Interior design is different from any form of artistry. How? Well, let's just say that when Rembrandt painted the Night Watch, he didn’t have a client looking over his shoulder going, "Put more moustaches on the men.”
Interior designers deal with that all the time, especially with homeowners who chase trends without really stopping to consider if they're practical for their space.
Here are some common examples.
1. KITCHEN ISLAND
A kitchen island is an expensive, space-consuming counter in the middle of the kitchen. It often comes with high seats (so it can function as a bar) and a surface - often marble - that costs an arm and a leg.
Since kitchen islands are often outfitted with sinks or even drink dispensers, they often require additional plumbing, and can raise costs by as much as a whopping S$8,000.
Considering that one of the challenges of kitchen design is to maximise space - hence, L-shaped layouts and overhead cabinets - an island is really just another giant counter-top that takes up valuable space.
And if you intend to use it for sitting and eating at, or pouring drinks at, well, a table would cost you a tenth of the price.
2. TINY, FORCED WALK-IN WARDROBES
Walk-in wardrobes are magnificent – if they are spacious enough to double as small changing rooms. That’s kind of the whole point.
But often, interior designers are made to force walk-ins into spaces that were never meant to hold them, like shoebox apartments. The end result often resembles a-top-of-the-line, stylishly designed portaloo.
It’s an expensive case of prioritising form over function, and it’s best to listen to interior designers when they explain that a small room will look better without the walk-in.
Wallpapering can cost anywhere between S$120 and S$300 per roll applied (the cost drops with more rolls). Overall, it often comes up to about twice the cost of having a room painted. But the expense isn’t the worst part.
Wallpaper is ridiculously easy to damage. Even if a stray table corner or chair back doesn’t gouge a hole in it, our climate will destroy it. The heat and humidity often cause it to warp and form bubbles, or to peel. Turning an air conditioner on and off in the same room just makes it worse.
On top of that, there’s no guarantee that in a few years, the same design of wallpaper will be available. Picture this: You have three strips of wallpaper on your living room wall. The middle strip deteriorates, and you can’t replace it because they don’t produce it anymore. Now, what? If you replace all of it, you’ll be forking out money to strip everything off and re-apply a new design. Wallpapering is expensive, and maintenance is difficult.
4. TINY, TINY TILES
The hardest part of cleaning a tiled surface is the grouting. That’s the space between the tiles. In a high humidity environment such as a bathroom, it breeds bacteria alarmingly fast.
With big tiles, there’s less grouting to clean. But if you have lots of tiny tiles forming a mosaic, good luck going at it with that toothbrush - and if you don't, it will turn a mouldy shade of green.
It’s an overrated interior design feature, so trust contractors or interior designers when they advise against tiling in certain rooms.
5. THEMED CHILDREN'S ROOMS
It's cute and all, but remember that children grow up. When your son turns 14 and starts blasting gangsta rap, he may not appreciate a room wallpapered with little teddy bears in party hats.
Theme rooms are fine if you don’t go overboard with costs (just remember you may have to undo it all later), or if they aren't too age-specific ("Woodland cottage", for instance, is a more sustainable theme).
Also consider that if you intend to rent out the room when Junior goes to university, it’s easier if the theme is “cottage” and not “My Little Pony".
6. ALL-WHITE EVERYTHING
The "minimalist white" theme is commonly seen in magazines, so interior designers get asked to do it a lot.
But white fabrics, especially white leather, are known to stain easily. One careless mug of coffee could result in a S$1,200 upholstery job.
You'd also have a pretty empty house, because almost anything with colour would ruin the theme. One family picture on the wall, and the entire “white look” is gone. Plus, your ornaments and trinkets would have to be mostly made of steel, glass, ceramics or plastics. Challenge yourself to not get bored.
Aesthetics and practicality don’t have to clash. Great interior design marries the two. And don’t let design magazines give you the wrong idea: The rooms you see there are staged. They aren’t meant to be lived in, and don’t take into account things like pets, children or the fact that you may actually want an ugly massage chair in the living room. Buy a home, not a stage.
This article first appeared on 99.co.