The pandemic and multiple stages of Circuit Breaker have brought renovation and construction to a grinding halt. Now what? In our Instagram Live chat series a few weeks ago we chatted with multi-disciplinary designer Leong Hon Kit on how the pause has affected both designers and homeowners.
Kit is the co-founder of Wynk Collaborative, a homegrown spatial design studio which deals with everything related to architecture and interior, from the architectural shell to the smallest interior content like furniture and accessories. You may not be familiar with the Wynk, but we bet you’ve been to one of the places the studio designed, which include the lobby of The Projector, Habitat by Honestbee, and most recently, the Love, Bonito boutique in Funan.
Kit is also a new homeowner whose renovation has been interrupted by the CB. He shares his views, predictions, hope and fears as both designer and homeowners with us.
Tell me about your home situation
I moved into my new flat just before Chinese New Year. Thankfully, most of the essential things are done. It’s pretty much a liveable place, but some elements are still pending, like my kitchen counter. There’s a big hole in my kitchen cabinet because the carpenter got stuck in Malaysia since mid-March.
My home is a three-bedroom resale flat. I’ve had it since last year, but I haven’t got the time to renovate it. The living room is still missing shelves, artwork and rugs. The incompleteness of my place is also partially by choice. I moved in with bare essentials and I wanted to discover how I want to live in the space. Most of the furniture pieces here are those I have slowly collected over many years. Some of them have been in my office for the past two years. It was partially a warehouse for my furniture collection.
Tell us about some of these furniture pieces
The yellow sofa is from Artek; it is my latest acquisition from W. Atelier, which was delivered in mid-April. There was a minor defect, but luckily they managed to send people to fix it.
The blue chair is a Mattiazzi chair in custom colour. Mattiazzi’s range is quite small, mostly seating and tables, and it’s available in Singapore from Pomelo Home. This blue chair I ordered May last year, right after I got the keys of the flat. It was here before the renovation started. The dining chairs and tables are from Menu, a brand that I also love.
The living room lamp that I’ve had for many years is from a French brand. It’s very industrial with an exposed bulb; I like to bounce the light off the wall. The pendant light in the kitchen is also from a French brand, which is available from Made & Make.
What’s the best thing about designing your own home?
Being able to try out many things that I’ve always wanted to try but don’t dare to propose to clients because they might find them hard to accept.
For example, this light that goes across the living room is a typical electrical trunking. I got that powder-coated in blue, then I got some LED strips and installed little adjustable architectural spotlights from my lighting supplier. I didn’t want ceiling lights to keep the height clean.
HDB ceiling tends to be low, and if I wanted downlights, I would have to have a false ceiling which will lower the ceiling even more. My lighting supplier is Light Basic. They usually sell to architects and designers, but if you give them a call, I’m sure they’d be happy to cater to you.
Also, because I live alone, I can combine the two bathrooms into one, and use materials and colours that I like.
Will homeowners have to pay more because of the renovation delays?
No. Because nobody can predict this delay. I think homeowners don’t need to worry about having to pay more. The important thing to do is working out with your designers and contractors on how to restart the work, once it is allowed and safe to do so, especially when it’s half done.
Homeowners also need to be more understanding of the difficulties that may arise from this situation, which are also beyond anyone’s control. There might be difficulties in getting workers back to work and getting raw materials in, for example.
We’re having difficulties getting the cement in some of our projects. The stance is to wait and see and hope for the best for now. Basic materials should be able to arrive soon, but imported tiles, laminates and furniture from brands from, say, Italy, might have issues and delays to procure.
What’s your advice to homeowners whose renovations have been interrupted?
My advice, assuming that they still a roof over their head, is to take it easy. Don’t get too frustrated, because it’s beyond anyone’s control. It could also be a good time to reconsider your decisions if your work hasn’t been completed yet, but don’t overdo it to the point that the contractor has to charge you. You have more time consider colours, details and furniture selections.
What are some of the things homeowners should prioritise when the reno can resume?
Call your contractor on the first day. Check the progress of your project, especially if your site is already under construction. Then make sure that it’s kept in good shape, that there are no burst pipes, mosquitos, and make sure nothing has broken inside, especially because we have heavy rains lately, which could destroy part of the site.
Actually, you don’t need to wait until the CB is completely lifted, you can call and check now. After checking the site, check if the materials from suppliers are there and that you have the labour. These are the top three things you need to get right before the renovation can resume.
Brands have migrated their businesses online. Can you name some material libraries or online tools and resources that are most helpful for homeowners who are renovating?
Most of the brand’s online resources are meant for design professionals and could get very technical, so I still think the best tool for homeowners is Pinterest. I’d probably get flack from fellow designers by saying this, but it is a good tool for clients to tell us what they’re thinking of, what their vision for their home’s like.
Then it is our job as professionals to articulate and translate that vision to reality, and help them source the materials and finishes. This is where our value lies in residential projects.
As a designer, what do you miss the most from life before CB?
Person to person interaction is so important in the design world. We won’t get the same immediate reaction and feedback over Zoom compared to when you’re actually in the room with other designers, clients, and your other collaborators. And I don’t have printers at home, so it’s a bit hard to just seeing pictures on screen sometimes.
Is there anything you regret doing or not doing to your home?
As a designer, your own home will never be finished or perfect. And you will notice mistakes every day because you stay at home all the time. But that also gives me the time to think about what to do next.
When is your housewarming?
I’ll let you guys know when we’ve recovered from the pandemic.