Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Psychology of Colour

Today I want to emphasise the importance of colours in our lives, how colours can bring excitement or how harmonious colours bring calm and balance.

When you enter a room, see someone walking toward you on a street, or look up at a billboard while stuck in a traffic jam, the first thing you notice is colour. The yellow walls in a child's room make you smile, the red of a woman's coat catches your eye, the orange background of an advertisement grabs your attention. Would you jump into a swimming pool if the pool is in orange or red? This very clearly tells us how greatly colours affect us.

( summary extracted from the book " The Complete Color Harmony"


- True red is the most vibrant, compelling colour in the spectrum, expressing excitement, speed, power, joy, danger and passion.

- Red attracts immediate attention and brings objects or images to the foreground.

- Red makes people feel warm. Coffee will seem hotter in a red cup than in a blue one.

- Red is the first colour you lose sight of at twilight and is not well seen at a great distance.

- Barn, claret, and crimson reds are considered regal, exclusive, and strong and have great appeal for men.


You crave excitement and like to live in the moment. Easily bored, you also enjoy having the power to get things done quickly. Red lovers are passionate about life.


- Yellow is psychologically the happiest colour in the spectrum, associated with warmth, optimism, and joy.

- Yellow visually pops out at you, making it the most noticeable colour. It's therefore a favourite for signs and product packages.

- Yellow stimulates clear thinking. Black type on a yellow ground is the most legible colour combination and aids in memory retention.

- Yellow adds vitality to other colours, making hot hus appear even more brilliant and bringing cool colours to life.

- Overexposure to bright yellow can be unsettling. Paler hues are better for socializing, whereas gold tones signify wealth.


You are generally happy, playful, and optimistic. If something isn't working in your life, you quickly seek to change it. Spontaneous, you have boundless curiosity.


- Orange is stimulating, energizing colour that appears friendly, outgoing, cheerful and adventurous.
- Bright orange has a very high visibility, making it ideal for warning signals or grabbing attention, even when used in small amounts.

- Easier on the eye, autumnal and spicy oranges are warm, exotic, and appetizing, while peach tones are most flattering to the skin.

- People who wear orange are thought to be creative, enthusiastic, and fun to be with, but possibly also a bit irresponsible.

- Because of its playful, active qualities, orange is a favourite of children, teens, and athletes.


You are gregarious, dynamic and fun to be with. Flamboyant by nature, you don't mind sticking out in a crowd. You have a great appetite for life and food.


- Pale green is physically the most relaxing and calming colour in the spectrum. As the easiest colour on the eye, it can improve vision.

- Vibrant greens remind people of the spring, nature, life, and youthful energy.

- Darker greens are associated with stability and growth, suggesting high economis status and success.

- Green is the worldwide symbol for safety. Green also means go.

- People who wear green are thought to be kind, dependable, and generous.


You long to feel safe and make the world a better place for others. You are generous with your time and goodwill, but also can be stubborn about issues that are important to you.


- Blue is the best liked of all colours and is a particular favourite of men.

- Practically all our associations with blue are positive, making it an uplifting and peaceful colour.

- Navy blue commands respect, representing loyalty, trustworthiness, fidelity, and integrity.

- Blue can make a space appear larger, and time seems to pass more slowly in its presence.

- Deep blue is associated with opulence in many cultures, and when you are the best, you get a "blue ribbon".


You like a sense of calm and order in your life. Trustworthy, you also value loyalty in others. Sky blue attracts pleasure-seekers and daydreamers, while navy appeals to the serious and conservative.


- Royal purple exudes class, power, passion, sensuality, and luxury.

- Deep plum is spiritual and mysterious, with a serious dignified quality.

- Lavenders and violets have a sweet, romantic, and nostalgic appeal.

- People tend to get less work done in purple rooms because the colour encourages daydreaming.

- Women often cite purple as their favourite colour.


You are known as a negotiator and have a strong desire to please. Though well-liked, you don't confide easily in others and enjoy a slight sense of mystery.


