What are Variation Orders? And why do they exist?

Okay, so by now everyone should have heard horror stories about the scary incremental in costs as renovation goes by. It probably went like this:
“Wah bro, I tell you, go to my ID. He damn cheap damn good damn solid.”

SpongeBob//few moments later sound//audio//video - YouTube

“Eh bro, my ID charge me extra $15,000 dollars leh.”

PROBABLY. (okay we may have exaggerated a bit.)

So what’s up with the extra charges? Let us try our best to explain.

First thing first, be sure to read our posts on what to look out for in a quotation. (Spoilers alert, we might do a part 3)

In a nutshell, variation orders are works that are NOT included in the initial contract. For example, halfway into the renovation, you decided to add an extra wardrobe. Or you decided to remove a shoe cabinet because you saw something online and decide to buy off the shelf instead.

In our opinion, above mentioned examples are reasonable variation orders. However, we have heard stories of unreasonable variation orders, that sometime results in massive extra charges. What are some unreasonable variation orders?

We have heard stories where if you wanted extra drawers in the kitchen, they gonna charge you! Ranging from 50 – 200 dollars per drawer! If we are not mistaken, other IDs usually cater for 3 drawers in the kitchen only, regardless of how big your kitchen is. Hello????? that’s crazy. Another reason why we think design should be finalised first before committing to a price! Once the design has been confirmed, pricing will be more accurate, reducing variation orders. Because we will then be able to calculate exactly how much hardware is needed for your design.

Another insane story: our friend’s ID wanted to charge extra for painting the ceiling another colour! What! Because the typical charges for painting works does not include coloured paint for ceiling. IDs & contractors out there only use Nippon Matex white (& Dulux equivalent) for ceiling paint only. Reason being Matex is the lowest grade of paint. Hence IDs & contractors use it for ceiling, an area that is not touchable by hand. Here @ Salt, we use at least Nippon Vinilex 5000 (or Dulux equivalent) for ceiling as well! How do we ensure that? Easy, we never use white paint. Yep, NEVER. (unless specified by homeowners).

These are just 2 of the more unreasonable examples that we have heard of. Do you know any? If you do, please feel free to contact us & share with us your stories!

So how do we go about avoiding variation orders? *Disclaimer, we are not saying we do not have variation orders here at Salt.*

Be extremely clear of the quotation that you are presented. There are questions that you can ask your ID to help you better understand what you are getting. Some of the questions are:

“What is the price range of laminate I can pick from?”
“What is the tile price & size that you are quoting me? How much is the increment if I want a bigger / smaller format tiles?”
“What brand & series of quartz / table top will I be able to pick from?”
“Will there by any extra charges if I want more drawers instead of doors?”
“Where are the areas that might cause an increment in price?”

Of course there are many more questions that you could be asking us to help keep increments to a minimum. Do hit us up if you need help / advise! Always willing to help.

What should you do during renovation?

The renovation process can be very tiresome for many people. Our job as Interior designer is to ease that workload for you also. We have been telling owners to sit back & relax and let us do our job, at the same time, we would love it if owners are more involved and committed as well. So, here we will talk about what should owners be doing.

  1. Relax!

First thing first, relax! Here at Salt, all our designers are qualified to not only produce outstanding designs, we also know what we are doing during construction phase. Proper construction drawings will be produced and discussed thoroughly with you prior to construction. Then leave the rest up to us. Rest assured that drawings will be communicated clearly to our contractors to ensure things as built as planned.

2. Occasional Site visits.

Almost all the time, job sites are incredibly dirty, dusty & noisy. We understand that you are excited and looking forward to moving into your dream home asap. However, for your safety, please try your best to do site visits at night or over the weekends! We would hate it if you stepped on some random nails / staple lying around! There will be some exceptions when we would require your presence on site, especially when we need to confirm certain positioning (eg, toilet accessories). For that, designer in charge will inform you in advance!

3. Communicate!

We love it when home owners pester us with questions. If there is something you are unsure of, please feel free to contact the designer in charge, please. Talk to us, tell us what you want and need, tell us what you dislike too! If we are failing to meet your expectations, please let us know! If we are exceeding your expectations, please let us know too! Everybody loves a compliment now & then. (:

4. Be Patient.

Hiccups during renovation are inevitable, as much as we try our best to prevent them from happening. We seek your understanding for unforeseen circumstances. We also experienced situations when jobs were not completed, and homeowners were complaining about incomplete works and/or subpar works. Many times defects can be, and will be, rectified before handing over the home back to you. There will be times whereby we overlook certain items. We really appreciate home owners letting us know where are the areas that we can improve!

