Finally, I got to put aside some time to write an overview of my full-blown smart home. By a full-blown Smart Home, I literally mean everything top-down.. even the toilet bowls! (.. and not just one room or merely an area or space in the apartment).
Also, this is probably, the only 3-room HDB apartment you’ll find that is totally pimped-out with smart home devices at this point. Everything was designed from scratch, down to the electrical cabling and wall-hacking placements.
I’m still adding in stuff at various parts of the apartment, but there’re simply way too many people are asking about various components and features – so I figured why not start with the overview of what I have now! 😊
Here’s what this series of posts will be broken into;
✓ Smart Stuff: Gadgets, Devices, Fixtures & Setup
✓ Carpentry: You don’t need an ID if you know what you want.
✓ Internet & Security: Planning connectivity for a huge number of smart devices
✓ Taobao: Yes! Everything from small things like decorative pieces, to a 3-seater sofa, to even flooring for the entire house (..and a $6000 washing machine!?)
Ok, let’s get started, then:
Let me say this first:
I bet you’ve never seen these many smart devices installed in a single HDB apartment before.
1. For Voice Control, Multi-room Audio, and basically, Assistance
8 Google Home devices in total, consisting of:
3 x Google Home, 3 x Google Home Mini, 2 x Google Home Max
This basically means the entire apartment is blanketed with Google Home devices, even in each washroom!
I mean, there’s absolutely a need for you to control your home while you’re doing your…. you know… right?
2. Every Switch is a Smart Switch
At last count, there are about 16 Smart Power Switches which we painstakingly got the electrician to re-wire to introduce a neutral wire. This was done so that every switch in the house would be remotely controllable via Z-wave.
It’s a mix of both single and double switches, all with tactile feedback so that when you press the button, you actually know it is being pressed. The models we actually used eventually was TKBHome‘s TZ36S and TZ37.
I’ll go into a bit more detail about the selection criteria for this part in a later post, too.
3. Sensors Overkill
Well, this wasn’t as overkill as the rest of the stuff above, but there’s a total of 12 sensors installed.
4 x Z-wave Motion (+ Temperature/Light/Movement) Sensors
1 x Water Sensor
4 x Door Open/Close Sensors
2 x Human Arrival Sensor Tags
1 x Smoke Sensor
The sensors came from a variety of vendors as we wanted to test out the feedback and response time from each device to determine which to get more of, but it seems the choice turned out pretty clear cut after a while…
The hub I eventually used was the Samsung SmartThings Hub v2. This hub supports Z-wave and Zigbee, and has a wide variety of integration points as well. Oh, and remember to get the UK-version, not the US one.
4. (Almost) Everything is Controllable via Mobile Phone & Voice
Almost all plug sockets, TV’s, water dispenser, aircon, heater, washing machine, robot vacuum, blinds, etc – everything is essentially able to be controlled via my mobile phone, or by voice.
I’ve actually intentionally provisioned a separate system for the door locking system of the house, for security reasons, but let’s discuss that in a later post.
..and all these are squeezed into a
67 sqm, 3-room HDB apartment
with all walls (legally-possible) torn down.
Our nicely hidden shoe cabinet and 1.8 meters long, 3-seater sofa from our favourite one-BIGGG-stop e-commerce Taobao. Because when we get stuff bought in China, we get to customize the fabric to the exact colour that we want at no extra cost.
Oh, and there’s also a < $100 robot vacuum cleaner which is able to mop the floor too.
If you thought that the (cheaply imported) 55-inch Xiaomi TV 4A is mounted to the wooden lamp stand, you’re wrong!
It’s actually mounted to the wall via an “invisible” mount so that we can rotate it 180-degrees to get the screen facing the dining area when we actually decide to sit at the table for food.
There’s also 1-of-2 HTC Vive position sensors on the wall above the TV which essentially designates the play area for all VR games in the Living Room!
By the way, if you actually reach the point where you have these much devices in your place which requires internet access, you really need to plan quite a bit to ensure sufficient coverage.
We installed 2 pieces of the Ubiquiti UniFi AP AC Pro wifi access points. As you can tell from the walkway’s ceiling, this is 1 of the 2 internet hub we have to support the wifi flow. To be honest, it’s quite an overkill – each access point boasts around 150-clients on paper specifications.
Okay, for those of you who don’t know much about planning for wifi, here’s a crash course, but you should totally read up on how to get this done.
The basic premise is to know where most of the devices in the coverage area will be, and then test the proposed locations with a wifi heatmap, on both 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks. Generally, the 2.4GHz signal will be the ones which travel “further”, but carries lower speeds, and the 5GHz signal allows for higher bandwidth, but at shorter range. Thus, our heatmap looked something like this:
Usually, the 2.4GHz devices will be the “older” or not so high performance requiring devices – such as say, our 阿里智能 Alicloud-enabled Washing Machine, Pressure Cooker and Robot Vacuum Cleaner, or our 米家 XiaoMi Water Dispenser.. or well, basically older devices.
