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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Rats Vs... This



We have a dog.

We chose a puppy that we thought would grow up into a toughie. Except that we got THIS instead. THIS likes to dose indoors on a soft rug I bought specifically for the purpose. THIS likes to sit on women's laps and get his tummy scratched. THIS whines and howls piteously twice a week at bath time from behind a foam-covered snout. To hear him at bath time, one would think Petunia runs an animal torture house. One must never make the mistake of looking THIS in the eye at bath time because the look of utter forlorn-ness will turn your heart into melting ice-cream. THIS also eats carrots, pistachios and celery sticks because I do.

WHERE is the toughie I had wanted to guard the new house?

The question becomes salient because I have learnt that there have been sightings of rats at the new house. When work started at our site, I saw rat cages. On one occasion, I saw a baby rat in one of the cages. In the past months, there have been no rats at the worksite. I am told that the digging had disturbed a nest, but now the rats have fled the noise and the digging and the never ending pours of concrete.

But I have no doubt that the neighbourhood has rats. About 10 houses up the road, there is a square of shophouses with restaurants. Where there is food, there are rats, and 10 houses down from those restaurants, is Pet's House.

I was worried enough to borrow a book entitled "Rats" by Robert Sullivan. Now, my worry has turned to horror. Rats can chew through concrete and steel plates. They are only deterred by concrete mixed with broken glass and steel wool. Possibly because these cut their gums. In 6 hours, a dominant male rat can mate with 20 females. Here, the Husband turned to me and proclaimed his new found respect for rats. Each female produces 10 pups after 21 weeks. Immediately after giving birth, a female rat can get pregnant again. The ignorant critters have never heard of condoms nor The Pill. In summary, one pair of rats has the potential of 15,000 descendants in ONE year.

Rats can grow to a foot long, and in packs, have been known to attack humans and kill babies. On Rikers Island, a New York City dump, rats killed and ate farm pigs. They even devoured the dogs meant to kill them. However, scientists have noted that they would rather starve than eat raw carrots.

And all I have is THIS carrot eating dog to protect my house against rats.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Who is The Panda?



The Panda's name is Weston Liew and Grandpa Panda is called Joseph Liew. Here are the two handsome Pandas. Yeah... I know... they look like brothers right? But no... they're Dad and Boy. Dad is on the left and Boy is on the right. Don't underestimate The Boy. He calls the shots.

The company name is Metropole Builders Pte Ltd and if you wanna engage them, you really should check out whether they are BCA registered (i.e., whether they are a licensed builder). They are at present licensed and are likely to be in future, but building a house is a very very costly endeavour, and so every individual should do his own thorough checks.

I interviewed one contractor last year who was not himself a licensed builder but was able to bid for my contract through his friend's company. I did not much like that for 2 reasons. Firstly, who actually would be legally liable when things go wrong? The contractor or his licensed builder friend? Secondly, is there something wrong with the contractor if he cannot get the BCA license? So I picked Metropole Builders instead... because they were licensed.

The main contractor is only as good as his sub-contractors are. So far, I have watched how Metropole's sub-contractors work.

The electrician (called Cliff) is careful and meticulous. He doesn't like to be taken advantage of and can be somewhat sensitive if he thinks people are trying to wrangle unfair freebies from him. But if you treat him fairly and respectfully, he is a wonderful... wonderful, very warm fellow who does a good job. I suppose that in his line of work, many people try to pull fast ones on the trades people, and that's what makes Cliff wary of house owners and their quest for freebies. And yes... he is a licensed electrician.

Metropole's plumbing sub-contractor (sorry, dunno name) sends a well tanned skinny person with a ready smile and a lot of enthousiasm for his work. He was competent enough to point out discrepancies in the architect's drawings and was most meticulous in measuring exactly where the pipes should come out in a bathroom. This has to be done before placing sinks and shower screens and all, and hence, it is somewhat more difficult because there are no reference points. I liked him enough that I bought him tea and buns.