5. Take photos!

Take plenty of photos! Share them with your friends via Instagram or Facebook. Just be sure to tag us! We always love a before & after comparison!

How we apply 60-30-10.

There are many “rules” when it comes to designing an interior space. We are not saying that we should always apply these rules to an interior space. Of course there will be exceptions.

Personally, we find the most important rule to be the 60-30-10 rule. What does it mean? Your space should contain 60% of your dominant colour choice, 30% secondary colour choice, and 10% of an accent colour.

In this project, the 60% dominant colour is actually the Ash colour that is very strong within the entire house. We made use of the existing floor hue, and picked a similar laminate texture & colour which, at the same time, must be coherent with the general concept of the space.

Next, the 30% secondary colour of choice was a textured grey laminate. We chose grey because we wanted to add a touch of modern look into the space. The dining table & set are of similar hue to the laminate picked.

The 10% of accent colour we chose is actually a bright yellow / gold hue. We wanted it to compliment the 60% dominant colour, at the same time it stands out as an accent colour. Also the gold adds a sens of luxury into the space.

How we work!

Different designers have their own preferred working method. Here @ Salt, we like to go old school: Hand sketching! Thou we dont have the best drawing skills, but hey, as long as we communicate the idea, right? Below is our process!

Below is our initial hand sketch! This is what we show our visualiser. He will then take the below drawing to generate life-like renderings.

Below is the rendering! So once the client has approved the 3D Drawing, we will proceed to do the detailed 2D drawing.

Below is the end product!

Pretty cool, eh?

Red flags to look out when appointing an Interior Designer!

Throughout our career, we have had feedback from our lost clients that they regret appointing the designer that they did. When we dug deeper and found out why, we realised most of the times was due to over-promising from the designer during the preliminary phase. Here, we area going to look at what are some of the common ‘over-promises’, also look into some potential red flags.

“Can!”. Is a most common over promise we have heard. When a designer answer quickly without much hesitation, you should challenge the designer and find out how they are going to tackle the issue you have. We admit, we do agree to some requests promptly. However, when challenged, we are able to provide a valid solutions. We enjoy being challenged by our clients, because then we are able to showcase our knowledge & experience.

When faced with an issue that we have no immediate solution to, we will inform our clients that we are unable to think of a solution now. We will then brainstorm as a team to find various solutions, if possible.

Refusal to provide a schedule! As home owners, you should be aware of what is happening to your home, and when. We have had clients who had experience with designers who refused to provide schedule. End up, they had to deal with major delay in handing over. When dealing with tight deadlines, it is imperative to have a schedule!

Here @ Salt, when we are unable to meet the deadline, we will choose not to take up the project instead.

Unclear quotation! We have discussed in our earlier blog posts on what to look out for in quotations. Please be on high alert!

You should always have questions when it comes to quotation! Be sure of what you are paying for, what is included & what is not. More commonly, we have heard designers charging extra for drawers as the construction goes by. You should ask if there will be certain surcharge if you need extra drawers, if so, how much would each cost!

Pros & Cons of different type of flooring.

There are many types of floor finishing in the market. Today we will list down the pros & cons regarding the most common flooring that we have been asked about.

Tiles

  • Pros:
    • HUGE range of design
    • HUGE range of texture
    • Waterproof
    • Durable
    • Non-porous
  • Cons:
    • Takes longer time to install
    • Not easy to replace
    • Will generate lots of dust when replacement is needed
    • Noisy installation
    • Visible grout line (can be viewed as a pro too!)

Vinyl floor

  • Pros:
    • Quick installation
    • Almost dust-free installation
    • Water resistant
    • Easy to replace
    • Easy on the wallet
    • No visible grout line
  • Cons:
    • Limited design (mostly wood look alike)
    • Feels rubber-ry when walking on them

Cement screed

  • Pros:
    • Natural look
    • Almost maintenance free
    • Seamless look
    • Unique pattern every time
    • Able to receive other flooring finishes in the future
    • Water resistant after lacquering
  • Cons:
    • Crack over time (which creates a unique pattern! so… pro!)
    • Brittle
    • Limited colours

