Monday, April 23, 2018

Our House Renovation Journey With La Conception Hauz (Interior+)


Photo By: Elin Chow

Back in October last year, my husband and I finally collected the key to our first home. Defect rectification works took slightly over a month. We visited the developer office almost every week to complain as the water leakage issue was not fixed. It was incredibly frustrating because time was really tight. If we could not start the renovation on time, we might not be able to move in before Chinese New Year.


The rectification works were finally completed after 39 days. We immediately submitted our application for renovation, which took the management a week to approve. Renovation works started somewhere around in the mid of December 2017 and I thought it will be a good idea to document the entire renovation process from start to finish. This will be quite a lengthy and wordy post, but I hope that you guys (especially those who are planning to renovate soon) will find this post helpful.

Contractors or Interior Designer?

I believe this will probably be one of the most common question that will first come to your mind. Honestly, our initial plan was to hire different contractors or Indonesian workers to do our house renovation because they are usually known to be cheaper than interior designer (ID). In fact, if you ask around and I believe most people will ask you to go with contractors rather than an ID, simply because their price will be so much better.

However, we changed our mind eventually and decided to hire an ID instead of hiring different contractors. As this is our first house (probably the only one in our life), this might be the only chance we will get to design the space we would love to live in. Furthermore, we did not have a concept or theme and were really unsure what we really want, which will be a big problem if we were to hire a contractor.

After much discussion, we decided to just go for an ID. "Why so expensive? Why do you go for an ID? ID will always think of ways to overcharge you. Contractors can also do the exact same thing, but at a much cheaper price. Just as expected, we received lots of advice from people around us when they got to know our decision.

Many people suggested that we can copy other people's design from the internet and get a contractor to do the same thing for our house. The cost will be so much lower than hiring an ID. Afterall, the result will be same.

But I was not keen about that idea. I do not want a house that belong to others. I wanted a home that truly belong to us. I certainly do not want to live with any renovation regrets.

Everyone love to find cheap and good deals. But often, good things does not come cheap. A cheap package deal sometimes turn out to be the start of a renovation nightmare. I believe many of you would have read dozens of stories about the horrible experience home owners had with IDs and contractors.

Renovation is not something you can scrimp as the quality of renovation can affect the quality of your life. Yes, contractors are cheaper, but what makes you so sure that they will not try to overcharge you? What makes you so sure that they will never run away after receiving the payment before job completion? How do you know they can be trusted?

Why An ID?

One of the biggest reason why we decided to go for an ID is because we were worried about liaising issues. We do not want to liaise with different contractors directly and tell them specifically what we want and do not want. We do not want to yell at contractor and subcontractors every other day to get things done.

But don't get me wrong. I am not saying a contractor cannot do a good job. A renovation job can be good only if you know what you want and have the knowledge to achieve the desirable outcome. However, contractors usually do not provide the same amount of advice and suggestion as an ID. This is also another reason why we decided to hire an ID.

It is hard to virtualize without the 3D drawings, especially when we DO NOT really know what we want. We needed someone who can coordinate and manage our renovation project. Someone who can provide design ideas, floor plans, 3D drawings, advice and suggestions for our house. A one-stop service provider who is able to execute everything from ideation, design to renovation works.

ID Selection

I am constantly excited about our house and my search for an ID began about 1 year before our key collection.Right before that, I have been reading through renovation website and forums in order to shortlist potential IDs and contractors that I would like to work with.

We only met up one ID. Yes, only one ID, despite many others have advised us to get quotes from a few just to compare the prices. This is simply because we did not want to give ourselves to much choices to choose from. Furthermore, we do not see the need to meet other IDs because we are comfortable working with the ID that we have chosen.

We contacted the ID company, La Conception Hauz, about 3 months before our key collection and received an estimated quote. It took them 2 weeks to provide us an estimated quote based on our requirements.

After receiving the quote, we arranged to visit their show room where we met up with their designer, Jack. He sat down with us and go through the ideas, themes and different materials without pressurizing us to sign any design package. We like that he was never pushy and was very patient in answering all our questions.

We met with Jack twice to revise the quote before we finally decided to sign with him. It turned out that our initial budget is not enough for all we wanted. We asked for some discount, which he gladly give, even though it was not much. But the quote was pretty detailed, even though some items were excluded because he forgot to include.

Floor plan

This is the layout plan for our 3 bedroom 2 bathrooms, 900 sq ft condo unit. Our renovation will be focusing mainly on living area, kitchen and master bedroom. It is a partly furnished unit with tiles, basic bathroom fixtures, painted walls and doors. We wanted the entire house to look bright and simple, so we decided go for modern contemporary design. The entire house will be white/black/grey theme because we believe that you can never go wrong with neutral colors.

