Bruce Marsh explores the ins and outs of hiring a contractor and picks up some excellent small-home design tips along the way.
Painting or renovating an apartment is like going out to dinner – you can find a fast-food joint, put a few dollars down and get it over with, or you can go to a chic restaurant and pay a bundle. It all depends on how much time, effort and money you want to spend.
Regardless of the scale of your project, you can opt either to hire an interior designer, or work with a contractor. The latter is usually the cheaper option and will potentially give you a bigger say in the outcome. Alternatively, of course, you might find that all your home needs is a fresh lick of paint, perhaps some vibrantly coloured statement walls, to transform it totally.
Choosing a contractor
Tom Warren and Vicki Yu have just renovated their flat in Neo Horizon, with the help of DB-based contractor Steve Donovan of Trimco HK.
“We requested quite a few quotations from various different contractors but Steve’s quote was the most reasonable,” says Vicki. “We had also hired Steve to carry out work at our previous apartment and were very happy with the completed job. In addition, we knew that Steve and his team had a lot of experience carrying out renovation projects in DB, so the decision was made.” Generally speaking, the best way to find a reliable contractor is via a referral from a friend. Note too, that even with a referral, it’s always worth visiting a home that the contractor has renovated so as to inspect the work.
When you sit down with a potential contractor, you’ll be able to see if he’s knowledgeable about the work you want done, and whether you establish an immediate rapport. It’s essential that you communicate well.
Before signing on the dotted line, it’s also advisable to discuss costs and the time schedule. To enable a contactor to stick to completion date and budget, you’ll need to have a clear plan as to what you would like achieved from the get-go.
Once the project is underway, it’s crucial that you stay in constant communication with your contractor. As Tom and Vicki explain, “We met face-to-face with Steve and his team throughout the process and we were regularly updated about progress, and about any unexpected or new issues that needed addressing.”
It’s also important to note that on completion, you can expect a thorough follow-up service. The contractor should be on hand to deal with any items or areas that needed tweaking.
The fine print
Living in DB, there are obvious benefits to working with a DB-based contractor, or at least one who is familiar with the City Management Rules and Regulation Manual. There are a number of DB-specific rules to keep in mind, relating to decoration and alteration work. For instance, work may only be carried out between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday – no work is permitted on Saturdays or Sundays.
Additionally, before starting work, details and plans of all the proposed renovations must be submitted to City Management for approval. A refundable ‘decoration deposit’ is also payable to City Management before work starts.
For security reasons, owners must ensure that all workers employed on decoration and alteration work hold permits issued by City Management. For safety reasons, owners are advised to employ only licensed electricians and plumbers. Additionally, owners must ensure that their contractors have secured all the necessary insurance including workman’s compensation and third-party liability.
Stretching out the space
With any home renovation, the whole point is that you end up with the look you want. Be sure to listen to your contractor about the practicalities, and value his input for the best results.
For Vicki and Tom, the main priority was to make their apartment feel bigger, brighter and more modern. Steve was quick to install new ceiling fans and air-conditioning units, and he advised on a light colour scheme throughout, boosted by new energy-saving LED lights, which are much brighter than the old incandescent lights.
The bedroom and living area have both benefited from dramatic, ultra-modern blinds, which frame the space beautifully and maximize light flow. “We wanted the rooms to be as light as possible, and for the blinds to blend well with our chosen paint colour and be practical,” notes Vicki.
With the apartment requiring few structural changes, Steve was able to focus on upgrading the bathrooms and kitchen. “Many apartments in DB have small kitchens, so it’s important to have a light colour paint and bright, well-designed kitchen units, the same applies to bathroom renovations,” he says.
In seeking to be hands-on with their home renovation, Vicki and Tom both value the way Steve encouraged them to choose their own materials. “Steve gave us a tiling company to visit so we could choose our own tiles to blend with our design ideas,” Vicki says.
A splash of colour
While a white-on-white minimal decor works beautifully in small-sized DB apartments, making them seem larger and improving the flow of natural light, it isn’t the only way to go.
DB-based contractor Pete Hymns, aka Pete the Painter, specialises in creative painting and plaster effects both indoors and out – and he’s all about colour and texture.
“I’m not a big fan of plain white walls and ceilings; all my walls and ceilings at home are different shades of blue and my bedroom ceiling resembles the sky – shades of blue and white clouds – which is very calming,” Pete says. “I often suggest this design of painting to clients especially for children’s rooms, as it’s easy on the eyes. They can lie there looking up at the sky.
“I like to create different finishes using plaster and paint, naturally I always insist that the customer chooses the colour/ colours,” Pete continues. “I will then make samples from this and suggest designs, after which they make the final decision before I start the work. I love to use and combine different colours.”