Metropole's waterproofing people were real pros. They are authorised applicators of Quickseal, a well-established brand of waterproofing products. And I really liked the aluminium windows guy because he sounded a few alerts that prevented me from making bad decisions about my windows.

I was also quite impressed with the tilers. Such STRAIGHT lines!!

Joseph (Grandpa Panda) is at site every day. Some days, he tarries very long to supervise works that are a little complex. Other days, he pops in and out a few times in a day. Muthu is there all the time to make sure the team works seriously and well. Weston (The Panda) comes by about twice a day (like me). He is the one I turn to when I am unsure what to do. The Panda will patiently explain things to me and take time to produce solutions to my concerns.

For example, I was worried that the rain water down pipes would provide convenient nesting places for rats. The old house had a colony of rats that have fled or been exterminated by all the digging and building going on on my plot. It was Weston (The Panda) who very patiently helped me think through a solution and implement it. He is a trained civil engineer from NTU. You won't find many contractors with that kind of qualifications.

This said, I do feel that it is important to personally supervise the site as well. No matter how good the contractor, things slip between the cracks. I go to site twice a day and alert The Panda to things that I see. Sometimes, people forget. Other times, the owner just wants things done a certain way to be very kiasu. Unless you communicate yourself, the contractor won't know. Weston (The Panda) is easy to talk to, as long as you treat him with respect and give him his dignity.

But all men and boys are like that. Even Little Boy responds well when treated with respect.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

About Waterproofing Flat Roofs and Bathrooms

I made a veritable nuisance of myself to The Panda over waterproofing. Thanks to the various roof leaks at the penthouse, Petunia was determined that there would be NO leaks at the new house. Dry is comfortable and wet is not.

There are 2 flat roofs at the new house. The thing about flat roofs is that they are cast in concrete, and whilst concrete would stop tanks and such, water just about thumbs its nose at it and seeps to wherever it wants to go. I was determined to make both roofs entirely impermeable to water.

Typically, flat roofs are waterproofed with liquid membranes. These membranes come in liquid form and when painted on thick upon the slab, they harden into a membrane that is impermeable to water. Once applied, it is very important NOT to tear the membrane with shoes, boots, pails and whatnot. Else, it becomes a plastic bag with a multiple holes.

I gave The Panda much grief over the waterproofing... I did. First, I went into a flap about the extra foam insulation layer that The Panda had very kindly wanted to include as part of my waterproofing system. These are hard foam panels that are laid on top of the membrane together with some other layers of thingies that altogether make your floor look like a hamburger before you slosh on the sauce (i.e., the cement screed).

I was afraid that the foam, having different heat expansion properties than tiles, would cause the tiles to expand so much that they would pop up. Then, I was afraid that tiles sitting atop such foam panels would crack if I placed heavy pots and trellises on it. So much for The Panda wanting to be generous above and beyond the contract specifications. I wasn't at all grateful.

Next, I made some noise when I noted that the wall across from my shower head was not treated with the liquid membrane. It isn't normal practice but I wanted it done because I was sure that the children would splash water all the way there when they shower. After Little Boy showers, you would think a tsunami had gone just through the bathroom. All that is missing are fish gasping for breath on the bathroom floor. Just about everything gets wet. Even though it wasn't normal practice, The Panda did it for me.

Then, I noted that a little wall that would get wet around those parts had not been completely built and therefore might not be waterproofed. I raised another stink. The Panda said that it would be done in due course, when it was time to raise that wall.

After that, I flapped like hen when I noticed that the cloth laid over the waterproofing membrane covered only part of the roof. There was quite a good reason for that and The Panda patiently explained. Later, I screeched like a parrot when I caught some of the workers traipsing all over the membrane trying to get some other works done. The Panda gave the workers a nice talking to via Muthu the site supervisor.