- Pink is the most passive of all colours, promoting affability while discouraging aggression against oneself as well as others.

- Considered the most feminine colour, pink is associated with nurturing and compassion.

- Pink calms and soothes, and is thought to aid in digestion.

- Shocking pink has a much higher concentration of red, making it appear energetic, fun and trendy.
- Men prefer peachy pinks to mauvey ones.


You are sensitive and kind, with a sweet disposition. You wouldn't mind a return to more innocent times and crave romance in your life.


- Brown is a warm, comforting colour associated with the earth, trees, hearth, and home.

- People tend to buy big-ticket products in neutral colours, especially in an uncertain economy. Browns both put consumers at ease and are considered timeless.

- Brown has a common feel in clothing, making one look approachable, reliable and sincere.

- Brown has a masculine, rugged quality that particularly appeals to men.

- Paper-bag brown is used in packaging to denote a natural product.


You are a down-to-earth and a dependable, loyal friend. Your home and family are very important to you and comfort is the key issue in life.


- Gray represents non-involvement, giving it a formal, dignified, and conservative authority.

- Unlike neutral brown, gray lacks warmth, which can make it appear remote, solemn, and a bit gloomy when used alone.

- Gray is associated with wisdom and maturity, adding to its moneyed appeal.

- Metallic grays offer the promise of scientific and technological advances, as well as a sense of speed and competence.

- Grays are cool and restful in home decor, but also discourage lively conversation and offer an unattractive backdrop for food.


You are a watcher rather than a participator and are reserved in social situations. Generally noncommittal, you don't like to firm up plans until the very last moment.

- White symbolizes purity, innocence, goodness and truth.

- Even though white is neutral, it is considered a cool colour because of its association with snow and ice.

- White is often thought to suggest simplicity, sterility, and safety.

- White is popular on the packaging of dairy products, low-fat items, and refined ingredients such as sugar and flour.


- Black, the most authoritative, intimidating colour, can appear agggressive when overused.

- Black is considered conservative, serious, and dignified and is used to show respect at solemn and formal occasions.

- Black gives a feeling of weight and depth. People think black boxes weigh more than white ones.

- Text is difficult to read against a black background.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Timeless Kitchens and Homes

Today I'm going to present some kitchen styles that will withstand the test of time. I like writing about kitchens. Whether your renovation budget is big or small, every home needs a kitchen. Even though people below 40 probably do not like the country style kitchen look, but it really can withstand changes in trends.

And because I'm a serious cook, I understand the importance of the work triangle-how it works to smoothen your food preparation right up to the actual cooking stage. Many people I come across want to extend their kitchen to make it bigger. But do you know that a longer and bigger kitchen does not mean the space is being properly utilized? If not properly planned, it will work to your detriment (assuming you cook very often) because if your work triangle is too large, you'll have to walk more than a few steps to get anything during food preparation. Suddenly, you're actually wasting time because all your utensils are located far away!

If you're a modern household, you'll need to rethink about locating a lone cooking stove in a small area isolated away from the dry kitchen. In our modern lifestyle where we are striving to save precious time by multi-tasking, you'll waste time if you have to walk between wet and dry kitchens to get stuff. In multi-tasking, several work is done at the same time - while the curry or soup is boiling, the fish is in the steamer and you are chopping vegetables! In this health conscious age, we don't use as much oil in our cooking (unlike in previous generations) so there is considerably lesser mess in today's kitchen. Hence the lesser need to separate wet and dry.

However, my statements above do not apply if the people who actually use the kitchen are senior folks (old habits die hard, so cooking is still oily and messy!) or maids.

The last few days before the Chinese New Year break I had been working on this country kitchen and western inspired living hall with a fireplace! The owner loves western style homes - dreamy and cozy and timeless!

Just before the holidays, we had sucessfully delivered dry and wet kitchens, a wardrobe and powder room and family activity area to an American style villa located in the Bangi golf club- the photos of which are not ready yet as the owner had not properly decorated her home. I'll post them next time around.

