home for the books 

It has been about a month since I’ve moved into the new home, and during this period of acclimatising, I have also gotten a bookcase from IKEA. It probably isn’t the best in terms of quality or design, but the simplicity fits my needs, at least for now, and overall it seems like it belongs to the room and my home. So this is where it sits, in a corner of the room just next to the windows. It probably isn’t such a great idea, considering that the constant sunshine would invariably have some effect on books that I keep in the bookcase, e.g. causing the covers of my books to fade. But my flat is really tiny, and with the positioning of the wardrobe and also an armchair that I have put into the room, there really isn’t any other space that I could think of. You could also think of it that where furniture arrangement is concerned, I am not the most imaginative or creative. This also happens when we are buying ready-to-use furniture pieces and not custom-building or putting in shelves at creative spots on the walls.

It’s also why I have decided to pick a bookcase with doors, which increases the total cost of it, since this bookcase on its own would have been much more affordable, especially if I were to get it in white. However, I decided to opt for Birch Veneer and added doors with half glass/half opaque panels, hoping to keep out the dust, and also so that I may “hide” the messiness of the shelves where they are unseen.Before the shelves were populated, everything looks so nice and clean. Now that I have gotten most of the unpacking done throughout the flat, it doesn’t seem like I have that much space anymore. It was a tedious process unpacking the clothes, but the other knick-knacks were also not easy because I had to think of where I should put all of them, not wanting to just stash and stuff them all over the place. I wanted to at least consolidate like items in just one place so that they would not become ‘forgotten’ and start accumulating in hidden areas for me to discover years later, while at the same time making me turn into the hoarder that I was at my old home.

To be honest, I do not have that many books that would require such a huge bookcase, but it was other stuff like notebooks, papers and random items that took up the bulk of space in it. Those I have relegated to the bottom shelves that are not visible when the doors are closed, reserving the visible shelves for the remaining books that I have kept. A lot of them have yellowed with age and some have become so badly-spotted that for fear of any micro-organisms growing between the pages, I have decided to just throw them away despite that some of them hold memories especially the novels that I read for Literature during my secondary school days that contained lots of scribbled notes and explanations.

Anyway, I got IKEA to help me assemble this, and they were extremely efficient in putting it together, probably with the benefit of consistent practice and the right tools. Although I had to pay $38 for the assembly on top of the delivery charges, I felt that it’s worth it, because at a height of about 2m, it was recommended that I mount the bookcase to the wall in case it topples, so I just paid them to get everything done! Self-assembly isn’t that easy, which I tried for a step-stool that I got and put together on my own, which caused callouses on my palms due to the strength that I have to apply while fastening the bolts and screws!

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Commune Living

The Scandinavian theme is all the rage in home decor of late, aside from the industrial chic look that we have been seeing in many local (and overseas) cafes. It is considerably overused and tired, I know, but I suppose if it’s something that I fancy, why shouldn’t I adopt it for my home even if almost everyone else’s home is like that? After all, I don’t think two homes will be alike, with the personal touches that one adds to his/her own abode. I didn’t really get an interior designer to do up my place, even though initially my plan was to do so. To cut a long story short, it didn’t work out as planned, and so I kind of put together a mish-mash of home decor items; whether or not they conform to a Scandinavian theme probably does not matter anymore as long as I think the pieces generally fit together.

If I had my way, and if I had the luxury of a bigger space and of course a bigger budget, I would have bought more items from Commune Home. I really love their dark wood furniture but many of them tended to be quite large and would look over-sized for my tiny apartment. I wasn’t able to keep to an overall light shade for my living room due to my TV console and sofa that actually were a darker shade of natural oak and sort of mahogany respectively, but as a self-consolation, the ‘dining area’ boasts a lighter shade, whereas the ‘living area’ features a darker wood tone.

The bedroom was easier, because it’s smaller and there are fewer pieces of furniture involved. As the divan/bed frame that I got together with the mattress were of a fairly dark grey colour, I could afford a darker colour in choosing a bedside table. I contemplated not having one but ended up getting one anyway, which at the moment is still missing a table lamp. If I had not gotten the table, I would probably have gotten a standing lamp but standing lamps seem harder to find and of course, if and when I eventually get one, it would be harder to transport home.

After looking around a few places, I decided on a square table. Round bedside tables are few and far between, especially when I am not that imaginative in prospecting for pieces that could be used as bedside tables. I’ve seen people using various items creatively as a nightstand but they seem to lack a sense of permanence and I wanted something more clean-looking, so I picked a conventional table.

