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5 Renovation Regrets That “Seemed Like a Good Idea at First”

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Speaking from personal experience, home renovation is a thrilling process. I remember the heady rush of finally having my own home, and all the grand and glorious plans I had for it. I had brief stints in interior design firms and thought I knew how to make my home beautiful and functional. I thought I knew it all. But I was so, so wrong.

Growing up, I never had to do housework, given my mum’s domestic prowess and long-suffering disposition. However, like many others who have left the comfort of their parents’ homes and now have their own space to maintain, I quickly learned just how arduous it was to have a house that requires daily upkeep, and that home design can either support or hinder a lifestyle. My friends and I have made some decisions that we eventually regretted, and so in the spirit of sharing, I’ve compiled all of them below so you won’t have to go through the trouble of redoing anything you get done in your home, like my friends and I did.

1. Over-customisation

Customising a wall niche for your TV/ media set

This seems like such a great idea at first. You think, “How aesthetically pleasing to have a feature wall in the house!” With a niche cut just for your TV, it creates a sleek, seamless look that you often see in hotel rooms. 

But having a wall niche catered to your current TV size means that you won’t be able to upgrade to a larger TV in the future, unless you get it redone. That’s a couple hundred out of your account for something that could have been easily avoided.

Also, while it may seem nice to have a feature wall so your living room has a main focal point, when you get bored of the configuration and would like to switch things up a little, your feature wall may make it hard for you to change the orientation of the room as it will constantly draw your eye back to it when it is no longer meant to be the main focus of the room.

Placing kitchen cabinetry too close to the fridge

Likewise, this seems like a great idea until you want to upgrade to a two-door fridge, or a taller one. While the seamless effect is also aesthetically pleasing here, having your kitchen cabinetry “hug” your fridge too snugly may prevent your fridge from getting the ventilation it requires to release heat and function at optimal condition, making it work harder to keep the internal compartments cool.

Custom-fitting beds to wall niches or choosing impractical bed frames

If your queen-sized bed fits perfectly into a niche like the bed in the picture above, you have just made it impossible for you to upgrade to a king size. While I get that this layout makes for great storage space while allowing the bed to be flush against the wall, it doesn’t allow you to change your mind should you require a bigger bed, or want to change the orientation of your room. 

On the same note, having a bed frame or bed that connects to a running “bedside table” (as pictured above) confines you to a specific bed size since the base is connected to the bedside table. Downsizing from a king-sized bed to a queen would also leave a strange surplus of the bed’s base sticking out around the edges. Not only is that unsightly, but it would also be a hazard where you could hit your knee or shin when climbing into bed.

Creating highly-specific themed rooms

While it’s great to have a general style you may want to go for; industrial, minimalist, or even the shabby chic look, which, in my opinion, could look really messy after a while, going full-throttle on a specific theme will not bode well in the long run.

I’ve tried selling a home where the owner built a raised tatami platform, probably because he loved Japanese culture and it seemed like a good idea… At first. The raised platform was made in an unflattering colour and raised so high it made the ceiling look extra low. The room also appeared cramped and dark. Every potential buyer either wanted to know if the built-in platform could be removed or directly requested the owner remove it at their own cost before they would be willing to make an offer.

2. Not understanding the user experience

Choosing L-shaped wardrobes and cabinets that end up being impractical

I have both an L-shaped cabinet in my kitchen and an L-shaped wardrobe in my room, and I regret it. Mostly, I regret not using a smarter system for the deep recess nestled in the intersection of the “L” because I have appliances I had to half crawl into the cabinet to reach or clothes that have languished in the back of the L in my wardrobe, all but forgotten. 

There is a sea of options available in the market for the savvy homeowner these days. Do a mental walk-through of how you are going to work in your kitchen, and see which of these systems may make your daily life easier. You can also ask for renderings of your carpentry so you can better visualise the internal constructs of your storage spaces. 

Opting for bifold doors that can be a tad too noisy

Again, these seemed like such a great idea at first. Bifold doors are great for smaller toilets where space is already scarce without a swinging door getting in the way. However, they run on tracks that could trip you, and I never noticed how loudly they roll before thunderously snapping shut before you can slide the lock in place. 

