Monday, August 31, 2009

Our Second Wedding Anniversary

Above: Having a quiet moment together.

Time really flies and it's seems so fast that we are already into our second year of marriage. We reminiscine about our ROM on 1st September 2007 which was a warm and wonderful, intimate affair at The Glassbar at The Jewel Box @ Mt Faber. Some pictures of that wonderful day (taken by Kuang and Eng of 39 East) when we became husband and wife.It's been a blessed and blissful two years and we look forward to the rest of our lives together.

Above: Us walking and turning to smile at the posse of photographers and videographers trailing us.

Above: Getting ready to our positions down the wedding aisle scattered with pretty rose petals

Above: Us doing a little dance down the corridor of Beaufort Sentosa villa where we stayed

Above: Sweet desserts for our guests

Above: The Wedding March.

Above and Below: Our Floral Ring Pillow

Above: Us reading our own marriage vows which we wrote for each other.

Above: Our car floral bouquet

Above:Our Wedding beetle with cans trailing

Above: Journey home in our wedding beetle

To have an initial celebration of our 2nd Wedding anniversary on September 1st this month, we had a nice dinner at Sakuraya at Parkway Parade with the freshest sashimi comprising of prawns, scallops, salmon, squid washed down with Japanese rice and miso soup. While it's not the poshest of place, well for foodies who know fresh sashimi when they see one, it's as good as it gets at a valued price of nearly $50, quality and quantity which many upscale restaurants would find it hard to keep up with. To further celebrate our anniversary, we booked a 2 nights weekend getaway at Marina Mandarin in mid September in their Premier Room with balcony under a special promotion for VISA card holders at $208 a night plus a customized $500 spa package at The Retreat @ Changi Village hotel to relax and rejuvenate. So we are looking very much forward to next weekend to getting away from it all to spending romantic and quality time together.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Financial prudence in home ownership

Having one's own home is always a key accomplishment in one's life. However along with owning one's own home comes with the financial responsibilities of owning and maintaining a home. For us, we realise that we are quite particular about the items and design of our house so we chose to go HDB instead of private. By going down the HDB route, we could use the cash saved to furnish and renovate our apartment the way we wanted. Going down the condo route would have been difficult since cash would be very sparse after coughing out cash for the wedding.Besides, it would seem quite a waste not to use up the government's 30k grant since we pay a sizeable income tax and the government is not in a habit of going huge doses of moolah to it's citizens. While a condo is one of those things in life that provides the aspiration for some people, we felt that since we arent super duper rich, it would be quite hard on us since the exorbitant sums for a condo would result in us being a slave to our house for a term of 25 to 30 years. Both of us would prefer to have spare cash to be in a position to spend it on things we enjoy such as holidays, shopping, food and car. With a HDB flat, we are able to plan to pay up our loan in 8 years time with current monthly payments of about $600 a month deducted from our CPF. This allows us to ensure that when we retire at age 65, we have enough CPF savings. If you are paying for a home for 30 years using your CPF savings,it would mean an empty CPF account which is a frightening thought, unless you are a big income earner. Also, the spare cash saved goes to providing for future needs such as insurance and medical expenses when we get older. We know that many people say that well you can sell your condo for a profit but that is a BIG 'IF' as you are dependent on a good resale market or you can choose the time to see your house ( espeicallly when you are older and you may need to get that cash in hand at the most inopportune time). Also, human nature would be that if you have been living in a condo for 30 years, it would be most difficult to downsize especially from a private to a public property. We also thought that one reason why we arent so fervent over condos is probably because both of us lived in private property during our younger days and it didnt seem like a big deal after the initial excitement of having a swimming pool, exclusivity, the 'glam' factor etc dies off. Besides, the thought of being locked in a 25 to 30 year loan for a condo means virtually you are imprisoned to your job and we did'nt like that thought very much because you never can predict the future. If we do feel like leaving our jobs one day, we can do it without fear since most major things would be paid for already.

