RenoTransformation: Week 1 – A New Creative Project Takes-off

Sometime last year, we decided to repair and renovate our beloved house. What started as a kernel of an idea has grown into a sturdy little plant. After our wedding, the birth of our children, and our move from NYC to Singapore in 2007, this is the biggest, most transformative event for my husband and me. 

We were uncertain of embarking on a renovation journey during a pandemic. But it seems that being forced to spend most of the time within four walls of a house has sent people on a renovation binge like no other. Your house is now expected to function as a home, office, gym, restaurant, movie theatre, spa, play area/recreation centre. It seems most of us found our homes lacking or in our case, in need of repair. 

Our last renovation experience was ten years ago when we remodelled our kitchen and bathroom. At that time, when the contractor asked me what kind of kitchen countertop I wanted, I said “Black”. This time around you can quiz me on the relative properties and benefits of quartz, solid surface, acrylic, and natural stone as well as the brands available in the market, both local and European. 

In short, I have fully committed my creative energy to this process which I have lovingly termed “RenoTransformation”. Because I don’t merely want to fix my house and make it pretty. I want to make it fit for purpose and make it lasting. I want to use this opportunity to change some bad habits (e.g. cluttering) and form some new ones (e.g. composting).

I have borrowed the New York School of Interior Design’s Home: The Foundation of Enduring Spaces from the library several times. I have read most chapters from Lighting Design Basics a book on lighting design. I’ve been reading the relevant sections of L’art de la Simplicite for pointers on living more with less.

I have learnt that my design style is transitional or modern traditional. I like the idea of Scandinavian minimalism but I know I want pops of colour and ‘stuff’ in my house. Stuff that tells stories, that reminds me of places I lived in and people I used to be. I don’t want to rid myself of mementos and keepsakes and wipe away memories from my childhood, and my college years in Bombay, my time as a newly-wed in NYC, my work life in Singapore and of course my kids. 

I follow too many design and home decor Instagram accounts to count. I follow accounts for North American modern design, Indian textiles, Japanese pottery, traditional British design, Scandinavian furniture, European lighting design, local Singapore businesses and artists. I have discovered I love iconic pieces of furniture from the greats – Charles and Ray Eames, Saarinen, Arne Jacobsen, Hans Wegner, and company. Though I can’t afford any of them. 

It’s been an intensely enriching experience. 

Sometime last year, I looked at my bedroom and realised it said nothing about me. Looking at my room you couldn’t tell what kind of person I was, what my interest, hopes and dreams were. The room performed a function but it was so impersonal. It was a very depressing realisation. I want my home to reflect who we are as individuals and as a family, our heritage, our life in Singapore, our time in NYC, our current interests, and our hopes (e.g. the replica Saarinen table may one day be replaced with the original).

The beginning of a journey is always exciting, I feel like I’m at the start of an epic trek. I have a partner, a guide, my gear, the trail is mapped out, and my legs are rested and ready for the road ahead. I know there will be setbacks and missteps and compromises. They are expected. But when we reach our destination, what a view it will be. 

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