On today's episode,
Often enough, you know, pragmatism practicality gets in the way of an aesthetic that might make you feel happier about the space that you live in.
You're At Home with Stacked. Hey guys, welcome back to another episode of At Home With Stacked. Now we all know that looking for and buying a brand new home is a crazy process on its own. But you see the work doesn't just end after you secured your dream house. Why? Because you actually have to move in at some point. You see my guest today, Lauren and Lloyd are a newlywed couple who received the keys to their flat earlier this year. Needless to say they face a number of issues with the renovation process, one of which included a very badly done custom floor, resulting in poor Lloyd having to actually sand the entire space on his own. Now, let him tell you the story later on.
But bear in mind that this was right before the circuit breaker period, which also posted challenges of its own. Still, they survived to tell the tale and we speak to them today to learn a little bit more about their initial Home Buying journey, the subsequent renovation experience, as well as some key hacks that they were able to use along the way. Now if you're a homeowner that's about to move in for the very first time. This episode is truly for you. Now as always, if you like what you listen to feel free to hop on to stackedhomes.com/editorial for more of this right after the show.
Hey, Lauren. Hey Lloyd, welcome to the show.
Hey, Reuben. Nice to see you again.
Hey, guys, thanks for joining me today. So we met like a couple of weeks back four or five weeks, somewhere around there. And again, you know, thank you for for showcasing your home. And for those of you guys who are wondering, we actually went to Lauren and Lloyd's home to shoot a quick video on the interior designers really beautifully done. So that's coming out probably in the next couple of weeks. Again, thanks for having us. And thank you for joining me today on this podcast. So I guess before we begin, if you could tell us a little bit more tell us a little bit more about what the house actually is. Where's it? What's the size? When do you buy it?
Okay, so we bought this house early last year, after a couple of months of our house hunting. It's a four room. resale HDB in Tiong Bahru about 1000 square feet large. It's not quite five room, which is what we were initially going for. But currently it's more than enough space for just the two of us. And I mean, we love the location, which is why we bought it. It's it's right behind Yong Siak Street, great access to like cafes and restaurants and great hawkers center food. So yeah, we are very happy. Yeah.
So it's a resale flat, right. Yes. Okay. What What were your thoughts? When you saw the place for the very first time? Was it something that you resonated with immediately? Or you were like "eh no lah. Maybe not this one"
Okay, well, I guess I would just say that we definitely weren't blown away, actually, to be honest with you, it was like a third or fourth choice. Our first thought was that, you know, it looked older than its age. It at that point in time, when we bought it, it was only it was only six years old, right? It wasn't very well looked after there was like mould on the ceiling. The view was alright, but not what a lot of people would actually consider, you know, breathtaking.
And I think that we had committed to another February just seen, and that flat, unfortunately, we saw during golden hour, and they had actually knocked down some of the walls in the living room. So it was very spacious. So it actually looked a lot better. And that was actually top of our mind. Whereas this flat was you know was more the original layout, and we saw it in a normal timing, it was quite cloudy. So I think that's something a piece of advice for homeowners that if you if you if you're looking at a flat it really depends what time you see it, you should see the view at night and during the day. And sometimes you know if with the right lighting, any piece can look very, very nice. So it's important to take that into account.
Yeah, in fact, I mean to add to that, right, we we pretty much forgot about the house after we left and we only revisited it after the first few fell through. So if there was some learning points. Yeah, I would say that, you know, it's entirely possible for a home to grow on you if you gave it a chance. Because looking back, you know, it's hard for us to imagine living anywhere else. And don't let the original aesthetic throw you off because every house visit is basically an intensive, you know, visualisation exercise where you need to try your best to look past how it looks to how it could possibly look like you know after you've done it up. So you know, it really helps to use the floorplan and think about how a space could be reconfigured the way you want it to
Right, speaking of visualisation, do you guys have perhaps like any sort of filter or criteria for your home-to-be, going into the hunting process, because I think that usually helps right, to narrow down the choices because there's just so many options out there.