Indeed, it makes no sense for The Panda to do a poor job on the waterproofing because it comes with a 1o year warranty. If water seeps through, he would have to incur even more costs in repair. Hence, we both agreed that it was better to be somewhat a kiasu flappy hen than have to deal with leaks later. The Panda was a paragon of patience right through all my flappiness. I think Petunia the Flappy Hen will roast a relative for The Panda's favourite snack - roast chicken.

About Metal Roofs

There is something about the sight of dampness on the ceiling that sends my blood pressure soaring. We had spots of roof leaks in various parts of the penthouse and they caused me no end of worry. Of course, the management committee fixed every spot because it is responsible for all roof leaks in penthouses. But it was a hassle still.

There is something third world-ish and forlorn about staying in a place that lets water in when it rains. Think a beggar dressed in rags crouching by a straw bed in the squalor of an abandoned buddhist temple with a hole in the roof and water dripping through. One cannot feel safe and warm when the roof threatens to pour a deluge. Maybe that is why cavemen lodged in caves, where the roof is as thick and strong as the whole mountain cradling the cave to its bosom.

It was for this reason that I requested for a industrial metal roof with double density heat insulation and an added cement board layer. The new house is much cooler than my penthouse on hot days. Metal roofs come in a few designs. The Klip-Lok design is what is commonly seen in the HDB industrial estates. It is also the most robust and leak proof of all the roof profiles... and is the cheapest. See picture here.

The very reason that makes the Klip-Lok is ugly is the very reason that it is robust against leaks. The seams (i.e., the ridges) are double interlocked and therefore offer added protection against leaks. But because they are double interlocked, they are also thicker. Roof workers can stand on these thick seams without fear of damaging the roof, and over time the double interlocking joints these Klip-Lok roofs wear better. When I did my research on roofs, a reputable roofing specialist explained that Select Seam (the most popular metal roof for residential houses) tends to spring some leaks after 5 years because the seams overlap only once, instead of twice. See picture here.

So how does Klip-Lok compare to tiled roofs? My clerk-of-works explained that tiled roofs tend to get brittle over the years, and when you send workers up there to do maintenance on whatever... the tiles can crack. Also, each tile is smaller than each sheet of metal roof. There are thus more joints. These joints are not sealed. A tiled roof works by channelling the flow of water from one tile to the next so that water does not drop through. However, if the roof pitch is too gentle, the flow of water moves downwards across tiles slowly and could overflow into the gaps between the tiles and leak into your house. I was told that a tiled roof should not be less than 30 degrees in pitch, whilst a metal roof can be pitched at 7 degrees only. It seems too, that in Australia, Klip-Lok is used often for residential properties. The notion that the Klip-Lok roof is a cheap factory roof seems to be a cultural bias specific to Singapore.

I'm trying to comfort myself with the thought that it's not WHAT you wear baby, it's HOW you wear it. I am hoping that my house can wear the Klip-Lok in a manner that would make it look good.

Hope!!

Where are Property Prices Heading?

There was a time when the property market was in the doldrums and Wee Cho Yaw was buying up land parcels like they were chocolates and at exorbitant prices too (for that time). I had an inkling back then that he probably knew something that the general populace did not know. On hindsight, I think that this something might be the relaxation of immigration rules, leading to the flood of immigration that has fuelled the rising property prices and caused many Singaporeans much grief.

It was likely not a state secret even at that time, but the general populace (like you and I) generally doesn't recognise policy until it sits next to him in the MRT... and by then, it is too late to make an investment decision.

People like us see trees and miss the forest. People like Wee Cho Yaw see the forest so very clearly that they don't have to look at the trees. They can see trends develop before they develop. Partly, they see the terrain from a privileged perspective because they are way up there. Partly, they are used to looking for trends because seeing trends is how they make money.

Well... it seems that newly released land parcels aren't attracting the attention of property developers. For some reason, the big players have stopped buying. They're also rushing construction schedules so as to be able to get their units to market early. Are they afraid that if launched too late, prices may have dropped? AND Jackie Chan, who being an actor nothwithstanding, is a very savvy property investor. Well... Jackie Chan just sold a property for a tidy profit.