Commune was running a sale during the year-end, and after looking around a bit more, I decided to get one of their pieces which was priced at 20% discount. It still isn’t considered cheap at about $320 but at least I saved 20%. And it’s pretty solid, seeing as to how small it looks, it actually weighs quite a fair bit.It fits nicely into the little space that I kept between the bed and the curved wall of my bedroom, which made furniture-arrangement a little of a challenge.
The table comes with a single drawer, which is a little shallow despite of how it looks. But I don’t suppose it would pose any problem because I don’t have any plans for it at the moment. As time goes by, I figure that things will start to accumulate, but I really need to be more mindful of the things that I have and keep, to housekeep and spring-clean more regularly and not go back to the hoarding ways! I shudder to think of the sheer amount of things that I accumulated in my old place, over a period of more than 20 years. In that small space that 4 of us shared, while we were packing to move, we threw away so much but yet when it came to shifting, there were still lots to move.

Glimpses of it coming together 

So… after what seemed like eternity to many people, and even perhaps to myself, things are starting to fall into place. Not the job situation, unfortunately, but rather the home renovation. I have put off talking about it for the longest time because oddly, when quizzed about it by concerned people around, it gets me into a frenzy and zips me straight into defensive mode. I don’t know why, but it just frazzles my nerves when people start to ask “Why is it taking so long?” and even worse, when some well-meaning family members started to lend their help somewhere along the way and began with statements like “You should have thought of…” Yes, technically, I should have. But how would I have been able to, and why didn’t you right at the beginning? I don’t even want to venture into that territory so let’s just let it go and rest in peace.

I think I still don’t want to talk too much about it. In certain things, I choose to remain fairly private. There are many things I can talk openly about, right here on this blog, but then this is one topic I would probably prefer to reserve on. It cuts a little too close for comfort maybe. But I can still share on some of the good stuff that emerged.

Initially, places that I started shopping at for furniture include just IKEA and some online websites that I chanced upon while browsing Facebook. But there are so many furniture shops all over Singapore. One day when I was at Suntec, checking out other stuff, we stumbled upon this row of shops that showcased rather pretty-looking pieces. One of them had really steep prices and most of the furniture belonged to the modern, contemporary sort that would have looked nice but probably did not fit so well into what I envisioned for my place. One shop carried many wooden pieces, actually I think all their furniture are made of wood, and some pieces caught my eye. The prices weren’t exactly affordable either but they were not as high as some others that I have seen, such as those really beautiful ones in Millenia Walk, the likes of Grafunkt, etc.

Finally, after returning to the shop a second time on a separate occasion, I settled on the TV console that I had been searching high and low for. I had wanted to keep most of the furniture light-coloured to maintain a consistency but decided to just heck it because I really love this very much.Pardon the red plastic bag at the bottom left corner of the picture. This photo is a little over-exposed but the console is made of walnut and comes in quite a dark ashy-brown shade. It is also extremely solid and heavy, and I adore its simplicity and also how well-made I felt it to be. The drawers have those anti-slamming thing built into them so that you could push them shut and they would slowly and gently slide close. ^_^

It, of course, also got the approval of the family who complimented the console for looking great despite it being really plain and simple.

On the same day that I took delivery of the console, who were really prompt in making the delivery, I also waited (a much longer time though) for the sofa and ottoman set, and dining table to be delivered. This proved to be a much longer affair because they had to assemble the items on delivery whereas the console come as one single piece that they removed from the box and just heaved it into my living room.

So this was the sofa that I finally decided on, a charcoal grey 2-seater (ottoman not pictured). The legs are a sort of mahogany brown, which still doesn’t match either the console or dining, but I have decided to stop thinking about that for now. The sofa cushions are the firm sort, so I won’t have those plushy soft sofas to sink my butt into. The bonus was that instead of 2 throw cushions, I realised I have 4! I think the delivery people didn’t know there were already throw cushions wrapped into the sofa itself, so they passed me another 2 when they came. Oh well.
Due to the dining light that is shining at the sofa from the left contrasted against the natural sunlight coming from the right, I think the colour doesn’t turn out so obvious. But then it’s still the darkest thing around the living room. I had expected my wall to turn out a little darker but actually the shade of paint I had chosen was decidedly ok and didn’t make my living room look too dark and small. 🙂

Even as things are started to come together, as I begin to put things in perspective and pack for the move, I realise that there are still so many things outstanding that I need to sort out and buy. Buying a new home and renovating it is no easy piece of cake, especially when you are going it almost alone. I don’t know how life will turn out at that point when I really make the move, which I have been trying to delay, consciously or unconsciously. After all, I have never really lived apart from my family, despite that I used to travel regularly. Then, I still have a home that I return to with my family in it. From this point on, it will just be me.