Yeah, so we had quite a few criteria. So one was location had to be sort of near central area where we got to work. And we wanted a certain size about 1000 square feet, we wanted a nice view, like fairly unblocked. And we didn't need a super high view, I think this is something which I picked up from Lauren, she I sort of see now that a really, really high view, which you often pay a premium for sometimes makes you feel a bit disconnected from from everything, I think something a little bit lower, but not too low. That's actually what we're going for.
We also wanted something that was not too old. I think we wanted a corner unit, not a corridor unit, we wanted a more square structure. Lauren has a has a preference and understand this as well like a preference for clear with clear windows, which are not too tinted. So once we put all those things together, actually, there were only a few flats that met our criteria. And the minute one or two opened up, it was quite easy for us to say that. Okay, as long as the price is right, we're going for it. So that's how that's how we went about the process.
Yeah. Which is how it two months is a fairly efficient, what was very, very good at this. So yeah, I think I think we did... you should you should be a real estate agent. You did a good job.
You can have a separate podcast about this
is too much choice, the problem is too much choice. I think we did so many flats, right? You really think that there's so many choices. But if you have a criteria that's strict enough, you have to the confidence that once something meets that, just go for it.
Yeah. So I would say right, you know, when you come up with a checklist, don't don't be afraid of being like extremely liberal with all these points, right? Because you'd be surprised, you know, the more points you have, the easier it becomes because there are a lot of houses out there.
And you know, like, I have a lot of friends telling me that they're having a really hard time like narrowing down. And you know, I'm having having a preference for certain types of windows seems like a very unusual choice. But it really, really helps to narrow down your options. Because as some of you may know, in your HDB flats, you actually cannot change the facade of the windows, you can't change the frame, you can't change the colour. So it's something that you really should be thinking about. If you intend to, you know, stay for a long time. And sunlight is something that is very important to you, for example. Yeah.
Yeah, I feel like if you're talking about interior and choosing interior, you should probably hone in on those things that can't really be changed, like you mentioned, right the windows, certain walls can be knocked down the layout, the size, the views, so the tangibles which cannot be altered, because certain things you can change, right? Like you can change the way your door looks. You can change your wardrobe, you can change your floor even. But there're just some things that will stay with you in the flat for a long time to come.
So what was the timeline like you guys saw the unit, and then you went out? The other deals fell through and then you came back to this guy? How long from then did it take before you started renovation?
Oh, so after we made the offer, then after that, it's just like a one month process, I think to resale completion. Then after that, you know, they uh, quite often they'll ask for an extension to stay. So you'll be notified, find your place in a new place, then you know, you can move in. And that's what happened. So I think pretty much like one month from the offer to completion, then three months, let them find a new place, then we could start renovation some time around September of last year.
Okay, so this was before the circuit breaker period. Yeah, because I know a lot of people were kind of going through renovation at that point. And because circuit breaker kicked in, the workers had to travel back to Malaysia, and the house was kind of left in a half furnished kind of state, right. And these poor homeowners they didn't have anywhere else to live, so they just had to live in this place. But if you guys had issues even before that right, I know you had some issues with your flooring, maybe if you could share with us a little bit more about what happened there.
Okay, well, I guess this is probably quite an important thing to talk about. Because we get a fair number of questions on having a cement floor, a lot of people are very keen on it. And I guess it's also because it's not extremely common to have in a home in Singapore specifically, which is probably also why it seems like a lot of IDs or contractors are not very confident of pulling this off. So in our case, right, it was really a rather painful process of trial and error.
And, um, you know, many errors at that so I guess the first thing was, you know, in terms of trying to settle on the kind of depth of colour of the concrete, you know, which was something that we were initially very particular about, we actually did sampling for, I would say as long as like, two months almost, you know, we we trial and error with different mixes of screeding and we realised that at the end of the day, you're right that when it comes to Company screening your floor, you have very, very little see and how it actually turns out. So we let that go. When it came to the actual screeding process, it was actually done in two phases when it should have been done in one phase, because cement will cure differently based on environmental conditions. So whether it's rainy, or whether it's a particularly dry season will actually affect on how you're cement, how the colour turns out, right.