3D Design

Jack was very genuine and accommodating person, who took his time to understand our lifestyles, our likes and dislikes before proposing a 2D layout design plan. Once we were happy with the layout plan, he proceeded to work with the 3D Design, which took almost 3 weeks to complete.

Living


Black and white are used as the main color scheme in the living room for TV console and storage cabinets. Wood color is a big no-no because my husband hates it and he prefer an all-white look. But still, Jack managed to convince us to incorporate some wood colors in the design to make the space look warmer.

Dining Area

Jack actually proposed to paint one of the wall grey just to create a focal point in the living/dining area. Pendant light is added to the dining area to add extra style to the space. We also decided to install a tempered glass swing door to separate the kitchen and living/dining area.

Kitchen Area
We love the design of the kitchen. In fact, the kitchen is our favorite part of the house. It looks very modern and practical. Just like the living room, the kitchen uses black and white as the main color scheme. Yellow dish rack cabinet adds a small pop of color to the all-white kitchen.

Bedroom

Black glass sliding wardrobe and built-in bedhead for bedroom. I am basically satisfied with the design of the bedroom except the bedhead. Somehow, I feel that something was lacking, so I asked the design to be changed.



It took them 2 weeks to send me the revised design. I am happy with the revised design of the bedhead because I feel that it matches the overall design of the house better.

Key Collection

Upon our key collection, Jack came to help us do defect checking and take measurements of the house. This was also when he brought us some bad news.

1. Space Constraint - Kitchen

We have to change the kitchen design due to space constraints. We actually prefer the initial proposed design more, but we have no choice because the kitchen was actually smaller than what we have expected.
The tall unit cabinet has to be removed in order to have enough space to accommodate the cooker hob and hoob. As a result, we have to move the microwave oven below the hob.

Overlooked / Unexpected Extra Costs

Well, I believe no matter how much preparation you do or how detailed the quotes are, there is still a chance you will come across unexpected surprises. Although we had set aside extra budget from the initial cost, we did not really expect to spend on these unexpected surprises.

2. Relocating the Fibre Box

Seriously, I do not understand why the developer has chosen to install the fibre box in the tiny kitchen. We have to relocate the box out of the kitchen in order to build a kitchen cabinet. If not, it will be impossible for us to install a ducting hood in the kitchen.

3. Additional Window

The yard is entirely open. It comes with just a parapet wall and does not have a proper window. We have fork out additional cost to install a window, not only to block out rain but also for safety purposes.

4. Hacking

We did not intended to do any hacking job in the house at the first place. But the entrance of the yard is too small and it is impossible to put in a standard size washer if we did not remove the wall. The blue wooden sliding door provided by the developer looks very cheap and ugly too. So we have no choice but to fork out extra money to hack away the redundant wall. We also decided to extend the kitchen cabinets to where the wall was originally at.

5. Miscellaneous 

Cost of small fixtures like taps and sink can add up to a lot, although they appear like reasonably priced items individually. Installation fee (aircons and water heaters) are often overlooked, which can also add up to a huge cost. We have get a new kitchen sink because the one that the developer has provided is of poor quality. The inlet and outlet point for the sink are also too high, thus additional cost has to be incurred just to relocate them to the right position.


Other than that, there are cost for relocating and adding new socket plugs. Due to the increased usage of electrical appliances and devices, having lots of plug point is unfortunately, a necessity nowadays. Also, the aircon points provided by the developer are too low. As a result, we have to be relocate them to a higher position.

Renovation Progress - Week 1




The contractor started hacking the wall that separates the kitchen and the yard. It was a very tedious job, and it took them almost 2 days to fully remove the entire wall. The kitchen looks more spacious and brighter after the wall is removed.


Then they proceeded to wiring works for the entire house. Aircon points and Fibre cable were relocated as well.

Renovation Progress - Week 2


The contractor started working on the plaster ceiling, which was pretty messy. Jack informed us that he has to confirm the measurements for the hoob, hoob, microwave oven and fridge for our built-in carpentry. So, we arranged to have all our electrical appliances delivered to our house, even though plaster ceiling were only half way done.


Bathroom walls were hacked to conceal the wiring and water piping. Water heaters were also installed.

Renovation Progress - Week 3

It was New year eve and we arranged to meet up with Jack to shop for lights and fans. He recommended that we meet up and shop at Houses Lighting in Puchong as it offers a great selection of lights and fans that suit every need and budget.

Prices were not cheap, but reasonable. In total, we bought 30 down lights, 5 eye balls, a few T5 lights, 4 ceiling fans and door bell from Houses Lighting.

Renovation Progress - Week 4

After 2 weeks, plaster ceiling were finally done. The contractor started cutting holes in the plaster ceiling for the lights and fans. This took them about 2 days. Lights and fans were then installed before they started painting the entire unit.