Solid wood flooring / Parquet

  • Pros:
    • 100% Natural
    • Able to varnish & sand
    • No repeated grains & pattern every time
    • Higher perceive value
  • Cons:
    • Expensive
    • Limited colours
    • Extensive installation process
    • Harder to maintain
    • Soft, very prone to dents & damage
    • Porous

Engineered wood

  • Pros:
    • Pre-finished
    • Slightly more colour selection vs Solid wood
    • No repeated grains & pattern
  • Cons:
    • Expensive
    • Limited colours
    • Extensive installation process
    • Harder to maintain
    • Soft, very prone to dents & damage
    • Unable to sand & varnish over time
    • Porous

Marble / Granite

  • Pros:
    • Crazy beautiful
    • No repeated grains & pattern
    • Able to polish for a new shine
    • Colder to step on (which can be viewed as a con for elders)
    • Seamless grouting
  • Cons:
    • Expensive
    • Extensive installation process
    • Harder to maintain
    • Soft, very prone to dents & damage
    • Not very water resistant (marble)
    • Porous, tend to retain water, causing stains if left unclean

Metallic Epoxy

We have never used it before. So…….. here’s a link! Metallic Epoxy. If you are reading this Metallic Epoxy team, we hope to work together soon! Do drop us an email!

How to achieve a good working relationship with your designer

As interior designers, we treat every project like our own home. We want the best for all our clients. However, thanks to some black sheep in the industry, many owners tend to think that we are constantly up-selling them.

We will share our opinion on how you can achieve a better working relationship with your designer.

Firstly, we feel that having a certain level of chemistry is one of the main reason we work so well with our home owners. We are looking out for home owners who are honest & straight forward. If they do not like our initial proposal, they voice it out directly. And you should do that too. A well trained designer will find out more about you & your preference, instead of insisting that their design is ‘right for you’. At the same time, setting a sense of honesty allows us to be upfront further down the road.

What this does is setting a standard which will be expected by you. If you are concern about being ‘rude’ or ‘insensitive’, stop it. It is your home. End of the day, it will be YOU who will be living in it.

Trust your designer. We understand that trust should be earned. If your designer do not seem trustworthy initially, why are you working with him/her in the first place? We assume you are going to appoint someone you trust, please have faith in your decision. (Unless red flags start to pop out going into the renovation).

If you do not understand anything that the designer mentioned, please ask. Ask for a second opinion, a third opinion, a forth opinion. Ask your friends who recently went thru a renovation. You can ask us too. We are more than happy to help.

Look out for companies reviews & the portfolio. If the portfolio is not to your liking, feel free to reject them. It is very important that both of you have the same design sense.

There are many other factors that can contribute to a healthy working relationship with your designer. We like to conclude that the main factors are: 1. Chemistry. 2. Trust. 3. Honesty between both parties. 4. Similar design sense.

Our interior designer idols.

Singapore has many many interior design firms, some would argue too much. In 2016, it was estimated that there are more than 3,000 interior design firms in Singapore. In this post, we would want to share with everyone some of our local talented interior designers / architects (other than ourselves). Their designs are nothing short of amazing.

0932

It appears to us that 0932 can turn every space into a carefully crafted minimalist space. For a minimalist nerd like myself, it looks like a wet dream come true. We feel that they are not afraid to use bold colors in their space. Talk about combining great colour combination with crazy good photography skills.

Architology

Architology has been involved in many of Singapore’s hot spots such as, Helipad Club, The Mad Men Bar & The Tuckshop.

Peter Tay Studio

In our opinion, Peter Tay has one of the best, if not the best, approach to making full use of reflective surfaces. Peter Tay also won the “Designer of the Year” at the 2014 President’s Design Award.

Farm

As stated in their website, Farm is many things at once. Being amazing at design is also naturally one of them. Not just that, they do have their own e-commerce stall which features their localise products.

There are still a handful of studios that we idolise, such as, Sumisura, Super Fat Designs, Ministry of Design & Aiden T.

Upcoming design trend: Our observations.

When it comes to interior design theme, there are plentiful to choose from. From Modern contemporary, to Industrial. In the recent years, we saw the Scandinavian theme on the rise. Today we will share what we think will be the up & coming themes.

Eclectic / Bohemian

It’s definitely becoming one of the powerhouse in local design scene. We noticed that it is especially popular in younger homeowners nowadays. The beauty of eclectic theme lies in their uniqueness of each home.,because it has a very high tolerance for variance. Each eclectic homes tells a story of their home owners, we almost never see a repeated colour scheme or textures.

