Anatomy of a home

Before you begin adapting the structure of a house to your personal needs, you need to know what those needs are.

Sure, you’ve lived 2 or 3 decades, and in that time period you would have cultivated habits and preferences. You would have strong inclinations towards certain areas in your house design, based on that experience. That experience is the sum of all your living spaces, be they temporary (hotels and holidays) or long term, as well as your encounters with other living spaces in brief visits, say to a friend’s house.

If you have the financial ability to restructure a home according to your wants, what would you do? Given some constraints — the biggest of which is that you own public housing, which comes with one long list of don’ts, in the interest of living harmoniously with the hundred or so houses in the same building. And then of course, that financial ability has some limits.

The difficulty lies also in the hypothetical nature of the design process — unlike software, there are high costs involved in iteration. (That’s why I like programming so much.) As the end users of the product, it’s hard to pinpoint what will fit perfectly until we’ve tried it.

And then there is that issue when your preferences do not cover every aspect of design, as they inevitably will. Pros: it means you have leeway to settle for a less expensive option. Cons: when deciding between this kind of hob and that, you have absolutely no idea how that anyhow choice you made will haunt you in the future.

Let’s go to implementation. The foremost difficulty I’ve faced is the word-of-mouth nature of the contractor industry; it seems there is no centralized online place to find contacts and see their reviews. Of course I try my best, googling forums and such for recommendations and complaints, but for the most part the laymen seem to be operating from what their friends tell them, while the contractors form a few select partnerships with sub-contractors and just settle for them to do their work. Which is fine, since it’s teamwork and you want to work with people you’re comfortable with. It does mean that to an outsider everything seems so murky, requiring trust without a pre-given record… Also kinda how cronyism works, eh.

Second, my inexperience with the process means that I don’t think of many considerations that people knee-deep in the work know about. When asked about how I would like to lay pipes and such, I take some time to understand what the problems are (especially given my inadequate grasp of mandarin, which seems to be the de-facto language of operation with the subcons I’ve met with — I’m sorry people of other races), and then hesitantly settle on one of the proposed solutions, without knowing what all my options are. One of my greatest weaknesses is being unable to visualize enough details and foresee pitfalls, and even though I can’t expect to be prepared when I don’t know what the process is like, I feel as though I’m messing things up for some stage in the future with every choice I agree to.

Anyway, after all that vague musing, I guess I owe you guys some pictures so it isn’t totally “I READ THIS WHOLE WAY AND STILL DON’T KNOW WHAT COCK SHE SAYING”, so here they are:

Before: Our master bedroom. Zhi Xin here to scale.

Before: Our master bedroom. Zhi Xin here to scale.

Before: Our living room

Before: Our living room, which looks the same size as other rooms. Bonus LCY with a pineapple.

Before: Our tiny kitchen, soon to become tinier.

Before: Our tiny kitchen, soon to become tinier.

After: We hacked the wall between our master bedroom and the other room, so now it feels much better

After: We hacked the wall between our master bedroom and the other room, so now it feels much better

After: After the kitchen got hacked, our living room looks normal-sized now (at the cost of our poor kitchen)

After: Our living room looks normal-sized now, at the cost of our poor kitchen, which got hacked too

I let the air con guy put a pipe there now I'm like OH GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE

I let the air con guy put a pipe there now I’m like OH GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE

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