So it could be very grey or be very light. So the result was that, you know, we had two very distinct patches of concrete, that kind of met each other in the living room, which you might be able to see from our pictures, our first contractor, then, you know, after, after, after this happened, he decided not to continue with the project at this point, because I think he knew that it will cost him more to correct this mistake than to, you know, to leave the project.
So, this is pretty much where our DIY started, you know, it was like a massive kind of Pinterest project. As you mentioned earlier, yeah, we actually bought a sanding machine to sand down the entire area, to you know, try and even out the patches, as well as cement putty and powder to patch up the cracks and the potholes in the cement. We also had some epoxy layering issues, because you know, when you apply the epoxy layer on top of the cement that's already done, it's meant to repel water is meant to protect the concrete.
So what happened was that there was some pooling of epoxy in certain areas. So it actually looked quite uneven, which is something that Lloyd took upon himself to to correct, you know, we actually had to get thinner and manually, you know, bit by bit, rub of these areas ourself. But, you know, after all that happened, it was much easier to deal with. And, you know, we felt like we knew a lot more about concrete and cement screeding than the average Singaporean, or the average subcon. Actually.
I can't imagine having to come home after work to do all that.
Oh, man. Yes, definitely. After definitely. Office Hours. I think it's I think it's something that you you just kind of know, you have to do. Like, I mean, that that floor the way it was, it was actually it could have wounded us. But I think it's uh...
The the potholes in the in the concrete was so large, right, that my little like, my little toe could get stuck in it, you know, this is what we're talking about. And you know, it's a dangerous environment. Yeah, so
And the roughness, it could scrape off the skin.
Yeah, we actually spend a lot of time a few times a week, actually, especially Lloyd, would come over after work. Definitely after work, definitely not during work. And he would kneel on the floor and like, you know, inch by inch, I mean, like, literally inch by inch, he would sand away the he would sand the concrete, and then he would patch it up with the putty and then put the cement powder over it, and then sand it again, because that's what you need to do, as part of the process to get an even floor right. So only then did our floor become like very, very smooth.
And, you know, stepping on it today, you never would have guessed that, you know, prior to us doing all this, it was actually quite a mess. It looks great now, but I would say this right to people who are interested in getting a cement floor it's really not the easiest material to deal with. And if you want the cement floor, you must be able to be tolerant of irregularities and uncertainty of outcome.
If not, I would strongly suggest wooden or vinyl flooring or marble or something like that, because cement is very, very hard to deal with. And it's also very porous. So I was saying that, you know, just like, a couple of weeks ago, there was a cockroach on the floor. Lloyd unleashed a lot of Baygon on it. And that stain stayed on the floor for four days.
So it is very, it's a very porous material. And it also cracks a lot overtime. So I guess this is important for people to know. Because, you know, I know that a lot of people interested but it's also really quite a troublesome material. Although it looks great, and we don't regret it. Whether we would do it again in a different home is another question. Yeah.
It's very interesting. I mean, like if you pull it out to the slightly bigger picture, I always wondered why what was the reason for getting a cement floor? What was the main themes that you were looking at when you first moved in?
I think this one is a it's a bit like, I remember I wanted a wooden floor when I started and then even so much easier. Yeah, that's true. And a bit more expensive. But she asked me, you know, do you want to you want a wooden floor, but you also want to know what furniture then you know, like, how's that gonna work?
And so that's when I got introduced this concept, you know, that everything has to be you know, in balance and contrast is very important. If everything's wood, you know, it's not really the same, not really, that aesthetic. If everything's the same colour, you know, you don't really get the kind of effect that you want. So with everything being those, that wooden tones, actually, that grey of the concrete really sets it up very well in contrast very well.
Okay, so the key is contrast.