So, I'm thinking that property prices will be heading south in the next 2 years. The neighbour has been dangling his property for sale at something of an exorbitant price (for this time). He hasn't quite put it on the market. He has talked to me, looking quite casual about it... and he has talked to both The Panda and Grandpa Panda. But I wouldn't buy even if I could afford his exorbitant price.

Something tells me that the winds are changing. HDB regulations have widened the gap between HDB flats and private apartments. This effectively dries up demand from potential HDB upgraders. This takes away a great deal of demand for private properties. The flood of immigrants has slowed. This takes away even more demand. There are some concerns about China's economy. US fundamentals stay weak and the quantitative easing procedures don't seem to bring any real solution.

I really think it is time to sell, not buy. But well... let time tell if I am right.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Serious Trepidation

The Panda gave me some glass samples (bronze tinted glass and clear glass) and asked me to hold them up against the light next to a slice of brown aluminium frame.

"Okaaaaaaaaaaaaaay... so what else do you expect me to do now?" I asked.

"Do you like how the frame matches the glass?" he asked.

I kinda felt that there was something I was missing because I had told him quite clearly a good while back that I wanted to match brown frame with bronze tinted glass. But I said "Yes, I do. What's wrong with it?"

"Ummmm... the aluminium guy said that no one matches brown frame with bronze glass. It has never been done" he said, quite adroitly laying the blame (for this gentle critique of my lack of good taste) at the door of the aluminium window supplier.

I was puzzled. Someone told me decade ago that if I can't match stuff, just choose things that have the same basic tones. Brown and bronze should match if one follows that principle no? "Really? It has never been done? Why? The 2 colours match what?!"

The Panda sidestepped the question and offered the comment, "Nowadays, people choose clear glass. That is the fashion"... to which I countered "I dun wanna be fashionable."

*Silence for a bit*

In reluctant bits and pieces (phrased very carefully so that dear Mrs Petunia Lee who makes yummy roast chickens wouldn't get offended and thus stop making yummy roast chickens) I began to get the picture. Brown frame and bronze glass was the fashion of the 1980s. The heyday of Boy George, the Pet Shop Boys and Cyndi Lauper. The Panda didn't want to embarrass me (and himself) by building a house that looked old before its time. I'm wondering if Grandpa Panda had anything to do with this. Grandpa Panda has been a little more direct about some undesirable features of my house. For example, he commented "You cannot have such a narrow door at the Master Bedroom that opens into such a large room. If people know that I built such a narrow door, I would be quite ashamed." Oh well... ok. I 'm good with a big door.

I still can't really visualize the glass and the windows and the 1980s look but it must be something awful for The Panda to broach the sensitive topic. So I chose clear glass instead. That's probably the first fashionable choice I have made thus far.

Now, I am worried about all my other choices. Oh dear! This is worse than giving birth and wondering what the baby looks like. At least, if one's children look ugly, one can blame Providence but when your house looks ugly, you can only blame yourself.

Wail! Wail! Wail!

Monday, June 20, 2011

The People Who Built My House



Here is the team that is building my house. By now, I know all their faces. They're a good team and they are lead by an amazing man called Muthu. See below.



Dear old Muthu walks like a goat and climbs like a monkey. He is shorter than many men I know but his compact body packs strength and muscle that would put men half his age to shame. More than once, I have gratefully borrowed his arm for support as I climb up scaffolding to look at roofs or over mounds of bricks to access a precarious perch to take measurements. No matter how my heart beats as I brave the terrifying heights of my own house, Muthu's arm is rock steady.

I am convinced that Muthu can do anything, and do it well. He is the one who reads the architect's and structural engineer's plans, and then instructs his team. I've never heard him raise his voice. He communicates in a series of low pitched instructions and his workers cooperate readily. At 10.30am and 4.30pm sharp, he allows a tea break. At noon is lunch break. At these times, the team takes a well deserved break from physically demanding work. After lunch, they nap.