Packing is another nightmare. After living in the current place for more than 20 years, even for such a tiny flat, we have accumulated volumes of things that would probably put the greatest hoarder to shame. At least for me,.I think I keep too many items as memorabilia. Although it might be nice to keep them if I had the space and also time to arrange them, it just doesn’t serve that much purpose anymore. It pains me a little to throw some things away, not just because I am a hoarder but because some of those things trigger memories and offer sentimental value, and making choices on what to keep and what to bin seem like the hardest decision to take. Sigh. That said, it can be quite a cathartic process packing and dumping a whole lot of things as mountains of paper bags containing little knick-knacks start to grow smaller day by day.

Seoul’s autumn foliage 

We all need to take breaks. And this usually involves travel, for most people, Singaporeans in particular. Somehow, perhaps due to the fact that Singapore is really small and there are limited things that we can do domestically, most of us count wanderlust as one of our traits. It also helps that we are quite well-situated to travel to many places, Singapore is generally well-connected by flights, budget or otherwise, to many cities in the world, and our passport offers general easy visa-free access to many countries.

I have progressed to taking several holidays within a year. I do not belong to the demographic group that can survive on one long trip each year, so I break my annual leave entitlement into several smaller trips. I would love to take many long trips, but that just isn’t possible for office folks with limited annual leave, and also finances-wise.

Recently, I just went to Seoul for a short 5-day vacation, because my friend couldn’t afford more days of leave, and our main objective of heading there was the autumn foliage. It was good timing, because when we went, leaves were mostly turning a brilliant shade of red, especially on Nami Island where most headed for such views. This photo had a filter from the built-in filter of my phone, but it just enhances the beauty of the view, as there was insufficient sunlight to give the photo a natural brightness it would need to look good.

October seemed so long ago, even it’s less than 2 months since the trip. I feel so tired and drained these days, while I busy myself with tying up loose ends of the renovation, which is one of the most difficult things to handle, shop for furniture and schedule for deliveries while juggling with the remnants of renovation. These, in addition to visualising and deciding on how I want certain things to be, where I want to have certain items, and what I would need, so on and so forth. Owning a place is a lot of work and considerations, and it has left me utterly exhausted, not to mention frustrated and spent.

On top of all this, balancing my usual routine and life has also proven tumultuous. I don’t know if I suck at multi-tasking, but aside from what renovating and furnishing the place needs of my time and energy, it is a challenge keeping to work, yoga and my usual attempts to meet up with friends, even if there are many occasions where they aren’t able to make it because their lives are just busier. So someone told me, if they do not appreciate my effort, then just don’t try anymore. Yes, I should try to practice that, and keep to it.

Renovation woes

Life is indeed a journey. Nobody forewarned me about the potential frustration and grieve that renovating a home would entail.

Instinct would have told me to pick the easy way out, as I was always inclined to when it comes to things I am unfamiliar with. After all, it is easier to have someone ‘in-the-know’ so to speak, to handle everything right? But after some suasion from the family, I chose the more challenging route. What is life without some challenges to make us grow tougher and stronger… no? It was as if life wasn’t already tough enough that I had to make this choice. On hindsight, we all have perfect vision. However, we seldom have the benefit of hindsight upfront.

My flat’s renovation is probably one of the longest ever heard. What was supposed to be a simple retrofitting of a small apartment became a massive case of project and people management, for me. I suck as a project manager in things that I haven’t a clue about, because much as I am supposed to exercise ‘professional skepticism’ as part of my job, it really isn’t me to question the intent of everyone I meet. I tend to put on rose-tinted glasses and assume that everyone has a good heart.

After what seemed like forever, the part of the renovation undertaken by the contractor/ID is drawing to an end. So the story was that I split up the works, some of it outsourced to a contractor/ID who is supposed to be a friend of a relative, and the rest of it done ‘in-house’ by my dad, the most trust-worthy contractor you can ever find, honest to goodness.

Although this is supposed to be an ID of sorts, what they really did was the carpentry work, and some odds and ends. They didn’t really do much design, as it ended up that in terms of colour scheme, where to do what and how, it was mostly from me. And when they told me that everything is done, this was what we found in the kitchen.On the left of this panel is a set of cabinets overhanging the sink. To the right is where the cooker hood is, and because I have a chimney, I was told that typically the chimney isn’t covered so they just left the top over the hob empty, with the backsplash covering the wall up to where the hood hung. The rest was just the grout-filled-with-grime tiles, offering a stark contrast between the old and new. And they left this panel as it was. My relative insisted to the ID that this is unacceptable, even if the bulk of the work we are getting them to do is carpentry, the cabinets would have involved a bit of design, which covers aesthetics. This was just aesthetically displeasing.

