: if you are engaging him... he doesn't do follow up... you've to remind him and follow up with him. His charges are at a very low rate (and good workmanship) compared with a lot of other carpenters. He doesn't have any Social media accounts so there are no online portfolios. He may take a very long time to reply, so don't text... just call him up. He always has customer queuing for at least a few months, if you can't wait... it's better to not hire him.


♥ Thanks for reading as always!

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Singapore Food & Lifestyle Blogger Hello, I'm Irene

Welcome to Goodswanderers blog! The concept of Goodswanderers blog is to explore & blog about the Good things around me & my love ones. Read more long self-intro about why I started this blog here.