Tempered glass door that separates the kitchen and living/dining area was also installed. We love the glass door very much except the white door frame

Renovation Progress - Week 5 & 6

There were not much works done for week 5 and 6. Aircons and curtain railings were installed on week 6, but painting job was unfinished and we were anxiously waiting for the built-in carpentry to be installed. We were told that the carpentry will be slightly late due to peak season and we constantly worried that the renovation works would not be able to complete on time.

Renovation Progress - Week 7

The carpenter finally started the installation of carpentry at our house. Other than carpentry, most of major works are completed. The contractor was happy to help us install our bathroom accessories (mirrors, hangers and hooks) at no additional charges and we really appreciate that. We really hate those contractor who charge for every minor works.

Renovation Progress - Week 8
 It took the carpenter almost 2 weeks to complete the installation. The entire house is covered by dust and dirt, but fortunately, our renovation package includes a free cleaning services by professionals. After removing the floor protection, Jack brought over a few cleaners to clean the house. The sofa has been assembled and furnitures have been moved to their right place.

Completion - Week 9

Finally at week 9, just 2 days before Chinese New Year, Jack came over and handed back the keys back to me. The entire renovation took about 2 and a half months to complete and we look forward to seeing the final end result.

Living Room




The living area may look a little too simple, but it feels really cozy. The warm shade of brown complement the combination of white and black well, adding warmth to the space. By the way, the sofa is purple color. I am not sure why it looks pink in the photo. The sofa is definitely one of our best buys. I love it because it is very spacious and comfy. Most importantly, the price is very reasonable and affordable. 

However, we did not really like the coffee table. We bought it because it is really cheap and we were running out of budget.

Kitchen

My favorite part of the house is the kitchen. Our kitchen is very tiny, but surprisingly, this is where we spend most of our renovation budget at. I love the marble design backsplash that Jack suggested. It look very much like marble tiles, but it is actually plywood with marble laminate. Jack is nice enough to provide us the dish drying rack for free too.

Dining Area

There are no much works done to the dining area. We only painted the wall and door frames grey to create a focal point. Pendant light is installed right above the dining table. I really love the dining table and chairs that we bought from a furniture shop in Puchong. The table is very sturdy and can easily sit 6 persons. We specially chose the purple chairs to match the color of of the sofa.

Bedroom


Our bedroom is very simple yet comfy. I love the black glass wardrobe because it looks very modern and classy. The bed head is also fitted with lights for our convenience.

Defects 

From far, everything looks nice and clean. But when you look closer, it is not exactly as perfect as it looks. Most of the defects come from the carpentry works, and we were very unhappy about it because this is where a huge amount of our budget goes to.

The workmanship of the carpentry is poor and unsatisfactory, which is very disappointing. There was a small chip on one of the kitchen cabinet door. The drawers were seriously misaligned with quite a number of drill holes. A number of cabinets were not nicely cut and full of scratches and stains. The workmanship of the bedhead was also very poor with misalignment issue and cracking. Obviously, the carpenter was rushing for completion so that they could go on a long Chinese New Year's leave.

Initially, we have planned to spend our Chinese New Year at our new house. But we could not because we were not able to do any cooking at all. The contractor has forgot to connect the hob and microwave oven to the power socket, so we could not use the appliances at all.

Jack promised that they will fix every defect that we mentioned after Chinese New Year. But it has been almost 3 months now and not all defects have been fixed yet. We have not release the final payment, so I am not very worried about it.

Conclusion

Overall, we enjoyed the entire renovation process very much. Jack is very responsible, responsive and accommodating ID who takes take his works seriously. However, he needs to improve on his time management. Sometimes, I feel that he is handling too many projects at a time that he cannot give our project his 100% attention. Besides that, I also feel that he is not meticulous enough and did not offer a lot advice and suggestions, probably due to lack of experiences.

Despite that, I still feel very comfortable working with him. He follows through our renovation project from the very start to the end and update us constantly on the progress. The design he proposed aligned to what we wanted and end result is pretty satisfying.

Other than that, Jack is also very prompt in following up and responsive to our queries. He is someone who we can trust, though sometimes we do feel disappointed with him when we spotted all the defects. But he was quick to help us rectify the defects.

Is an interior designer worth it? Well, to a certain extent, yes. It is true that IDs do cost more due to the amount of time and effort they put into the project. Basically we paying them extra to settle and do everything and we did not mind paying a little more for his time and effort. But I guess my expectations are a little too high that I feel very disappointed when they are not met.

The entire renovation process is almost hassle-free. In fact, we only visit the site once every week to check on the progress. So, this is basically our house renovation journey. I do not regret my decision of hiring an ID because it really save us a lot of unnecessary troubles.

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1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on your new home! Nice, Sleek and Clean ! =)

    ReplyDelete