Minimalist Interior Design Firm In Singapore Shares Cost-Saving & Design Tips
These days, many homeowners opt for a minimalist interior design theme to deck out their BTO in Singapore. As a new homeowner, you might have scrolled through Pinterest to find a photo thinking, “This is what my dream home will look like.”
Then you wondered how to turn the picture into reality as logging onto interior design platforms can give you choice paralysis with the myriad of firms to pick from.
Are they giving me the best price?
How can I ensure this doesn’t just look good in pictures but also translates into a functional home?
These are some questions that might have run through your mind.
A bedroom from The Minimalist Society’s portfolio
To answer these questions, I spoke to Keith from The Minimalist Society, an interior design firm focusing on minimalist homes since 2014. He shared with me interior-design tips and how to pick the right designer for your dream home.
“Does having a minimalist home mean you save money?” I asked him, thinking that having less means more savings.
Keith laughed, “It’s not so much about spending less, it’s about getting what you need. Don’t spend unnecessary money.”
He started the session by teaching me how to interpret a designer’s quote.
Interpreting a designer’s quote
After sourcing out various designers, they will quote you cost estimates for renovating your home. When you compare various quotes, take note that the items might not be compared “apples to apples”. One firm might make a certain aspect look cheap and insert the cost elsewhere.
An example of an interior designer’s quote
“You should look at everything in entirety,” advises Keith. With a budget in mind, it is best to look at the sum total to see if it works within your budget.
Keith provided me with an estimated cost breakdown within a $50K budget, so you can compare it with the quotes you receive:
Wet works: $10-15K
Electricity / lighting: $1.5-2K+
False ceiling: $1-2K+
Carpentry: $15-25K (depending on your personal needs)
Other cost matters
When considering interior designers (IDs), be careful about freebies at roadshows that sweeten the deal. Understand that the cost for that free fridge has been taken into account within the package they are selling. As such, Keith and his firm prefer a no-frills costing approach with potential clients.
Keith explains, “Expensive doesn’t mean it’s good. But if it’s really cheap, it can’t be that good.”
Using primarily white gives the kitchen a comfortable vibe
He elaborated that quality materials and workmanship come with a fixed price tag attached to them. Corners will be cut to meet the low cost somehow.
This sounds obvious but might need to be said: IDs are running a business and they need to make a profit. Some interior designers might throw in additional charges when you are halfway through the renovation, so always be wary when handling quotes that seem too good to be true.
Hiring your own contractor
Friends of mine recently renovated their 4-room flat without using an interior designer. They spent $50,000 in total. I asked Keith if “skipping the middleman interior designer” will necessarily save costs.
Keith replied that it is not necessarily true as contractors can quote you an ID’s price without the same service.
Interior designers can also look out for workmanship issues when they oversee contractors who will want to please IDs over you, the homeowner. Why? IDs have the sheer volume of work to pass to the contractor, whereas your renovation is probably a one-time affair.
Customising your home
Once you have met potential IDs and feel comfortable with their portfolio, it is time to think about what you want, beyond the Pinterest image. Keith cautions against doing a trendy feature wall just because somebody else did it.
You should customise your house to your own needs and this comes with understanding your own lifestyle habits.
Full-length mirrors in Clifton and Bonnie’s living room facilitate their dancing hobby
Keith cited an example of his clients Clifton and Bonnie, a millennial couple who love dancing. They were clear about what they wanted before consulting the interior designer.
A specially designed louvre divider that maintains light and privacy from the main doorway
The designer made their living room look more spacious by installing full-length mirrors, which also allow them to check their dance postures. The Minimalist Society also designed an 8-pillar feature (above), which allows light and wind into the kitchen, while shielding their privacy from visitors at the door.
Making use of windows and glass panels to maximise sunlight in a Punggol 4-room project
“Natural light is better than artificial light,” Keith told me and explained why his firm often uses glass and mirrors to maximise the amount of sunlight in the house. A good ID should be able to advise on that.
Type of flooring
Depending on whether you choose to hack pre-existing flooring, flooring can cost quite a bit. The cheapest way is to paste over existing flooring with vinyl. This is something I learnt from watching Netflix’s Interior Design Masters (a good show to get you thinking about designing your space).
Keith explains that vinyl flooring is the most cost-efficient. He advised that selecting the print of the flooring matters a lot and this is something the interior designer should help with. The wood grain print should look natural and not too artificial.
As somebody who likes the industrial aesthetic, I asked him to explain the pros and cons of cement floors. Keith shared that cement floors are affordable, but they might be subject to hairline cracks in the future. Another downside is that cement can become slippery when wet, the way you have experienced cement floors at your void deck on a rainy day.
Colour-coordinate your bathroom tiles for a spacious, clean look
As for tiles, they usually cost more than vinyl. Many people leave tiles for the bathroom, where the floor needs to be completely water-resistant. There are many types of tiles with different textures to play with including concrete-like ones, geometric designs and the rectangular subway ones that have become popular of late.
Keith cautioned against using parquet flooring near areas that might be wet as they could become mouldy and discoloured over time. That includes areas near the bathroom or kitchen.
Saving space with a minimalist interior design
As land is scarce in Singapore, maximising the space in your house will make life much better. When I first looked through Keith’s portfolio, I was attracted to the MUJI aesthetics. But upon closer inspection, I realised his firm has packed plenty of storage into small spaces.
A customised bed platform with plenty of storage space built in, in a Pasir Ris condominium
Because the colours are so unified and many clean straight edges are used in The Minimalist Society’s designs, you don’t notice that there is an incredible amount of storage under the uniformed facade.
A good interior designer should be a space-saving expert.
Using customised furniture
One way to save space is to use customised furniture instead of buying from stores. That way, every inch is catered to the function and the amount of available space, however small.
Customised modular furniture and storage for a condominium in the west
Keith proudly showed me a project where his firm maximised limited space in a 2-bedroom condominium by building custom furniture.
While customised furniture might not be as cheap as big-box stores like IKEA, you can request for better quality materials so they will last a long time in your home. Off-the-shelf furniture does not always fit nicely, especially if the space you are working with is not a lot to begin with.
Finally, for a more beautiful minimalist interior design, Keith advises getting a false ceiling done, so you can position your lights to perfection and hide unsightly wires.
Minimalist Interior Design Firm In Singapore Shares Cost-Saving & Design Tips
To summarise, you should spend a few months getting to know your own lifestyle habits and what you want in a space before proceeding with your renovation. That way, you will be able to explain clearly to the interior designer what you desire and assess the designer according to your own needs.
“You get what you pay for” also seems to be a mantra that rings true when it comes to interior design. Don’t be fooled by too-good-to-be-true costings or freebies, and budget a fair amount based on the costing breakdown provided at the top of the article.
Images courtesy of The Minimalist Society