Yeah. So I guess it boils down to the idea of contrast. Yeah. Yeah. So with a cement floor, you know, your house essentially becomes a blank canvas. And that's exactly what we wanted. Because we were very interested in the idea of soft furnishing. Like filling our house with paintings and we didn't want anything to, to distract from, you know, like all the things that we were planning to do to the house after, you know, the basic renovation was done. So we wanted something that was as plain and simple as possible. Yeah.
Right. So I mean, speaking of filling your house with paintings, and you mentioned this earlier, but you know, when we met for the first time, are you talking about how the house adopts a maximalism approach? Perhaps if you could share a bit more about that?
Oh, okay. I, I guess I just, I used that term, because to me, it was the opposite of minimalism, right, which is something that we I'm quite averse to. Yeah, because I understand the appeal of minimalism. But I guess the important thing is to build a house around your habits, right? And rather than, you know, to, to live in a house, which is something that makes you feel vaguely uncomfortable, if at all, you know, and, and to me, like having to keep my mess to keep my cups is I mean, it's quite a stressful thing to think of. So, when I thought about what I wanted out of a house where I wanted a house that could encompass a lot of my clutter in my mess in a way that was more natural. And I wanted a house that was vibrant, and rich and comfortable and warm.
So that's when I thought okay, yeah, you know, why not just have all of that, you know, let's let's have as many plants as many paintings as many, like as many things that we want all over the place. And that's what I thought about this when I thought about the idea of you know, maximalism as as you know, as an opposing kind of style to to the ongoing trend of minimalism.
Yeah. Right. I mean, on top of that, like the open shelving and stuff as well, right, because that allows everything to be displayed is easy, available, accessible at any point in time.
Exactly. Yeah, we we really, like thought about the idea of you know, how, you know, I understand the idea of keeping your mess behind closed doors and having things that are like hidden or, you know, conceal a sealed or flushed, you
You can't be too practical with these things.
Yeah. So we decided that No, I mean, we want to show everything you know, we want, we want our clutter and our house to tell his own story. We want everything to have its own place in the house without being kept away. So yeah.
New rule whenever it tells you that oh, this is going to be concealed or flushed right? Don't do it. It'll probably look quite bad. Just don't do it. Why must you hide the handles on the cover? Just show the handles.
People are afraid of like dust collection, is it is an issue that you guys face. Like when you have open shelving right, you normally get like, dust build up, and all that stuff. It's something you've had over the past month so far.
Okay, so that? Yeah, that's a good question. Because actually, a lot of people discouraged us from having open shelving. I mean, in the name of practicality, they said that, yeah, dust collection, right. It's like super troublesome. But to be honest with you, I think this is only an issue if, let's say you have windows, your windows open all the time, and there's a road directly beneath you. And then like all of like the the dust actually like flies into your house.
But as it is, right now, whenever we wipe off shelves, which is basically once every like four months, there is not a lot of dust. Yeah. And so this brings me to my my point, right that, you know, if you if you if you're owning your first home, and you want to indulge yourself, just indulge yourself, you know, like, I think it's okay to not be so practical. Because of often enough, you know, pragmatism practicality gets in the way of, of an aesthetic that might make you feel happier about the space that you live in.
And I think it's important to just indulge yourself, especially as your first home. So we did this with the cement, we did this with our open shelves, would we do it again, in a new home with kids? Maybe not. But I like to know that we've done it before. And we're happy. And we've scratched that itch, so we can move on.
Right? So you guys were doing this COVID hit, right. So Circuit Breaker hit as you guys were, I think halfway through innovation is something that do you guys face major issues from that?
Uh, yeah, I saw I guess, as you know, you know, anyone doing reno during this period, or the circuit Bbreaker Period would have experienced a lot of disruption, you know, because of the sudden closing of the Malaysian borders and the Circuit Breaker period. So similarly for us, you know, our house was only like about 85% completed like two days before circuit breaker.