Listed here is another country kitchen done all in white (location Subang Jaya) - the lady owner's favourite colour. Well... the owner seems to like it , otherwise she would not have invited us to her home parties every year for the last 2 years! :)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Common Mistakes In Renovation

Today, I'm going to write about the common mistakes people make in home renovation. Most people renovate their houses less than 3 times in their whole lifetime so mistakes will be inevitable. Hopefully we will learn to avoid as many mistakes as possible through reading, asking friends and also from my blog. I'm writing from my viewpoint as a designer and contractor and these mistakes are from my observations over the last few years.

Renovating New House

1. Before renovating, plan whether you intend to sell property in the future. Will the renovation add value to your property? Some renovations do not add value and can even turn off prospective buyers if not esthetically done.

2. Everything goes through wear and tear and trends do change. Provide allowance for remodelling in the future.

3. Plan a budget and get your priorities right. Don't be tempted to bust your budget even when some contractors try to hard-sell.

4. Extensions fall into the category of major renovation. Consider whether it's worth it in the long run.
5. Remember trends change very fast! Something that looks modern today will look passe in another 7-10 years. If you do not wish to keep spending money to 'update' the look of your home, ask your design to propose something that will withstand the test of time.

6. Renovate first, then move in. Renovation work is dusty and messy!

7. Many people take a bank loan on top of their home mortgage to renovate. Ask yourself if it will be worth to tie yourself up with too much loans. Look at what my financial guru, the renowned Rajen Devadason, has to say about debts http://www.freecoolarticles.com/

8. Allow ample time for planning, sourcing, engaging your contractor or designer, designing, actual delivery of work and another 2 to 3 weeks after job delivery for rectifications and touch-ups. If you do not allocate enough time but plan your moving in on a tight schedule...you're setting yourself up to a major heart-ache especially if your project is a major one!

9. Don't spend ALL your money on buying the property but later choose the cheapest stuff for its interiors. Nothing is less flattering than entering a grand bungalow and finding that its furnishings are all low-cost ones.

10. When you hire a contractor to do grills, make sure he provides sufficient numbers of escape exits. We've met a few contractors who do not provide enough escape doors if the house-owner forgot to specify. Their intention to undercut is to save some money but that is irresponsible!

11. Have you ever been to a house where you don't feel comfortable and your eyes hurt? That is what insufficient lighting can do. Install dimmers so that you can tone down for relaxation or brighten up for reading.

12. Plan the functional usage for each and every corner of the house. Then only you will know what you require :

- electrical points

- task lighting

- future purchases

Renovating and Maintaining Old House

1. Make it a point to throughly spring-clean your house at least once a year. Many people told me they feel it's such a big waste to throw out things that are still in good condition even though it's no longer in use. Use this opportunity to send good and usable stuff to poor people who actually need them. However, don't insult the poor by sending them torn and tattered stuff!

2. Get rid of stuff that you haven't used in 2 years - that's a cardinal rule! I have many clients who insist on making cabinets - kitchens and wardrobes - that reach the ceiling because they have mountains of stuff to keep. Remember, you're going to spend a huge chunk of your savings to renovate and supposedly to make your house more beautiful but if you insist on more storage space reaching ceiling height just to keep junk, you house will just end up like a huge warehouse!

3. Think many, many times over before you decide to buy an old house. It is very costly to remodel an old house, if you want to change a lot of structures like the total outlook.

4. If you decide your old house needs a face-lift and proceeds to change the exterior and kitchen..don't forget the bathroom too! Also remember to water-proof it.

5. Old houses ( sometimes even new ones too ) are very likely to harbour termites. So get it treated first before anything else! One customer ignored signs in neighbours' houses and didn't treat their house. The kitchen we built for them didn't last more than 1 year! And don't scoff at this, even condominium units on 16th floor can get infested, as another client experienced.

Choosing a Contractor

1. Ask if he will design and build or you need to get another designer yourself. Also, ask who will supervise the whole project.