It really is tough work. People who have experienced a worksite next door know how dusty and noisy it can be. These workers are up close and personal with the dust and noise. It's no fun I tell you to be the one holding the jackhammer hacking the walls of the hardened shelter. For one thing, your whole body vibrates with the jackhammer (it isn't called a hardened shelter for nothing). Next, you're in an enclosed space where sound reverberates around you. Lastly, you are doing this for the whole day.

I pop by the worksite twice a day. The workers go about their tasks quietly. Once in a while, someone sings a song in his language. It is nice to know that a team of happy workers built my house. I think that is what I really like about The Panda. He is kind and nice to people with no money and no power, and he looks after his workers very well. Indeed, Muthu has worked for The Panda for decades. He began as any other worker, but was so keen and able to learn that he learnt English, and learnt to measure and set out and read plans. The Panda values him so much that Muthu's mobile phone is even more expensive than those given to the company's office workers. AND, Muthu gets to wear a hard hat that marks him out as executive level staff, and not worker level staff. The workers wear yellow hard hats. Muthu's hard hat is white. Whomever has Muthu for husband, father or son can be very proud indeed.

It seems so arrogant of me to say that I built my house. In truth, I laid not a single brick. All I do is make a nuisance of myself, asking to see this and that... asking why this and that... pointing out that such and such is not good. I have laid not a single brick.

The people who really built my house are Muthu and his team. So, this post is dedicated to them.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Me and My Ugly House

Lately, I have been asking the all and sundry whether the new house is a beautiful one. The Panda was very frank. He said, "It's not stylish". "So, it's ugly?" I asked with furrowed brows and a little pout which he thankfully could not see since we were sms-ing each other. "No, it's not ugly. It's just not stylish. Remember your friend? The one you dragged me to visit? HER house is stylish".

Then I ran into Grandpa Panda. He said "Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Your house looks like a lego creation. It has a form and shape that defies convention." Again, I asked, "So, it's an ugly house?" The dear man looked into my eyes and said "I have no reason to curry your favour because I already have your job. It is not an ugly house. It's a special and unique house. When Jørn Utzon built the Sydney Opera House, he was hugely criticized, but today, it is an iconic structure."

This is a man with no university degree but he has spent his whole life examining architecture wherever he goes. He takes pictures of houses constantly and then he talked to me about themes. The notion of theme has been broached before. First, by a friend who has definitely an eye for beauty (unlike me). Next, by a lighting vendor who scared me outta his shop because he made me feel quite stupid. According to Grandpa Panda, the house I am building has a theme too. It turns out that it has the Lego theme. It looks like it was made of lego, with sharp angles, interesting cut-ins and layers of different heights. See... the first floor ceiling is 4.5m high, whilst the 2nd floor is a more conventional 3m only. The third floor is a smaller and shorter block sitting atop the lower larger blocks. Like a 3 layer lego wedding cake minus the frost.

The whole lot is topped by metal roof. And it isn't just any metal roof, it's the sort of roof you normally find on factory roofs in the small factory clusters in every HDB estate. AND, it's olive green in colour. Ok... now are you convinced that it is an ugly house?

I built the house for comfort from the inside. Grandpa Panda walked me through every room and showed me how cool and bright they were and how spacious. Then he said "Once you've dressed up the place with your gardener's touch, this house will be very attractive in a very unconventional way". He seemed to be talking about Dovima and not Pet's House.

He forgot to point out that I have cheap homogeneous tiles (and exactly the same ones) in every room on every floor from living to store room to bedroom. The Panda once commented that it is unusual to build a semi-detached house that has homogeneous tiles and no parquet (AND brick and tile kitchens). Homogeneous tiles are fuss-free in maintenance. Milo can pee all over and I wouldn't throw a fit. But they cannot, by a long shot, be associated with luxury.

Grandpa Panda is a dear old man, but I fear very much that I have created a house with a demeanour that only its parents could love. The Husband, Grandpa Panda, The Panda and Me.

