(Photo: Kevin Lim)
Left high and dry by their rogue interior designer and $54,000 poorer, Mr Abdul Halil and his wife, Ms Stevanie Nur Rindyanie, were resigned to living in a partially renovated flat until they could scrape together more money for a redo.
It would have taken them another year to save up $10,000 for some basic renovation work.
But, thanks to electronics and furniture retailer Courts, its partner, interior design firm Ciseern by Designer Furnishings, and another interior design firm, Aart Boxx Interior, the couple now have a completely renovated and fully furnished home, an executive Housing Board flat in Woodlands.
The companies provided the couple with free appliances and design services.
Their plight – they said they had paid interior designer David Toh to do up their house, but he disappeared about two months after the renovation started – was published in The Straits Times in November.
For two months, Ms Stevanie, 33, had to squat over a cutting board and a temporary stove to cook in the kitchen as there were no work counters or cabinets.
(Photo: The Straits Times)
The family – the couple have three children aged 14, nine and four – had to dodge loose wires dangling from the ceiling in the toilets. One of the renovation workers even poured cement down the toilet bowl as he was angry about not being paid.
Last year, the couple engaged Mr Toh of Arts Design & Space Interior Studio after finding him on Carousell, an online marketplace.
While he brought in workers to start the renovation, they stopped turning up after about two months. He also went missing.
Mr Halil, 42, an environmental health and safety officer, could not reach him on the phone. When The Straits Times spoke to him, Mr Toh said "the matter was settled" before hanging up.
Mr Halil has filed a police report and a claim with the Small Claims Tribunals.
After reading about the couple's situation, Courts and Ciseern decided to help. About two years ago, they started Courts Design Studio, which provides customised interior design, renovation and furnishing packages.
Ms Jasmine Seow, 40, marketing director of Courts Singapore, says: "We really empathised with them when we saw the pictures. No one should be left in the lurch like that. Courts and Ciseern have the resources to help, so we knew we had to do something."
Courts Design Studio provided $13,000 worth of services and products, including a cooker hob and hood. They also had down lights and a quartz countertop installed in the kitchen.
Separately, Mr Ivan Lin, 33, Aart Boxx Interior's director, contacted Ms Stevanie via Facebook to offer help.
He did $10,000 worth of renovations, which included creating a bar counter that looks into the kitchen; installing a shoe cabinet; and doing up two walk-in wardrobes and shower screens in two toilets.
Mr Lin says: "Seeing the picture of Stevanie (cooking on the floor of her incomplete kitchen) hurt my heart. This is not supposed to be a scene we see in Singapore. My first thought was to help them. Too many 'bad eggs' spoil our industry nowadays, but there are still good and genuine interior designers around."
Ms Stevanie, a freelance make-up artist who also runs a home wedding business, uses one of the walk-in wardrobes as a display space for bridal gowns.
Mr Halil also spent $5,000 fixing other things around the house and started small do-it-yourself projects, such as turning the balcony space into a dining area. The flat has three bedrooms and a study.
He is touched by the help he has received.
"It was a very stressful period for us trying to get our money back. We'd have had to save up again and redo the house when we could. I didn't expect anyone to help us."
Beaming, Ms Stevanie adds: "Finally, we have a home."
Written by Natasha Ann Zachariah for The Straits Times