The following are some financial commitments imposed which a first time home owner should always take into account so that owning one's own home does not become a stressful event. Do avoid high interest items such as renovation loans or little things that sap your savings such as 12 to 36 month type of installment schemes for your electrical appliances etc.

1) Utilities bills ( Electrical , water and refuse removal )
2) Estate / Town Council Maintenance Fee
3) Cable TV subscription
4) Telephone and Internet subscription
5) House Loan Payments ( if you did not have enough CPF to cover monthly payments )
6) Car Park Season Parking Fee ( For HDB / URA carparks )
7) House cleaning ( A little luxury that saves you time and energy )
8) Groceries ( cleaning solutions,toilet rolls etc - always seems a mystery to us how a few items of groceries can add up to a big bill and we are talking about shopping in NTUC buying housebrands where possible)

1) Mortgage Insurance
2) Fire Insurance
3) Property Tax

For us, we try to do necessary savings because we believe that it is better to spend such money on things we enjoy or save it instead of wasting it needlessly on unnecessary expenditure. One example is utilities. Our monthly utilities hovers between $70 to $80 with use of aircon every late noon and nights.

With shayna's arrival, we also find ourselves using more water to wash and clean her up daily. We try to cut down on utilities by using energy saving bulbs in those areas where the light is turned on for long periods such as the study area, kitchen, dining.
We switch off lights when not in use. We also use the fan when the nights are cooler though this is rare given the heat wave recently. Our fridge, microwave oven, aircons and washing machine have energy saving inverter technology. We also actively turn off all appliances because to leave them in standby mode will add to your electricity bills.
We also look for savings promotion such as the Singtel Mio Plan which for $65 a months pays for Gayle's handphone, our broadband connection and house phone.So when buying a house, don't just factor the loan payments, do consider the maintenance because it's no joy slaving over a house when it should be for your enjoyment.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Walk In Wardrobe & Study Area

(Above)Original State of the room used for our Walk-in & study area before renovation
We renovated and partition the room into three areas - Walk in wardrobe area , study area and display area.

(Above) Study Area

(Above) Display area with a built in display cabinet to create extra storage space and a glass display to showcase our marriage souvenirs.

(Above and Below)The Walk In Wardrobe Area

For our idea of having one continuous master bedroom linked to a study and walk in to the master bathroom, we had the good fortune of having a apartment layout whereby the master bedroom entrance faces the entrance of the 2nd common room. What we did was to remove the separate doors of each room, build one main entrance and door to serve both rooms so that both rooms are merged as one. We built a false wall partition that serves both as a divider between the study and the walk in wardrobe and as the backing wall of the wardrobe spacing.

We had to get the contractor to straighten and level the ceiling as HDB quality control was lacking so that our new master room entrance would not appear crooked. We got our ID to fabricate a glass door for our master room entrance that comes with a fixed glass partition and customised lockset so that we can lock the glass door. We did not want the bottom mounted locks seen in glass doors in shops as that would make our room entrance look like a shop front. Our ID managed to install a lockset near the glass door handle(See picture below).

(Above and Below) Ample storage space planned and constructed for current and future usage.

We constructed a L shaped wardrobe space to maximize the amount of storage space so that not just current storage needs(above) could be fulfilled but also there would be adequate storage space for future needs. We asked for two colums of deep set drawers, one for Gayle and one for myself, so that more clothing could be stacked within the drawers. The top drawers had a lockset installed for keeping of valuable items or documents. For the hangar space, we had space set aside for dresses whereby the lower part of the storage space is kept free of any impediments so that the dresses and long coats can hang straight down(below). For the shirt storage area, we had both upper and lower rung to create more space to hang shirts on hangar racks.

As wardrobe doors would seem too hard and traditional and yet wanting to keep out dust from our clothing space, we had hidden curtain tracks installed(above picture) and got our curtain guy to install suede curtains to serve as the 'wardrobe doors'. This was a step in the right direction as it gives a very boutique feel to the walk in space.See below)

We installed a four point squared halogen lamp(above) which fits the boutique look. We don't usually turn them on for too long as it does get a little hot if the air conditioner is not on but well, a little comfort is sacrificed for style.