Minimalism

All time classic (and personal favourite). We noticed the upward trend of minimalist interior. It is ideal for people who wants a fuss free home. Due to the hectic & fast paced life in Singapore, we strongly highly recommend home owners to adopt a minimalist interior. It creates minimal visual disturbance, allowing you to go into a state of relaxation faster. It also hides away a lot of your storage. This means that we have less things to clean (yay!). People often mistake minimalist = boring. NO! Minimalist does not mean you have to throw everything away. It simply means keep what is needed.

Modern French

People have the mindset that only elder homeowners would appreciate a good ol’ classic home. WRONG! We were shocked when we have young couples approaching us for a Modern French design. It is clearly starting to appeal to younger generations. We believe it’s because of the intricate detail that comes with designing a Modern French home.

Quarts: Are they the best worktop?

Kitchen is the heart of the home. It is important that everything in your kitchen is well planned. One of the most used item in our house is the kitchen top. From washing our utensils, to grabbing a cup of water. Hence, it is important that you select the best material suited to your needs & lifestyle.

We are going to look into the different tops in the market and elaborate more on each of them to our best knowledge.

Quartz

One of the most common material used today is the quartz. Why are they so popular? One of the best quality in quartz, in our opinion, is their non-porous characteristic. This means that the water condensed on your coke can will not sip into the quartz. Why is this important? This will prevent de-colouration from happening.

Another excellent quality is their scratch resistance. This is because quartz is 1 of the hardest material available. Albeit not 100% full quartz, Caesarstone boasts a 90% quartz content in their surfaces.

Quartz come in many designs. The more critically acclaimed ones are the marble look-alike design. They are supposed to produce a visual effect same as natural marble, with better durability.

Marble lookalike quarts! Credits: Silestone
Solid colours quarts! Credits: Silestone

Major brands includes Caesarstone, Silestone, iQuartz.

Marble

Marble looks AMAZING. There are different types of marble you can select from and they vary in price. Personal favourite: Gold Calacatta.

Sadly, in today’s society, we are afraid to say that is their only advantage. Thou they are also natural material, they are not as durable & dense as quartz. And they are also porous.

This means that marble is prone to stains & scratches. Which makes it not ideal to use as a kitchen work top where daily house hold item like knifes & water are present almost all the time. Oh, did we mention that they are also more prone to cracks?

Granite

Granite has many application due to their sturdy & non-porous nature. Kitchen counter top is one of them.

Thou durable, they are more porous than quartz, less porous than marble. The granite selection available nowadays are crazy nice, thanks to our friends at Consentino.

Not just that, they introduced a protective treatment placed 5mm under the surface. This prevent staining & reduce the porosity of the granite. This range of granite is known as Sensa. We highly recommend Sensa because: 1. it is crazy beautiful, and 2, it is low maintenance with their porosity reduced!

Beautiful, BEAUTIFUL Sensa granite! Credits: Consentino

Compact Top

Long before the discovery / invention of quartz, Formica was the leading kitchen counter top market with their durable laminate finish. Now imagine many layers of laminate (kueh lapis style) being compressed under controlled environment. You get compact top.

They possess the same quality as quartz, they are durable, scratch resistant, water resistant. HOWEVER! The main difference lies in their design available. Most of the design available for compact top comes in wood-grain design.

EDL Compact top! over 10 design to choose from! Credits:EDL

They are one of the more cost efficient counter-top available nowadays.

Major compact top brands are: EDL, Kompacplus.

Solid Surface

Solid surface was very popular back in the days before the rise of quarts. Solid surface are basically made from acrylic. The advantage of solid surface: no visible joint line & polish-able.

They have a wide range of design. From terrazzo like design to solid colours, like red (yes red). Their popularity is really dropping these days, due to the fact that they are less sturdy than materials like quarts, more prone to scratches & stains.

Credits: Corian

Corian is the leading brand in solid surface.

Dekton

Dekton should be one of the latest product in the market. And it has taken the market by storm. Dekton is a composite of materials, includes natural stone & glass.

Dekton is highly scratch & stain resistant, “withstands high temperatures without burning, scorching or cracking. Hot Pots and Appliances like Crock Pots can be placed directly on the surface with no worry of damage.

Credits: Dekton

Others

Of course there are others work top materials, such as tiles, stainless steel & butcher wood blocks. These are seldom seen and not commonly used. Hence we shall not touch on them!

If you find this useful, be sure to share with your friends!