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Common Home Decor Questions, Answered!

While many expats live in rented properties, there is still quite a bit of home renovation you can do to make your space feel like home. We’ve got the answers to some of common décor and renovation questions to help you get the most out of your space.


What is the right allowance of space to leave between the back of my sofa and a piece of art?

There are some factors to consider when hanging art, especially when there are pieces of furniture around it.

 For art hung above your sofa, make sure that the artwork “easily clears the heads of those seated, so guests will feel comfortable enough to lean back and relax without fear of hitting the frame,” says Alexandra Mytton-Mills, the creative director of frame shop The Frame Society.

She adds: “Artworks are usually hung at eye level, which is between 1.6m and 1.65m from the floor to the middle of the artwork. This increases the maximum visual enjoyment you get from the piece, without having to tilt your head to look up at it.

“This, however, can be adjusted if you want to create a more intimate area with lower seating, for example, so that the art really becomes part of the space.”


I would like to save some money by reupholstering my sofa, but it’s quite old and I wonder if it might be cheaper to just buy a new one. How do I know if my sofa is a good candidate for upholstering?

We usually want to prolong the life of items we like, such as clothes that we bother to mend. The same goes for furniture. If you still love the shape and design of your sofa, then go ahead and reupholster it! You’ll still have a piece you love, but it’ll be updated for that new look you’re planning for the space.

If it’s not something you love, then buying a new sofa is often worth the additional cost, says Chloe Elkerton, the founder and director of E&A Interiors.

“New fabric can work wonders on a piece that has a great shape. However, you need to think about the amount of fabric you require and also the condition of the seat and back cushions – do these need to be refilled, and do the legs or base need to be re-varnished?

Work out all the costs before asking yourself if it is a piece you will really love, and will be able to use for a long time.


I know wood veneer and wood-lookalike laminates are often used for furniture instead of solid wood. How do I tell the difference?

The plethora of materials available now lets us enjoy wood, or sometimes the look of it, in any shape or place!

As veneer, laminates, and solid wood are very different materials, how and where they can be applied will differ. But with some close scrutiny, you’ll be able to tell them apart. Dess Chew of interior design firm Three-D Conceptwerke shares these tips:

Veneer is a thin layer of shaved wood that is normally applied on plywood. It is prone to scratches, and can’t be sanded down as it’s only a skin, so veneers are usually not placed in heavy-usage areas.

As the thin skin wraps around the plywood, from the surface to the edges, there are no visible joint lines. The grains also tend to be more even, with little variation.

On the other hand, there are usually telltale joint lines when laminates are applied, because they are made from fusing a thin layer of decorative paper with a thicker core substrate (there is little or no wood used at all!).

Sometimes, laminate edges are given an edge trimming, which is a PVC grain simulation that follows closely with the laminate grain. Laminates are also seldom used around curved surfaces as they come in stiff sheets measuring 8 feet by 4 feet. That said, wood-lookalike laminates come in a huge variety of styles, including some that look weathered, with realistic textures to boot!

Solid wood is rarely used in customised carpentry works, as the supply of solid wood is regulated. They are available more commonly as finished pieces of furniture. As it is a natural, organic material, there will be variations in tone and colour, so you will find more uneven shading throughout each piece. To identify if a piece is solid wood, just look at the cross section of the panel to see if it is one single piece of wood.


I plan to renovate my home soon and was wondering if I should hire a contractor or an interior designer. Can you offer some pointers?

The role of a contractor is quite different from that of an interior designer.

An interior designer is able to offer stylish solutions to design problems, tailoring the home for both form and function, to your needs. A contractor is someone who executes the design; he will manage the workers to carry out the wetworks, carpentry, painting, and so on.

To decide who to choose, ask yourself these questions. Firstly, how extensive will your renovation be? If it doesn’t involve heavy redesigning of your spaces, perhaps just a basic sprucing up of the existing rooms, then go with a contractor.

If you need someone to help you take all your ideas and translate them into a unified look for your home, then you’ll need an interior designer.

Would you have time to project-manage your renovation? If you engage an interior designer, you only need to work with him during the renovation. The designer will make sure the agreed design is being carried out to specifications. When working with a contractor, you’ll need to provide instructions on what you want, and monitor his work progress yourself.


What’s your renovation budget?

A contractor will simply charge you for the work that has been done, but with a designer, there are design fees involved, for their professional skills and to a certain extent, the time spent coordinating the project.

Depending on the designer, this fee might either be built into the total bill or be a payment separate from the physical works done.


Want to stretch your budget further? Read on!


By Rebeckka Wong, Home & Décor, June 2015

Photo: 123rf.com

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