2. Ask what grade of workers he will use. When one contractor quotes you a high price and another quotes you very much lower, you'll need to understand what causes the price difference. Price differences come from materials, design, grade of workers and types of accessories used. I've already written about this point in detail on another website http://www.meridiandesign.com.my/faq.htm

3. When choosing a wireman (especially when he is working alone) make sure he is suitably qualified. Mistakes in wiring can cause an overload and leads to fire accidents.

4. Ask how your contractor what steps he will take to minimise mess to your house.

5. Beware of rogue contractors.

There are some around whose cash flow is not very healthy (ie. they have a personal problem in managing finances). These group have a human weakness of over-spending on the progressive payments collected from clients on themselves - big cars, big house, whatever..The result is that when they reach breaking point, they'll disappear with your money without delivering the job. Signs to alert you : Is he having several handphone numbers? Does he ignore calls from unknown numbers? Is he reluctant to let people know where he stays? Does he try to excuse himself every time a call comes in because he doesn't want you to listen to his conversations?

Another smaller minority group are those who are linked to gangsterism. These group are only found around low-cost flats or housing. They normally rent a showroom at new low-cost apartment block and sort of "pau" (Cantonese term meaning "monopolise") all renovations in that particular apartment and no other contractors are allowed to linger near the area. A few times in the early years of our career, Chee Hoong met these people who warn him to drop any clients in their zone or they'll make him eat paper! Many times, his car was also vandalised. We've stopped meeting gangsters like these now that we're no longer selling low-end renovation work.

Working along with Contractors

1. Make sure your contractor gives you a copy of everything agreed upon so that there will be no dispute.

2. When errors occur, don't start quarrelling with your contractor. Remember that all these work are done by humans and humans do err! Reason out in a rational and logical way and most contractors will help you rectify whichever part is making you unhappy.

3. Errors will happen, whether big or small. The bigger the project, the more errors will happen. A good project manager will be experienced enough to foresee potential errors and take steps to minimize them. Clients too contribute to a multitude of errors! Play your part to minimize these errors by being clear in your instruction and most important, not changing your mind after the design, materials and colours are confirmed.

4. To minimise heart-ache, adjust your expectations to what you are paying. If you choose a specific contractor because his price is the cheapest, don't expect first class service.

5. Ask your contractor for a Project Schedule. It will be easier for you to keep track of progress and check for validity of progressive payment bills.

DIY or Main Contractor?

1. If your house requires a major renovation and both you and your spouse are working, then you will have peace of mind if you hire a main contractor. Hiring a main contractor is slightly more expensive than hiring individual labour workers because you are paying his salary to be your project manager, to supervise the whole project and to coordinate all workers so that everything is moving smoothly.

2. If you decide to go about everything the DIY way, it pays to learn more about renovation standards and how to check on workers' work rather than solely depending on them to deliver the job. In the course of our work, we've come across many houses where things are not delivered up to normal standards ( normally work done by unskilled foreign labour without any qualified managers / supervisors to check on them ) : walls are not 100% straight so kitchen cabinets end up slightly crooked , bathroom floors built without proper 'slope' so water ends up stagnant, concrete slabs in kitchen not at standard height so cooking cannot be done in a comfortable position, built in walls not in the correct depth so cannot build wardrobe in the space where the owner intends, etc, etc.

Interior Furnishings

1. Furniture is too large and rooms poorly laid out. If you still remember drawing x,y scale from secondary school Mathematics, it will be helpful to actually draw out the layout plan. Then you can see if you will have enough walking and living space.

2. Not being able to see the whole picture and how everything fits together. If you have good taste,you won't falter. Otherwise, get a designer!

3. Don't be afraid to use colours, however there is such a thing as too much colour. The eye needs to rest.

4. Be careful about colours. Things which are permanent (like wall tiles and flooring ) should be in neutral tones so that they can match whichever wall colour and furniture that you choose to change in the future. Eg. instead of tiles of pink or blue, choose neutral ones like white or cream.

5. There are no hard and fast rules regarding design and colours. So don't get too bothered if your 'too helpful' friend or relative do not like your choice and tries to interfere!