So the workers actually had to rush back to the border and had no choice but to leave some things unfinished. But these things were actually quite crucial like plumbing. So Lloyd was pretty resourceful. I managed to find some subcontractors in Singapore from Carousell who did the plumbing literally a day before circuit breaker. And so we moved in a day before circuit breaker because that was the point where our house finally became a fully functional and livable. And so just a few hours before circuit breaker, they were ah ok, water is running, we can move in. And at that point, you know, the house was relatively like quite unfurnished actually.
So we took our time, which we had a lot of to purchase, furniture and decor online. And, you know, we slowly then did our place over three months, as we speak, actually, our house is not even 100% complete, because there's some workers who are still stuck in Malaysia. They haven't been able to come back yet. But you know, we're not in a rush. I mean, we've lived with this for so long. And it does look like quite complete. So yeah, but it is strange to think that actually our house is not even 100% there yet.
Yeah, it's definitely an incredible experience. I think every like home, moving in journey is an experience of its own. But this is definitely been compounded by the whole COVID thing. Yeah, cement flooring as well. Speaking of which, I'm sure that you guys learn quite a bit of hacks along the way as well, maybe if you could share some of them with our listeners today. Maybe the ways that you manage a limited budget, right, because I think once you buy a new place most of the time, especially for younger couples, when we buy a new place, really, like most of the cash is really taken out of the bank. So we have very limited amount of finance left to work with regards to the interior design. And often those things transitions, like 5/10 years, and it never gets completed.
So I will say the first thing is, you know, always compare quotes from at least three IDs, or main contractors. And I would say like, at least three, because the difference between your most and least expensive quote could be about $30,000, which is a lot. And that was the difference between our most and least expensive quote. The second thing that I would say, which is both budget and a bit of an aesthetic thing is try to have less built ins, you know, like, I guess it's because built-ins are really expensive, especially cupboards, cupboards cost bomb.
And also because it allows you the flexibility to change things up whenever you want to. Build ins for some reason, right. build-ins also always lean towards being not so nice looking, I have no other better way to say this, I mean, but don't get me wrong, we have a lot of built ins. But you know, if I could like lessen the amount of build-ins, we didn't really have a choice, we needed to get built in cupboards, we couldn't, we didn't have the space to buy a nice vintage looking wardrobe. But if we did, I would have done that. So less build-ins is always good because you get more flexibility. And I would say you know, save on what you can if it's not absolutely crucial, right.
So for example, tiling is really expensive, which is something that we realised we would have loved to have black and white tiles everywhere. But that would have really, you know, set us back a fair bit. So I would say that, you know, like, look at different things. And don't assume that, you know, everything that's in your quote needs to be done. So we removed a lot of things actually. So, for example, when we looked at piping, we realised that actually exposed piping was not only cheaper, but could also be aesthetically better. Because we painted those black, so we decided to get exposed piping. Another thing that Lloyd would would agree on as well is you know, you can consider getting your own subcontractors, you know, from Carousell here and there, you know, a lot of like, subcontractors that you know that that put up ads on Carousell. And that's because you know, sometimes when you work with IDs, they do have a fixed number of like, I mean fixed up contractors under them already, and you have no choice but to work with them. And not only that, right, but they also have, they also have a very, they might have limited offerings on their end.
So for example, in terms of like the colours of doors, the type of doors, the type of tiles, so you always have a lot more flexibility in terms of budget and, and in terms of the visual selection, I suppose, if you if you get your own subcontract subcontractors that you can find on either online or on an app. And probably the most important thing is you know, when it comes to picking IDs or a main contractor, cost is important, but so is quality. So try to source for recommendations from your friends. Especially, you know, especially good if you can actually go with your friends homes and take a look at the work that's been done.
The reason why I'm saying this is because the reviews online may not be the most objective way of evaluating an ID. You know, for some reason, you go on websites, and there's just a lot of positive reviews but not enough negative or objective reviews that you can see it and this is really important because when I look at all these threads online, I realised that you know people are just surprised that the that, you know, the ID that they worked with and things didn't work out, you know, there was nothing on any of these people prior to engaging them.
