Renovation Diary: Signed and sealed. Now what?

10 months!

I’ve kept it under wraps for that long. But no more.

As an apartment dweller for the last 18 years, I never imagined myself owning a little bit of soil with a skinny house on top. It still feels strange some times. Like it’s mine but not quite, if you know what I mean. Surreal.

But first, back story. I was in the market for a 3-bedroom apartment, as my current 2-bed-1-bath is rather constricting. When family and friends stay over, the one bathroom is a challenge. I vividly remember my nephew, then 5, banging on the bathroom door when I was washing my hair, or doing the no. 2 or something, screaming, “Aunty! I need to pee pee. NOW!”

I also wanted a more defined home office space. My current “office” is sandwiched between my kitchen and living room and it’s hard to stop work when the workstation is there. In my face. All the time. Whether I’m cooking, eating or lounging, it beckons. And being the workaholic that I am, it’s so dang hard to draw definite lines between work and home. (See a photo of it here) So I began having very real fantasies of a “proper” home office. You know, with my papers and work stuff all in one room and not distributed between my kitchen, guest room and bedroom. That would be perfect and good for my sanity.

I viewed many apartments and even paid a booking fee for one. Then one day out of the blue it hit me. With the price I’m paying for a condominium with fancy facilities, why not get a house instead? It’s not like I ever go swimming in the pool or use the barbecue pits? (Which you should, by the way, if you own a fancy condominium. Slice through the waters and roast hotdogs and sweet potatoes over the fire, to get your money’s worth from the monthly maintenance fees.)

I believe the thought was divine, it was a God-nudge to free me from my own constricting view of life. After the moment of clarity, I was on to houses. The search started end-2016 and in April 2017, I found a house I couldn’t stop thinking about. I viewed many, but it always came back to this one.

House Seventeen.

I knew I was smitten.

After a few rounds of negotiations, I inked the deal. Scary, for a commitment phobe like me. But I did it. Like an adult and all.

Then, reality hit. For the next 10 months, I saved every spare penny I could. Because I pretty much smashed the piggy to death to pay for the downpayment, fees and what not. As much as I wanted to get on with it (I heard you, Mom!), I couldn’t because renovations are SO FREAKING EXPENSIVE! Give me a knowing nod, if you agree.

Okay. With that off my chest, on to happier things.

House 17 Renovation Diary starts today!

First up, photos of the house! They are not pretty, nothing staged, styled or even cleaned. (I know, lazy ass me) These are BEFORE shots, okay. There are old furniture left behind by the previous owner, even some crumbling IKEA pieces (I’m half wondering whether that’s the reason I fell for this house.)

House 17 is only 17 years old. So don’t bother to look for character.

Layout and ‘before’ photos

This is the original layout of the house. The previous owners made a few changes — they removed two walls (circled blue) and re-sited the door (green). The rest is pretty much intact.

Now, please step inside my soon-to-be humble abode. First thing you’ll see is the living room on your right. And stairs leading to the second floor. I love those stairs so much!

House 17 Renovation Diary starts today

Next to the stairs is the dining space (which I think is odd and will move it further into the house). And after the dining area is a room on the right which I will turn into my home office. On the left is a dry kitchen. A what? you might ask.House 17 Renovation Diary starts today

What’s a dry kitchen? And is there a wet one?

A dry kitchen is a very Asian thing. In many houses, you’ll find two kitchens. One for light cooking such as making toast, boiling pasta and other types of cooking where your makeup won’t run. And then there the wet kitchen … the fiery furnace where kung-po chicken, sweet and sour pork, kangkung sambal belacan and all sorts of wok-king and cling-clanging happen. Asian cooking is a terribly messy affair, with the aftermath akin to an oil spill. Wet kitchens are usually closed off from the main portion of the house or even sited outside the house, in the yard. Yes, it’s the original open air cooking. And you hose down the floor and tiles afterwards. Easy peasy kitchen cleaning.

House 17 Renovation Diary starts today

Dry kitchen aka show kitchen. Where you show your guests what a pretty kitchen you have. And make tea and serve them biscuits.

And the wet kitchen, where you get dirty and oily and nasty, behind closed doors. In all fairness, the wet kitchen in House 17 is not such a hell-hole. I can’t imagine the previous owners stirring a cauldron of boiling curry in this.

House 17 Renovation Diary starts today

The cabinets looks decent in photos but IRL the condition is less than perfect. Some parts are peeling, scuffed and worn. So come Monday, I (more accurately, my contractor) will be gleefully demo-ing all of this. I do want to keep the handles for some DIY projects though.

House 17 Renovation Diary starts todayOut through the kitchen doors, you’ll see this open area which was used as a laundry space. (Sorry about the bouquet of mop+brooms.) I do have a few ideas for this space, which does not involve laundry.