Below was another hiccup. There was a stove top that I had wanted to replace and put in new cabinets, so part of the work of the contractor was to hack away the stove top. I wanted to change the tiles for the whole unit, which the contractor quoted a fee for that my dad deemed too pricey (by his standards). So since that wasn’t rocket science, he got one of his friends to do it, which was eventually completed at a much lower cost and just within 2 days (washrooms and kitchen). Because this task was carved out from the contractor’s original quote, they stated that flooring/tiling is not part of their responsibility, and so whatever resulted or was left behind by them when the stove top was hacked off and removed also was not their duty.
This, they said, was something I had to mend/patch back. Thankfully, my relative managed to pull some weight with her friend (who is the owner of the firm and not the project manager by the way) and they settled it, along with the first boo-boo above where they covered up the offending panel to complement the look of the cabinets.

There were still other things that have cropped up during the renovation phase that made me want to throw in the towel and give up. But what can I do? I couldn’t just forfeit whatever has been paid and get a brand new contractor. Plus the fact that I already had caused some strain within the family because this contractor was supposed to be a friend of my relative. I didn’t want to make matters worse, and for some things, they were deemed ‘OK’ by my relative so I had to therefore compromise…

Lesson learned – I should just have stuck to my gut instinct at the start and got someone else to do the work instead. It might have been cleaner and more straightforward.

Furniture Shopping (part 2)

Following the earlier post on shopping for sofas, I re-considered the colour of the sofa that I should buy because I thought that against a wall painted in a fairly dark shade of grey, a light grey sofa or a blue sofa may create too much distraction. I tried searching online for some ideas of sofa colours that would suit a dark wall, and the general opinion seems that if I’m furnishing a small room, it may be better to stick to a colour that would blend into the wall, which could help to alleviate the possibility of the living area appearing congested or crammed. The contrast in colour of the sofa would make it stand out, if that’s the intention, but I think I would rather create the impression of a larger room, due to the tight space availability.

Well, maybe you would ask why I would choose to paint my wall a dark shade of grey then, since dark colours are generally supposed to make spaces appear smaller, which is exactly what I wouldn’t want. But I’m not painting the whole living room grey, it’s just one slab of wall, which happens to be the one that the sofa would be backed up against.

Furnishing a home, according to many, is fun and exciting. But for someone like me who can get extremely fickle, it is nothing short of a headache, even if there are not that many pieces that I have to think about. One other challenge is the size of the furniture, as my living area is small and is in a longish-rectangular shape.

That said, it’s something necessary and I think when everything’s settled, I hope I can look at the end product and give myself a pat on the back for a job well done.

For some time, I have refrained from talking about my new home, whether it was during the scouting and prospecting phase, the purchasing phase, the renovation phase (that is thankfully nearing the end, I hope, with fingers tightly-crossed), and of course the furnishing phase. I have left out the cleaning and moving in phases, because I am not looking forward to having to clean up the flat when everything’s done, and making that final transit to moving in, permanently. So why do I talk about it now? Maybe I have nothing else to really write about, or that I feel like writing about. Or maybe I think it’s not that big a deal to have to keep it secret. Well there are a lot of ‘maybes’.

So… after the long mulling on the sofa, I decided to go for the bundled option of a sofa with the ottoman, hoping that the ottoman could perhaps double as a side/coffee-table (with a tray on-top) if necessary, or otherwise it could just be a seat for visitors, since I am getting a small 2-seater. I considered taking the light grey, but I checked with the vendor, who informed that they could only deliver it in January, which is not ideal because I planned to have everything ready, hopefully by the end of 2015. So I picked the dark grey, or as they call it, charcoal.

Hanford Bundle_charcoal

I went down to the shop today and paid for the above. The sales person attending to me told me I had 48 hours to re-think the choice of colour, and if I really wanted the light grey, I can opt to have it, but would have to wait till end January for delivery.

So now that is something that weighs on my mind, at least for the next 48 hours until everything gets cast in stone. And then I recalled that I had another option, or at least that is what I think I may have, which I had not checked with the sales person. I saw another sofa in the online catalogue that looked nice too. Tracy Loveseat_charcoal

Yes, I know. Itchy backside. I didn’t see it at the showroom when I popped by to make the purchase of the earlier sofa. I think this one looks good too, but I don’t know how it would feel, in terms of the firmness of the seat cushions. I should go and find out.

Furniture shopping

Was tossing between this:

Hanford Bundle

And this:picket & rail_kuka

To be honest, I can’t really remember how both felt when I sat on them, on 2 separate occasions, in 2 different showrooms. Tried searching online for reviews of their brands, to not much results. Hmm. Furniture shopping is indeed a headache, even when there aren’t that many pieces that I am considering to add to my tiny little home. I’m thankful for that at least. But the sofa is going to be one major item that will sit in the living room so it will be an important decision to make.