With an easily startled newborn in the house, we are finding this to be one of the most inconvenient regrets we have about our home renovation. Even without a baby that you have to walk on eggshells around, it causes an unnecessary racket if you need to go to the washroom at night and wakes your spouse or newborn up unnecessarily.

Alternatively, if you really require a foldable door due to space constraints, you should opt for a slide and swing door. They function similarly but do not run on tracks and you can shut them silently.

Having too many or too little lights

I have way too many lights in my living room. Three, to be exact. The middle one (a pendant lamp) has served absolutely no purpose since its installation almost four years ago. It would be wise to check out what natural light your house has in the daytime and what lights are needed at night to sufficiently light up each room. 

In retrospect, with 3 young children and a baby in the house, I should have gone for a ceiling fan instead of that pendant lamp. It is a great way to cool down the room while eliminating the use of standing fans in the home, which my children could knock over or curiously stick a finger in.

I would, however, advise against using a ceiling fan with an attached light. Not only does it give off very minimal light, but it may also cause flitting shadows when the fan blades rotate, which will cause an irritating, dizzying effect.

Choosing mood lighting for the aesthetics

Doesn’t this just look so warm, cosy, and romantic? That’s what I thought at first. My entire house was decked out in warm lights because growing up, my parents had always had ugly white lights in the house and I always felt it lacked the soft beautiful glow of warm lights. Turns out, my parents knew what they were doing. 

Warm lights are terrible for working in. My older children are of school-going age and I have had to change all the bulbs in my statement, dining table hanging lamp from warm to cool, daylight bulbs. Having changed a few diapers in dim light also had me changing the bulbs in my bedroom. For the best of both worlds, you can consider installing tricolour lights so you can switch between warm white, cool white and daylight colour temperatures.

Not having enough electrical sockets (especially in the kitchen)

Again, not doing a thorough walk-through of how you will use your kitchen can lead to some regrettable decisions, like not adding enough electrical sockets for your appliances.

Given that I like a clean and uncluttered kitchen countertop, I assumed I would use one appliance at a time to “keep things neat”. How naive. 

When dinner time swings around, I find myself sometimes working three to four appliances; the rice cooker, the airfryer, the oven and the blender, all at the same time. Having insufficient sockets to plug all these devices in doubled my cooking time and sometimes caused food to be burnt or undercooked when I was in a fluster. 

To further heighten your convenience, you can consider getting power tracks, so you have the flexibility of moving appliances around. My next home will have these babies in the kitchen and bedrooms for sure.

Getting a double-basin sink that ends up not giving much space for dishes

Imagine the frustration of using a double-basin sink like the one above. Some of my larger pots cannot sit in it, and dishes tend to pile up really quickly. My mother also scoffed that she felt like she was washing dishes in a child’s toy sink when she came over to my place. When it comes to kitchen sinks, size does matter.

Go for a single large basin instead of those double-basin types that seem so cute at first but really throw you off when you have multiple dishes to do.

3. Splurging on temporary situations

Spending too much on nursery/ playrooms

We all want the best for our children. We want them to have the things we either couldn’t afford, or always wished for when we were kids ourselves. This means we tend to overcompensate and go overboard, plying them with things they don’t even ask for.

That being said, it’s a fine idea to have a well-equipped nursery or playroom in soothing, pretty colours. That’s great for an infant’s cognitive and mental development. But when you are splashing out on crazy things like luxury beds or built-in furniture, you may want to take a step back and think about whether your child would still love and appreciate the expense and effort that’s going into their bedroom.

Children grow very quickly and their tastes and preferences are fleeting and whimsical. For example, my six-year-old has long outgrown her love for all things Disney and I’m left with unwanted toys and Disney-themed toy furniture and wall decals that I have had to discard. That is an inexpensive regret compared to installing a full-blown nursery that you will have to overhaul as your child ages. 