What’s upstairs?

Moving on up to the second floor. Once you reach the top of the stairs, you’ll see what they call a family hall. Many use this type of space as a second, more private, living room. For me, I don’t really know what to make of this space yet. Any thoughts?

House 17 Renovation Diary starts today

On the left of the family hall is the master bedroom, which takes up almost half of the top floor. It is huge. The placement of the windows are a bit of a pain but I love how much light this room gets. Those wall sconces are too high, you reckon?

House 17 Renovation Diary starts today

The last photo I have for you today is the ensuite. It’s not as big as I would like it but adequate. Not into the style though. I’m envisioning a more luxurious and indulgent vibe.

House 17 Renovation Diary starts today

Now what?

I thought making the decision to buy the house would be the hard part, but I’m starting to realise that’s the easy bit. Since embarking on the project, the number of decisions I need to make have jumped ten-, twenty-fold. Every step of the way. there are so, so, so many decisions to be made. Size, colour, materials, style, costs. Always costs. With many variables, it’s not easy to get the mix right. I’m quite certain I’ll be making some, if not a lot of, mistakes a long the way.

I know you guys are a creative bunch and may have a lot more reno experience under your belt, so I’d be super appreciative of any advice you have. You can comment here below or head on over to Instagram for House 17 Renovation Diary updates as they happen. I need all the ideas and input I can get. Thanks guys. Let’s get this baby in shape.

In Renovation Diary part 2, I’ll share my vision and renovation plans. Stay tuned.

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  1. Congratulations with your new home! I do not have any advice to offer, but I am looking forward tot see what you will do with it.

  2. Congrats with your new home! Having recently bought and renovated a house myself I can totally imagine what you’re going through now. Just know that you’ll be broke but happy and definitely far more experienced in anything renovation-related you can imagine very, very soon! Don’t forget to enjoy it!

  3. I feel as though the family room could be a flexible space that mostly gets used by your visitors. A sofa bed for an extra sleeping space? Somewhere for the guests to retreat to when they need a little time out? A spot for you to relax in when you feel like being even further away from your office – or when you have lots of visitors at once and have to give up your office for someone to sleep in?

  4. A new home is always exciting! Even when you know that you will need that second job to make its’ dreams come true! I would fix that family hallway into an office/guest bedroom area. A daybed, a really lovely desk with cabinets painted with a sea scene. It is so easy now to do pretty faux painting. That way, your work would be close, but away-and still be a nice place for guests. The dry/wet kitchens are interesting. Pre-airconditioning, even very wealthy homes had “summer” kitchens that were outside the main home. It kept the heat away from the house, and had the added benefit of canning and meat curing being easily cleaned up. I love the look of your new home-it will be fun to see the changes!

  5. Congratulations!
    The family room could be with the supposed sofa and then: just spacy room.
    My sister has an enjoyable big entrance. My other sister a very small one. I have a corridor of 1m20 x 3m. Free space in your house is so pretty.

  6. How exciting for you, congratulations! I have moved many many times and have found that each house I live in has a rhythm. I usually give myself three or four months to see the patterns I have in the space. For example, where do I drop my keys;where’s my favourite place to sit in the sun; where is the best place to put on my makeup? You will find the use of your space will become much easier to figure out. Best part, take your time and have fun? Can’t wait to see and hear of your adventures. All the best!

  7. If I could send a couple of messages back in time to myself when doing our renovations it would be: “Get good shoes” and “Choose a more muted tone of paint colour”. Good luck, forget the mistakes, listen to contractors but make sure they listen to you and enjoy.

  8. I would use the family hall as a comfortable place to watch tv/play games. I like that it would keep media separate from sleeping and social spaces but still centralized enough for entire household to view.

  9. I would make the top area a cozy reading nook. Maybe add some art, a rug, floor lamp, chair and bookshelves. That place has a lot of potential.

    I recently bought my first house earlier this year before I wrote the hack “the brassy bureau” and haven’t looked back. I had a project going on every weekend it seemed and love being able to have complete control of doing what I want.

    The coolest thing is you will hit a point and look back only to realize how different your place is and how far you have come. My place looks nothing like it did when I moved in. It has changed one small project after another.

  10. Me and my gf have bought a flat recently, and now we have to break all walls, and do everything again, although we are still with permission to work and the architect has just given his approval, I read your lines and I identify a lot .

  11. I would renovate Family hall into a room where you could express your hobby and creativity e.g music or art. The master bedroom has an attractive and big open space which is good.

  12. I’m captivated by your renovation journey! The meticulous details and personal touches you’re incorporating truly make it a unique and inspiring project. The challenges you’ve faced and overcome resonate with many, including myself. Looking forward to following the progress in your renovation diary. It’s not just a home makeover; it’s a story unfolding, and I’m eager for the next chapter!

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