And those reviews could be like plugged as well, right? I mean those...
It's all the marketing tactics.
You go to restaurants, for example, they're plugging their own reviews, they're getting their own people to do the reviews. So to find, to be objective, and therein going on to your point previously as well, sorry to interrupt, but I am a very firm believer in the fact that what you get what you pay for, and especially in a house, if you're going to pay if you're going to try and stinge in touch and see if that dollar one, you don't have a two years down the road, you might be ending up paying a lot more to , you know what, that little bit of money that you saved, before.
Yes, absolutely. I understand that a lot of us have, you know, budgetary requirements or concerns, but at the end of the day, really, quality is very, very important. So try not to compromise too much.
Got it. Just one final question, then maybe Lloyd you can take this one. So I know you're very passionate about this. So maybe if you could share a little bit more about certain space hacks that you guys have installed into your home.
Okay, so I think we got to the space, I think there are some things that we realised that were that worked for us quite well. So one of them was would they be used bi-fold doors. So we have, most people would use, we initially thought of using sliding doors to separate the space. But actually, you know, that takes a lot of space on the door itself with a bifold door, you can actually push the door all the way to the side. So I think that actually helps us to join the study in the living room, and also the first common bedroom and the master bedroom into one big space, or the two large spaces. So I think that's one of the main things that we can give advice for, try and use these bifold doors, they really do work.
The second thing is that I think empty space can be quite good. So we have a pretty large space between the study in the living room, which is, you know, totally unused, we kept thinking to ourselves and racking our brains about what we could put there. In the end, we couldn't think of anything, so we left it empty. But at the end of the day, after looking at it, it actually works, and it makes the whole space look a lot better. So that's something as well, you know, that if you have empty space that you can use, don't feel too bad about it. The last thing is that don't knock down all the walls if you can. So we initially wanted to do that.
But then the structural walls actually stopped us from doing it. But what happened was that, you know, it helped, because the walls was still they created all these little spaces for us to work and, and do other things and exercise. So I think that was actually a very, very good thing.
So now we have a study, we have another small nook to work near the bedroom, you know, and that is because of the structural walls that we have in place. So I think, if you advice by so homeowners is that if they if you do have all these walls, and you want to knock them down to create this large open space, just think about you know, like, let's say two of you are having conference calls, and then maybe if you've a kid as well, like, would you have enough spaces in the house to manage all of that, and probably you won't, if it's a big open plan, all walls knocked down kind of situation. So I think something we learned after the fact and it was basically the constraints of the house. But I think it's something that we would do again on our next space.
Right. And I think another thought just to add on to that as well as if you are going to be knocking down all your walls and you're like, Okay, 5 years later you're going to sell this flat, resale value might dip a little bit you might not get as much interest because Absolutely. So not everyone is into that as well. So yeah, great. Great point there so what I'm gonna do, guys, is I'm gonna link your Instagram handle as well. If you know it's @flat_bahru, right.
Mmm Yeah that's right.
So that's f-l-a-t underscore b-a-h-r-u. So do check them out on Instagram, Lloyd and Lauren. If you're interested to perhaps learn more about their space, see how their area looks like. We have a video coming out as well in the near future. So we will link it in once that's uploaded. In the meantime, guys, thank you so much for your time today. Really, really looking forward to getting this up. And we wish you all the best with your new work.
Hey, thanks for Thanks for having us.
Thanks, Reuben. Thanks for having us today.
Once again, that was Lauren and Lloyd a very lovely newlywed couple who has taken time off they're very busy schedules to share a little bit more about what moving into their house for the very first time earlier this year actually entailed. Now as always, if you like what you listen to, you can always hop on to stackedhomes.com/editorial for more of us. And if you have any comments, queries or suggestions, feel free to drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. With that, I'll see you in the next episode. Take care and goodbye for now.
Once again that's @flat_bahru dot com. Eh no not dot com.
Dot com.sg dot govt. It's okay Reuben, when you said it, you said it right the first time already. So that's all that matters.