The 5GHz part is where it gets interesting. 5GHz, though high performing, sucks at penetrating various materials such as walls, doors, etc. It takes a huge hit for each material it passes through.
However, it’s crucial for stuff like streaming our videos at full 4K resolution to both TV’s at once, or blasting multi-room audio to ALL the Google Home speakers at the same time. You need a LOT of bandwidth to ensure everything runs smoothly, together with all your other devices such as your mobile phones and your laptops.
..and well, since the whole home can be controlled by the Samsung SmartThings hub via the Internet, you definitely don’t want a scenario where it’s faster to walk to the switch and turn it on manually when you can control it using your voice via the Google Home devices.
Can you tell where the dining table is? 😜
It’s actually in the picture, but you can’t see it yet…
..how about now?
This is actually the Atim+39 Mensola T-able, which essentially allows you to hide a huge 1.35-meter table inside a cabinet which is just 39cm thick.
Oh, and fun fact:
This hidden table also actually sits 10 fully-grown adults.
Basically, Atim is an Italian brand known for its range of transformable furniture components and practical table tops that can be stowed away when not in use. (It also happens to be exceptionally practical for tiny HDB apartments, because even though the Gahmen says that HDB sizes are not shrinking, they actually are.)
In all honesty, having an omnipresent dinner table would simply be too space-consuming for our living room, and well, these days, people don’t always eat dinners everyday at a proper dinner table anyway – unless the dishes are potentially messy, or if there’re friends coming over!
Oh, and here’s the second wifi access point, hidden at an obscure corner out of view, but providing very needed coverage to our August Doorbell Camera outside the unit!
Also, our Dyson V8 Absolute finally got its own “resting” spot after over a year. It’s no longer lying around waiting to be charged…..
Did you also happen to notice this?
Because I love to bring in all kinds of gadgets from all over the world, they usually reach me with so many different types of plug heads. And because I’m too lazy to cut each and every plug head to switch them to the UK 3-pin plug, this universal wall socket makes everything simply plug-and-play!
Bedroom & Study Room
Okay, here’s where things really get pretty!
..and this is also why we knocked every single possible wall down, only to build them up in a slightly different configuration with Raumplus S1200 Sliding Doors!
The S1200 is by far the most beautiful sliding doors which I’ve ever set my eyes on. From the moment I saw the Dark Bronze version at the Ewins Showroom, I knew it was perfect. The extremely thin frame, coupled with full-height glass infills was simply so pretty!
Full-height Glass Sliding Doors
The S1200 supports panel widths up to 1.8 meters and heights up to 3.5 meters, which basically mean you could do like near 2-storey sliding doors if you had a high ceiling, too.
What you’re looking at is actually 4 sliding doors all at their “closed” state – forming a huge “L” separating the Bedroom from the Living Room. Each panel is also carefully guided into the desired position with the help of Raumplus’ soft-closing mechanism so that I don’t have to manually re-align each panel every time I slide them.
Basically, everything can be slid aside to open up the entire apartment into a huge space when needed, with absolutely no blockage of the view!
Pole System Wardrobe
Also, given the ridiculously small bedroom space, and the fact that we wanted a King-sized mattress, namely the TK Luxury Series from Tilamking, there was very little space left for the wardrobes. Hence, we decided to go for an open-concept wardrobe, which would make the room look much bigger.
This is where we were introduced to the Raumplus UNO Aluminium Pole System Wardrobe.
Wait, what – pole!?
A pole-system wardrobe is a basically a wardrobe that is made up of poles, shelves, and attachments – and thus allowing for highly flexible configurations. It’s (relatively) easy to set up and adaptable to any space, and can also be taken apart and reconfigured to suit my changing needs, like this:
Essentially, the height and position of every component can be shifted easily at any point in time. Components can be added or removed without leaving behind any “marks” to the pole itself, too!
I’ve actually seen a number of such systems being used in retail shops, but those were ugly with holes to “hang” the components on. Nothing really compares to the UNO system though, in terms of elegance… there’re no ugly holes, no limits to where each component can be placed, and it even comes with a 10-year warranty!
For the bed itself, we designed our own platform bed which had almost every possible void space being used and accessible as storage. The whole area under the mattress could be accessed from the sides or the top of the platform, and this was where we could stash things that we don’t really use!
The top and side of the headboard were also customized to be significantly more functional – the top serving as 1.5-liter bottle holders and laptop charging cubicles with power sockets, and the sides serving as cubicles for storing of personal effects.
For the electronic blinds which we bought, we, unfortunately, being complete newbies, made a wrong call to select the product based on pricing itself… from Taobao!
It was a huge nightmare to get it working properly and I’m still praying till this day that it wouldn’t fail again.
That said, I shall leave the full story to one of the detailed posts – it’s so bad that I wish I had paid more for a better product!
And here’s my cosy vanity corner! The dressing table is actually a pretty pricey solid-wood piece from Taobao which was bought on impulse without properly measuring if it would fit.
It didn’t fit, but thank goodness my carpenter was talented enough to help with customizing it to fit the corner.
