My BTO renovation was stressful. Learn from my mistakes.

12 min read

I recently moved into my four-room BTO flat in Tampines. It’s freaking awesome, but it took a stressful renovation to get here.

Don’t get me wrong, the final product is almost exactly how I pictured it and the pipes and cabinets are intact. But damn, I was racked with anxiety and paranoid for two months – and when you’re dropping thousands of dollars on something so crucial, you have every right to be.

BTO reno blank canvas
My four-room HDB flat in Tampines, pre-reno.

As my husband and I have 9-to-5 jobs, we engaged an interior designer (ID) to execute the renovation. We chose a young ID firm with positive reviews, a decent portfolio and a reasonable quotation. The fact that they were young did not deter me; after meeting many young designers during my stint in the interior-design industry, I knew hiring one could result in a wonderful collaboration.

What made it stressful was this lethal combination: We were too nice (as our friends kept telling us), and they were too sloppy.

Read this: We asked 7 homeowners about their renovation regrets

The initial stage

The ID had us fill a questionnaire of what we liked and disliked, and our priorities, among other things. We were very clear about what we wanted: a simple canvas with several elements that would make our home less cookie-cutter. My husband is a cooking enthusiast, so naturally, we envisioned the kitchen to be the focus of our home.

Discussions with the project manager and designer were always open, fun and productive. As we were all in our 20s and 30s, it felt much easier to share our ideas. They also listened attentively to our needs and were understanding of our budget.

But things started heading downhill when the renovation began. Here’s (almost) everything that went wrong.

#1 Multiple and continuous errors in the quotations

There were errors in the quotations from the very start, which should have been a warning sign. We didn’t let it affect us because we figured they were busy, there were so many items on the list, it’s still a work in progress, blah blah blah.

Mistake one.