I normally wouldn't care how beautiful people think my house is except that it has suddenly occurred to me that if I were to sell my house, who would wanna buy it? And this thought offends the penny-pinching side of Petunia very much. Spending a great deal in investment is far better than spending a great deal to please oneself. In the present case, Petunia has spent too much to please herself and not been wise in investing the money on stylish design features that would please potential buyers.

A little bit of a big regret.

Fishing

In my experience, a child of 10 of either gender loves to fish. When The Daughter was 10, she fished trout in the streams of the Smoky Mountains. We had chanced upon a stream that was reserved for children. It was located right next to a trout fishery which released hundreds of trout into that stream every Tuesday.

We arrived on Tuesday. The Daughter caught enough trout to feed us at dinner. The Husband set up the barbecue pit with apple wood chips and we had truly the best freshwater fish ever that night.

Then, we brought the family up to the Appalachian Mountains. Outside the rental cottage was a large pond with plenty of hungry fish. So The Daughter had a lovely time fishing there too using bread balls as bait. We have a video of her pointing at her little fish in a pail saying "I caught that!!". One American GI retired with injury stared at her with frank admiration whilst she baited her hook with a cricket. Yup... The Daughter could bait a hook as well as Huckleberry Finn.

Coming home to Singapore, The Daughter lost interest. Then she grew up and fishing became relegated to the list of activities that one remembers as part of an interesting childhood in the sun.

Now, Little Boy is 10 and specializes in fishing freshwater bream. These are fish the size of my palm if I am lucky. I gotta eat a lotta them to fill me up. The last trip, Little Boy hooked 16. The trip before last, he hooked nothing. On trip before that, he hooked about 5 in quick succession... at a rate of about 1 every 2 minutes. I don't know how Little Boy does it. He seems to be extra sensitive to the line and knows when a fish is biting. And he knows how to jerk the line up and hook the fish' mouth and then pull it up.

They catch fish. I eat them.

My kids are spoilt though. They expect quick bites and have no patience to wait. If no fish bite within 15 minutes, they get restless. Having a fish bite within 2 seconds of dropping in hook, line and sinker is highly unusual. Nonetheless, both my kids have experienced this a few times in their lives. Beginner's luck possibly.

We went fishing today. We caught nothing at all. I sat through about 45 minutes of lesson with the guy who wanted to sell me fishing tackle. He taught me how to knot and tie hooks. I brought along prawn and small fish. I went about it like a pro, and tried to impart my knowledge to my little family, and our friends (who came with us). In the end, I felt a little stupid for I began to seem like all talk and no substance.

We caught nothing at all.

With all the last minute fishing lore crammed into my head, I couldn't beat Little Boy's craft. A line, no rod, drop it in, feel the line and pull up. Voilà! A fish. Henceforth, I will stick to eating fish.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

House Construction 15

For those who have been following this blog, do note that Mr Grizzly, the Building Contractor, has become Kungfu Panda (or Panda for short). That is the name he prefers to be called, apart from of course, the name his parents gave him. This means that his Dad (whom I have hitherto referred to as Grandpa Grizzly) is now Grandpa Panda. It beats me why anyone would eschew a somewhat "hunga-hunga" name like Mr Grizzly for a name like Panda, which to me, sounds rather "Psssssssst". But well... one must never upset a Grizzly who wants to be known as Panda. So I shall call him Kungfu Panda henceforth or The Panda, for short.



Here is the Master Bedroom Toilet. It has shockingly large windows opening to face the neighbour's house, and an odd hole that opens into the Master Bedroom. Again, this is thanks to Petunia's claustrophobia. When the bathroom was first built, I walked into what I thought was a rabbit's burrow and recoiled. I asked for the window facing outside to be enlarged and filled with frosted glass louvres to ensure maximum air and light flow. The Panda did it with a few blows of his fist. Impressive.