Merging bedrooms

When you’re newly married and excitedly moving into your new home, you may be tempted to knock down walls to make way for your grand schemes. But I urge you to reconsider. 

While I’ve been lucky not to have done this myself, a girlfriend of mine knocked down a wall between her master bedroom and the adjacent common room to create a bigger room that includes a walk-in wardrobe. That seemed like such a good idea, at first. The lack of foresight lost her several potential buyers when she tried to sell her flat. At viewings, buyers would request she reinstate the wall so they could get what they’re paying for, which was a 4-room flat, and not a modified 3-room flat. 

Think about the resale value of your house before you make any irreversible or expensive-to-rectify decisions. Even if you have plans to live out the rest of your life in your home, you may still regret merging bedrooms when your family grows and you no longer have enough rooms for everyone. 

Buying expensive technology that will phase out

It’s cool to have a fully decked out smart home that makes you feel like Tony Stark. But if all your technology is interlinked, that may mean replacing one device will require you to replace several others, or all of them at once. Technology these days also tends to be upgraded very quickly and may phase out within a couple of years. Invest in a few crucial devices like CCTVs if you have young children in the home, or a good sound system if you are big on home entertainment. But avoid splurging on unnecessary technology that appears to make your life easier but is really just a “want” more than a “need”. 

4. Heart over head

Following fengshui over logic

Truth be told, I had a fengshui consultation before I renovated my home because I wanted to make sure my home would be “lucky”. For example, my front door sees straight into my living room and straight out the window at the back, which most fengshui masters say that good energy will enter through your front door and shoot straight out the back. The remedy; installing a screen or partition near your front door to “slow down” the energy so it meanders gently into your home. 

Admittedly, my house gets a good cross-breeze in the evenings that could be fully enjoyed without my shoe rack cum fengshui partition blocking it. Sometimes, fengshui exists to help you make prudent decisions, like not having sharp objects in your bedroom. However, at other times, you may want to consider making logical science-based decisions instead.

Choosing trends over timelessness

There must have been a time where red kitchen cabinetry was considered “in”. I’ve seen many a gorgeous home listed for sale online, only to be paired with jaw droppingly awful red kitchens. 

Trends will come and go, and it may seem fun to jump on the bandwagon. It’s fine to get one or two statement pieces that you can change out when the trend passes, but having an entire room, or worse, an entire home designed according to a trending style, especially one with loud or gaudy colours, or encourages odd shapes or awkward angles, may leave you with much room for regret. 

Pro tip: No matter what style your home adopts, using a neutral palette that is easy on the eye is a huge step towards a timeless look.

Focusing on the “look” and not on functionality

I don’t have to explain the necessity of this. However, you would be surprised by how easy it is to get carried away in your renovations by picking something that looks oh-so-pretty, instead of a simpler option. 

I have always favoured the industrial look, and I have a pair of very similar-looking lamps installed to the left and right of my bed. They looked lovely at first, until my husband kept knocking into the one on his side. It now hangs at a sorry angle and looks like its lifespan has been abruptly shortened. In retrospect, I should have gotten simpler lighting, like the ones pictured below, that doesn’t protrude from the wall, given how close they are to the bed. 

5. Hiring a friend as your contractor

You’d think that hiring a contractor you know or that your friend has hired before will make things easier for you. Not really. I once hired a contractor, who was my sister’s friend, and haven’t spoken to them since. 

What I suggest you do instead: Engage the services of a professional that isn’t an acquaintance or a friend, so you have a purely professional working relationship. The stress of rushing renovations, haggling over quotations and prices, and given how making sure your renovation is done right involves quite a bit of giving constructive criticisms to your designer or contractor, your friendship can go south pretty quickly. 

When you use someone you know, there is the notion that they should do their best for you while giving you “friendship” prices for everything. Also, they may have the conflicting idea that since you are a friend, you should be more forgiving of any shoddy work, or be willing to pay a little extra for frills and thrills you may not need.

So, avoid this conflict of interest, save a friendship, and hire someone with a good track record instead.

Hindsight is 20/20 but you can avoid having these regrets!

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