(Above) Our American Standard tabletop sink with anti-bacterial coating paired with the Hansgrohe Axor Starck tap. It is good to plan for extra tabletop space around your sink area to put your toiletries.

For the master bathroom, we took out the wash basin from it's original location inside the bathroom and placed it on a customised tabletop with upper and lower storage spaces. We bought a American Standard top mounted sink(above) and mounted it together with the necessary plumbing work. We installed a water resistant soild top surfacing as the sink area would be a wet area to resist water. With a beautiful top mounted sink, we had to pair it with a nice tap since it was in open view now. We splurged a little by purchasing a Hansgrohe Axor Starck tap(seen below) which cost us $570 after 25% card discount.

In addition , we installed a Inda Touch fitted bar(above) with soap dispenser and glass tumbler to house our toothbrushs, soap and face towels. Those keen can purchase it from Ferrera Asiapac at UE Square, priced at $512 after discount.

With the original sink removed from the bathroom, the bathroom was now much more spacious as we divided the space between the wash closet area and the bath area. To keep the wash closet area dry, we installed a 3/4 tempered glass partition.

We scoured for a contemporary looking toilet bowl and cistern(above) and found what we liked from Living Phenomenon at Balestier for $370 with it's more comptemporary shape with a broad and low water tank.It comes with a slow closing seat and cover. Do check with your contractor on the WC drain dimensions which will affect the size and suitable type of toilet bowls(old HDB flats are usually 6 inch type ) you can purchase. We are also proud of our purchase of a very minimalist and comtemporary - INDA Hotellier Dual Toilet Roll Holder(Below).

(Above) The Hansgrohe Raindance Showerhead. You can see the twirling of the water droplets in the massage function. The Raindance Showerhead is practical as it can be connected to a moveable pivoting clamp to serve as a rainshower or the showerhead can be detached to be held. This is important for cleaning the washroom also.

For our shower area, we didn't want a fixed overhead rainshower. What we opted for was a Hansgrohe Raindance Showerhead(above) linked to a hot/cold Axor Starck Mixer. The different functions of the Raindance shower allows us to adjust the waterflow from a rainshower to a mist spray. It's very soothing to have a good shower rinse and back massage.
We chose black glossy tiles to give our bathroom a classy look with two strips of mosiacs to add some vibe(See below).

We rounded up the bathroom with a classy flying saucer bathroom lighting(above) with focused spotlight for the wash closet area and overhead lighting for the wash area. A tempered frosted glass door(below) was installed for the entrance of the master bath.

We also installed a blackout roller blind to ensure privacy for the walk-in wardrobe. Switches for the lightings and ventilator fan and powerpoints for items like hairdryer etc were sourced from Legrand(below). It is important to review what are the electrical items you need to use, where you usually use and store them to determine your electrical needs such as how many powerpoints you require.

To aid ventilation, we fabricated a fibreglass screen(below) with customised opening housing a KDK ventilator fan in place of the usual louvered HDB toilet windows.

Breakdown of our purchase for some of the items requested by our readers for our walk in and bathroom :

Custom build full height walk in wardrobe with curtain track pulmet ( 13feet ) - $2470

Custom build top and bottom vanity cabinet using laminate finish with solid surface top - $660

Custom mirror for vanity top - $400

Custom build 2 sided false wall as backing for walk-in wardrobe - $280

Inda Europe Towel Bar from Ferrera Asiapac priced at $60 per piece after discount

IKEA Hovet Full Height Wall mounted mirror at $199

A swivelling 3 piece robe hook($43) for hanging your clothes and towel in the bath area from Living Phenomenon

A Ferrera Asiapac sourced Inda hotellier dual toilet roll holder at $68.

Inda toiletries corner trays - $140

(Pictures to be up soon due to technical glitch )