Home Designing 101

By Esther Rachel Lai. - 8/14/2018

(Photo credit: @nataliewongphotography)

As some of you may know, I designed my own home with the help of my uncle and though I'm no Interior Designer, I thought it'll still be useful if I could chime in with my graphic design background to provide some tips in a layman's point of view based on my own home designing experience! Pretty sure some of you homeowners-to-be might find this post useful so here goes!


Don't dive in like a headless chicken


This might sound like a no-brainer, but really, before getting the keys to your own home, do some research on the different styles and source for looks you really like. Going to your ID without any clue on what you want is risky since design is subjective. It's good to have a rough idea on what you envision your home to look like so that your ID can better advise you instead of having to guess what you'd like. One good platform to source for interior design inspirations is Pinterest. Create a board of looks you like and start pinning away! To get a grasp on what's do-able for our cookie-cutter HDB apartments, it's also good to look at what other people are doing on sites like Qanvast or Renopedia!

You don't always have to stick to one theme

(Photo credit: Singapore Interiors)

Themed houses are all the rage these days, from clean minimalist to bold industrial but that doesn't mean you NEED to stick to one theme. It's fine to mix it up and find something that you'd ultimately love (guess how the scandustrial design came about?). It's perfectly fine to pick a little bit from here and there to make something completely new and completely yours as long as in the end, everything gels well! Or why not different themes for different living spaces? The beauty of design is that there is no one way to do it!

Bear in mind, this is where's you'll live the next few years

(Photo credit: homeanddecor)

Trends come and go but your home is a place you have to come back to every day for the next few years until you decide to move out (for BTO homeowners, that's 5 years at least). You might love Hello Kitty to bits and want to adorn your home in Hello Kitty wallpaper from floor to ceiling and while nobody's to tell you what's right and what's wrong, it's always advisable to pick a design that's timeless, one that you know you won't get sick of and can grow with as you enter different stages in life (e.g. starting a family etc.). Or if you decide that your home really MUST reflect your love for something, at least do it tastefully like the above!

Expensive doesn't necessarily equate to nice


Many people have the common misconception that to have a nice home, you'd have to spend a bomb,  use all the expensive materials and buy designer furniture but you'll learn that it almost always isn't the case. With online shopping now at your fingertips, you'll find that when it comes to decor and furnishing, you can get a lot of the same kind of items at a fragment of the price! It always pays to put a little effort into sourcing and price comparison! At the end of the day, it's how you bring the elements to come together. Recklessly amassing $100,000 worth of expensive stuff for the sake of it and trying to fit them together can easily make your home look shabby in comparison to a $35,000 home that's well-planned and put together!


Work with what you have

(Photo credit: Qanvast)

It is unfortunate that majority of us in Singapore are provided with cookie-cutter apartments but that doesn't mean it's all that bad! If you chose to opt in to the fittings provided by HDB in order to save cost, fret not! You can always work backwards and find a design / choose colours to fit what's already there instead! Also, instead of hacking your existing HDB-provided flooring, overlay them instead! It's more cost-efficient that way!

Deciding on open concept or not?

(Photo credit: Renonation)

Personally, I'm a huge huge fan of open concept spaces and if I could, I would hack all the walls in my home to create one big living space that's segmented in ways other than a wall but we all know that open spaces while visually appealing, can end up being impractical. So instead, consider having collapsible partition to give you the fluidity of having both options or opt for glass panels so you can get both aesthetics and practicality!

Go bold or go safe!

(Photo credit: Hipvan)

Don't be afraid to experiment with loud, attention-grabbing hues or patterns but always balance it out (e.g. if a part of your walls are covered in unique prints, keep the rest of the area simple)! When in doubt, seek a second opinion from someone you believe has a good eye for design & if you're still in two minds after, then just remember, it's better safe than sorry! Chances are, you definitely can't go wrong if you choose the safer option :)

Find an interior designer you can trust

I would say, always trust your interior designer to make the right decisions for you but we all know that not all interior designers do a good job and some homeowners have even fallen victim to scams so if you're thinking of getting an interior designer, make sure you do thorough research or have someone who's done up their home before to recommend one to you! (Here's also where I shamelessly plug my uncle into this post, he's had over a decade of experience so if you're looking for an I.D, you can just hit me up or go to my home tour blogpost where you can find his contact!)

Pay attention to detail!

(Photo credit: Renonation)

From the kind of wood to the toilet fittings you choose, even the kind of rug you put in your living room can make a huge difference! A little detail can go a long way especially when it comes to filling up your home with decor! Instead of filling up your house with random little pieces here and there, consider choosing bigger pieces to lure the viewer's eyes instead. This way, it'll look a lot less like clutter! Plants are also a really good idea to add a refreshing touch to your home, just make sure you're able to maintain them if you're getting live plants!

Good design is functional

(Photo credit: @nataliewongphotography)

At the end of the day, good design should be practical. So whatever design you decide to go with, make sure you're gonna live happily in it! Don't discount on functionality for aesthetics that will end up inconveniencing you everyday!


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