It is almost a year since we took over our lovely renovated home designed and renovated by FSI (Free Space Intent), Irvin Mun. I held onto the review for so long as I wanted to gauge the quality of after-sales services and workmanship quality.
Now, I truly believe Irvin deserved an honest review from us.
The renovation was for our matrimonial home. A resale condo we bought in 2018.
Our concept was tropical colonial or Balinese styled resort home. Open and in touch with nature. No permanent fixtures as we will re-arrange the furniture when family member increases. A place where we can wind down and relax.
We almost awarded our renovation contract to another ID firm before we met FSI.
We found FSI through magazines. FSI was the 8th ID firm we met. I was reluctant to call FSI as we were really damn tired after meeting so many ID firms. Luckily we did. It was the best decision we made throughout our “ID hunting” journey. We called FSI to make an appointment and Irvin served us.
Over the phone, we gave her an idea of the concept we wanted, emailed her our requirements, floor plan, time line and budget. We scheduled the meeting on the following evening after my work.
On our first meeting, Irvin impressed us by her preparation. Irvin was the only ID that has the conceptual design ready during the first meeting. Despite only a day notice, Irvin has already prepared some conceptual design layouts and drawings, material samples and a budgetary full cost breakdown offer to us.
The design she proposed was interesting and was along the concept we wanted. Irvin was able to fully understand, conceptualize, verbalize and visualize the concept we wanted. Although the design is not quite there yet, at least she understood what we were looking for and she is willing to listen to our feedback to make changes.
Out of all the 8 ID firms, Irvin was the only ID that can bring out the design we wanted. The rest of the other firms were trying too hard to impose their ideas (Scandi, industrial, muji, retro etc) and knocking off walls that were totally out for us. If FSI was the first ID firm we met, we would have a lot of time.
FSI is located at Ubi Ave 2. The office is well connected by bus and MRT. There are food courts around the area. You won’t go hungry after the meetings.
Of course, we did not sign the contract on the spot. There were several meetings to fine-tune the requirements, site visits to her projects to check on workmanship quality and site visit to my place.
The site visit to my place was like a competitive event; we have 2 ID firms from our initial list plus Irvin (FSI) all presented at the same time. This event was mainly for me to gauge which ID firm has the best design know how, technical knowledge and an eye for details. Irvin was impressive. She was open and confident to share about her ideas and concepts to us in front of her competitors. Both the other firms were not able to see what she was seeing during the site visit. They eventually copied her ideas and proposed them to me after the visit.
With the confidence of good reviews, good quality workmanship from inspecting her projects and an ID who understand what we wanted, we awarded our renovation contract to Irvin. FSI’s offer was not the highest or the lowest of all the offers. We knew we had a fair offer and the confidence of getting what we wanted.
Working with Irvin is (still is) a wonderful journey and stress free.
We spent the next 4 weeks meeting almost every week for design reviews, changes, materials and color selection. We enjoyed the design reviews a lot. Irvin did not prepare just one design. We had several designs to choose and mix around. We found her designs were very authentic and unique. Not copied from somewhere else. She really pushed the design to show the full potential of our home.
Irvin also advised us on the dimensions and color shade for our teak wood furniture, placement of furniture, what kind and size of paintings and decorations to use. I think the design term for this is called “Compositional flow, rhythm and harmony”.
If you are hungry during the design reviews, get her to order the Chili Noodles delivery. The noodles are delicious.
Irvin was in controlled of everything, what to do, when to do and when to end. She knows what we wanted.
I am a micro-manage person, but with Irvin, I will just leave everything to her. The trust is there.
Irvin has the knowledge beyond our expectation. Irvin proposed several changes in our requirement to make them more practical and outstanding.
1) No false ceiling for the living room to make the space much bigger and with a rustic wow look. At the same time also saving me some money.
2) Knocking off a useless beam in the master bathroom to make the space brighter and spacious.
Definitely, there were requests from us to make changes along the way.
The biggest change was raising the false ceiling in both bedrooms up by another 1.5 meters. We discovered we have a high roof space. It was a technical challenge considering various aspects. For example, electrical wiring, air con piping, mood lighting design and overall safety. Irvin did it.
The original agreed design for the master shower area was 3 pieces of 2.4(H) by 1(W) meters glass sliding doors. After discovering that we can moved the bathroom ceiling to 3.2 meters, my wife insisted to change it to 3 pieces of 3(H) by 1(W) meters. Once my wife insisted, no U-Turn. My wife is not into physics. She expects Irvin to do magic.
In other to convince my wife, Irvin got a 3(H) by 1(W) meter of ply wood board from the work site to test whether it can carried via the stairwell or the lift. Luckily Irvin did, it was just too big for the stairwell and the lift. Having proved this, my wife changed to the maximum allowable dimension of 2.9(H) by 1(W) meters, which was just nice to be carried into the lift.
One main concern for most people is the shops that your ID bring you to shop for bathroom accessories, water closet, kitchen accessories, tiles etc. Will we be introduce to some shops that are selling at higher price so that the ID can earn from it? Do not worry. I did a market research. The shops that Irvin recommends are good at their prices and services.
In fact, I stubbornly insisted to purchase my water closets from my own source. In which later, I found out that my source was more expensive than Irvin’s recommendation. Damn. To make thing worst, my own supplier failed me on the delivery and caused a delay on the renovation. Double damn.
For our teak wood furniture, we already have identified a shop. Irvin was there to help us on the design, size and wood shade selection. Anything that is too high, too short, too big, too small, too dark or too light will spoil the compositional flow, rhythm and harmony of the design. I think Irvin was pretty happy throughout the shopping process as she was the person to say yes and I’m the person to make the payment.
Our renovation completed in Jan 2019. It is almost 11 months since the handover. Some minor defects were rectified. We caused these when we moved in. No major defects. Quality and workmanship was at its best.
There are many outstanding qualities about Irvin; authentic design, eye for details, will not say yes or no until proven if it is possible. The most outstanding quality is her approach on safety. No shortcuts or compromise on quality, always safety first for the workers and us. Her team of subcontracts were outstanding and professional workers (carpentry, electrical work, masonry, and plumbing). It was a joy to watch them working together as a team.
An area she can improve is to have a longer list of air con installers so that we can benchmark their prices. We did not select the air con installer from her list. We found our own installer. Irvin was able to work with them seamlessly on the timeline of the air con installation.
We busted our budget by about 10%. We discovered our unit has a high ceiling when we removed the false ceiling. We have a very high space between the false ceiling and the building ceiling. We pushed our false ceiling height from 3 meters to 4.5 meters. This contributed a significant increase on our spending.
The renovation completed 2 weeks ahead of schedule despite making several major changes. Just nice for a Chinese New Year 2019 celebration at our new resort home.
My wife and I are willing to use our place as Irvin’s reference project. We welcome her customers to visit our place for a reference showcase. This is a way we can show our gratitude to her efforts for making our dream home.