Unfortunately, it also means that others can see in through the frosted glass louvres and possibly discern interesting/disgusting shapes (depending on who is bathing). At the point, The Panda chuckled (rather dirtily, I thought). Fortunately, the 2nd floor roof garden extends along the side of the house and I shall be able to put out Japanese Bamboo and a hedge of 1.8m tall Murraya as privacy screens just outside those bathroom windows. Here, The Panda chuckled again.

The Master Bedroom bathroom has become a sort of indoor-cum-outdoor bathroom that's neither this nor that.

I then punched a window through to the Master Bedroom. Practically, this is supposed to allow better airflow so that the bathroom dries quickly. Aesthetically, there will be timber louvres here that (seen from the Master Bedroom) will open onto a small painting hung under a downlight onto the side of the wooden cabinet inside the bathroom. I might put a potted plant next to the painting so that there'll be light, nature and art glimpsed tantalizingly through a window that isn't supposed to be there. This the Panda did in one punch.

Is is nice? Gee... I dunno.

Necessity is the Mother of Invention. I needed air flow through the bathroom and I needed light. The big windows provide both. Then I had to think up ways to ensure privacy for it wouldn't do to titillate the neighbours daily. So that is what I ended up with.

Do YOU like it?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

House Construction 14

The Husband's Study



Half the Master Bedroom



Stairs up to the Second Floor



Here are some photos of the house. Now that the walls are in, the rooms look bigger than when there were no walls. I guess everything looks smaller under the expanse of the blue sky. When walls come in, one cannot compare man's creation with God's grandeur and so man can convince himself of his own grandeur.

The ceilings look high and the staircase seems to stretch upwards forever. I left a huge hole right beside the stairwell. From there one can stand and look up to the 3rd floor. We lose some floor space but it's worth it just to feel the vertigo as well gazes upwards toward the roof. It kinda looks like an eagle could nest up there. But we all know that it isn't the case. After all, which eagle roosts in a 3-storey house eh? It just looks to be so. Bats might nest there though... if we had left the space dark and inviting.

But we did not.

Instead, we broke the roof with a skylight and left a huge gaping window on the 3rd floor staircase landing so that light could burst into that space and break up into golden droplets that would fall in a shower through the hole in the middle of the house. Apart from the bedrooms, the house will have no curtains at all. We will use plants to temper The Sun's enthousiasm and hide the antics of our crazy family.

I left a huge hole in at the top of the staircase where the man in yellow shirt is standing. For that space, I commissioned a huge wrought iron panel of Daisies. Instead of a proper painting at the staircase landing, I will have a "painting" made of black wrought iron stems and leaves... and Daisies painted gold. This "painting" will stand against a background of golden sunlight. In time, I will let creepers climb up there to drink up the sun and embrace the "painting".

The house is of humble material - heavy duty porcelain tiles, no parquet at all, wrought iron for safety and security. Most design features are adapted around practical considerations. The "Daisy painting" is there because we needed to leave a hole in the stair well for light and air flow. All ground floor windows will have wrought iron grilles too because these are vulnerable to break-ins.

2nd floor windows will give a clear and unobstructed view because the 2 points of possible entry to the 2nd floor from the neighbour's roof, will be protected by the height of the 2nd floor. My 2nd floor towers at 1.8m above my neighbour's roof, and with the added smooth glass panels of another 1.8m, any intruder would need to scale 3.6m of air and glass wall to get up to my 2nd floor. For added security, we're placing a quarter circle of iron spikes between their roof and my house. Because, who knows, the neighbour may decide to build upwards too eh?

Kiasu right?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Shop Till I Drop

Boy... I think I did more shopping in the past 4 days than I have done in my whole life. The way I shop is extremely time efficient. I am on my way somewhere and I see a dress. 10 minutes is all it takes to try it on. Pay up and go to my somewhere. The last time I shopped for house lights, I was already tired after 2 shops and 45 minutes. At the third shop, I pointed to an acceptable ceiling light fixture and said "I want 24 large and 6 small. How much?"

I generally don't buy things that cost a lot and so it doesn't make sense to walk up and down the whole road comparing things that bear no comparison. Seriously, no light shop stocks the same designs. But well... this time, I did kinda walk up and down the road. After all, I am building an entire 3 storey house and feel duty bound to do a good job of it.

So, I trudged up and down Balestier Road trying my best to visualize what the lights will look like in a space that doesn't quite look like anything yet. One lady had 2 shops of different names. I walked into the one without chandeliers, and asked about outdoor lights. She showed me a few, and then she found out that I am outfitting a semi-detached home... whereupon, she flung me out the door and threw me into her other very chandeliered shop, where the same outdoor light (at least it looked no different to me) cost double. I smiled ever so sweetly and inched my way to the door, and from there, I quickly made an escape. I left her with her ample chest heaving, looking like a disappointed Black Widow spider with a bloated stomach and skinny legs.

In yet another shop, a very important looking man frightened me very badly when he asked about the theme of my house. "Oh... theme... ummm... I don't have a theme... am I supposed to have a theme?" When he assured me that I needed a theme, I knew straight away that the relationship wouldn't work out. I wanted to buy lights, and he wanted to sell me a theme.

Then I got to this shop staffed by a man with a wiggle to his walk. In 1o minutes, I was eating out of his hand. He was so comforting and sensitive. He listened to me... really listened to me... and he understood. He was like the sister I don't have. He pored over my house plans and made intelligent recommendations. Me and my house, we felt so safe with this man with a wiggle to his walk. Then he sashayed up and down his shop sketching spaces, light and shadow in my mind's eye, quickly pricing them right for my pocket. I wanted to buy lights and he sold me his imagination. What a darling!!

Then, it was time to buy furniture. Many months back, I was going somewhere and I saw a bamboo daybed that I loved. It was $2000/= and because it costs so much, one can't just pay up and throw it in the backseat. I went home to mull over my infatuation. Meanwhile, I drove all over Singapore to meet furniture. I met no one I liked until I got to OHMM. The Australian salesman introduced me to this Dune (another daybed) and was much amused when despite myself, I rolled on it like a cat on a bed of catnip - rapturous and purring. I barely stopped myself from giving a startled meow when he softly whispered "$4840 with discount". I slunk out the shop.

The OHMM Day Bed

It was so depressing. The pieces I really liked were so expensive. They were stunning pieces but their prices taser-ed the brain. I even ventured deep into the corners of Sungei Kadut to drown my sorrows in a series of unfruitful dalliances with factory knock-offs. Once, I sneaked back to the shop and groped the poor day bed. I pulled out the cushions and felt its bottom. I crawled on all fours and peered under the bed to evaluate the wooden supports. It was a very well made and strong day bed. The Sales Lady was not pleased. After all, my hair was in a mess... my slippers were coming apart... there were red wine stains on my shirt (from the Boeuf Bourguignon I had struggled to make earlier that morning) ... and there was a look on my face that was halfway between desperate and yearning. And I was sneaking furtive looks at the TV console.

Eventually, it was The Husband who decided to go and get the bamboo day bed before his Wife (that's me) pined away to nothing. Here is the bamboo day bed.

Bamboo Day Bed

It's amazing how nasty people can become nice in the presence of The Husband's credit card. All of a sudden, I felt like a queen and not an orphan. I was even told that I looked young enough to be my husband's daughter, and thus my daughter's sister. This offended the fellow who was brandishing the said credit card.


Since The Husband was with me, things went a lot faster. The Husband and I make a good shopping team. Two of us can actually purchase the right things at the right price. The Husband alone doesn't know what to buy. Me alone, I absolutely can't buy something that is expensive. But the TWO of us... hey, we just went down the whole list of furniture and bought 'em all.

And then we bought 6 cartons of Craftstone and 3 panels of Florastone. Now I know the meaning of shop till one drops.

Florastone Panels