We also have a Boomchair with a DIY added massage seat, as you can spot from the reflection in the huge full-height mirror. The second 55-inch Xiaomi TV 4A in the house was mounted to the ceiling on a swivel mount which allows it to be rotated by 180°.
I can now swivel the TV to face the vanity corner so that I can watch YouTube while I get my contouring done.
The study area is somewhat a study table with 2 dog-beds for the boys. We also call this space their “man-caves”, because the study table provides decent coverage from the outside world, and the boys love the cosy space inside!🐶
A Tiny Fridge
We insisted on building a bottle shelf on top of the cabinets and made do with only a small SMEG fridge because K said we need to have “fridge-discipline” – trying as far as possible not to keep too much food in the fridge. 🙄
P/s: Within the first few months of shifting-in, we ended up purchasing an additional bar freezer because our fridge is too small for storing the dogs’ raw diet! That said, we tastefully hid the bar freezer in the bomb shelter now…. 💁🏻♀️
Kompacplus Kitchen Surfaces
One of the best decisions we made was to have Kompacplus installed as our countertop and backsplash. 👏🏻
It looks amazingly like actual wood, but is super easy to clean, and can be cut perfectly to fit yur kitchen!
I couldn’t imagine if I had chosen to go for tiles or other materials that isn’t as easy to clean…. 😭
Electronic Clothes Hanger
Gone with the days where you could hang your clothes outside with far-reaching bamboo poles. Instead, newer HDB apartments actually come with a service yard which takes up quite a significant bit of space in the already-small kitchen for you to do your laundry.
Thanks, but no thanks!
We knocked the service yard down and also replaced the HDB-provided manual laundry system with the electronic one instead which comes all the latest
Sorry – I meant fanciful functions such as light, wind, hot air, UV light, UV fan, extendable poles, etc for less than $500 inclusive of shipping!! Of course, it can actually move up and down to allow ease while hanging the laundry. Of course, this was almost reach for actually being able to zero – but you already knew that didn’t you?
All thanks to Taobao again. 👏🏻
Yeap – you’ve seen it correctly. That’s a 2-seater jacuzzi tub inside a 3-room HDB apartment! 🛁
Once again, it’s from Taobao… but this time upgraded with every single possible feature such as massage jets, LED lights, Bluetooth audio capabilities, water warmers to maintain the temperate in the tub, etc.
Thus far, however, the main users of the jacuzzi tub seem to be the two boys. 🐕🤷🏻♀️🐕
Wait. Some of you might be wondering at this point, “Wow! Transparent toilet doors!? 😏”
Yes, it’s transparent when the door is open, but it actually turns opaque when it’s fully closed, thanks to the help of PDLC-encased film within the glass infill!
It’s also more commonly known as “smart glass” – You know like the kind on our LRT trains which are activated when it passes by nearby residential areas and suddenly, all the windows turn opaque? Yes – it’s exactly like that! 🚈
After all, we still need to be considerate for guests that need to use our toilet, hor….🙊
The one thing we missed the most in Japan other than the food, was actually their toilet bowls…
Tadah! The recent cold weather further proved that our resolve in getting the smart Panasonic seat cover bidet was well paid-off. The “shiok-ness” when you sit on a warm toilet to relieve your worries and then washing and drying your intimates with just one touch!! 😌
Do take note that the voltage for Japan bidets is very different from those to be used in Singapore. You will need to get the sets meant for export or basically look for those made for China market.
..and here’s where all that water is coming from – an AO Smith 80-litre heat pump water heater!
It was supposed to be hidden, but that didn’t turn out so well because it was simply too big! It’s also supposed to be smart enough to know your usage patterns, and prepare sufficient heated water as and when you require.
How smart exactly is this heat pump water heater? Good question. Let me read up on each feature in detail first, then I will write it in my next post. It’s also kinda inevitable that we need to have such a big heater because we have a jacuzzi. 💦
And a normal water heater doesn’t make the cut of filling the tub up as it has no way to heat the water up within a short time with precise temperature-measured water.🛀🏻
There’s actually too many gadgets and details for me to squeeze into a single post so this post will serve as just a simple overview.
As you could probably tell by now, we didn’t want to go home to an extremely “modern-looking” apartment or one that screams of technology. We actually preferred a warmer and cosier feel hence we went heavy on the wood elements.
Even for our security lock!🔒
After comparing all the available smart locks which were highly recommended, we decided to go for the August Smart Lock Pro, even though it was extremely complicated to install because it was meant to serve as a drop-in replacement for the American deadbolt lock but isn’t widely in use. However, after a while of actual usage, I’ve absolutely no regrets of going through the all the trouble for it.
Initially, we didn’t plan for much carpentry works to be built, but we later realised that we need them to create for space and storage. That’s why even for our kitchen, we knocked down the service yard and created 2-tiers of cabinets for both sides of the kitchen maximising every single space imaginable!
By now, if you’re still reading this, I’m sure you guys have many questions.
No worries, all will be answered shortly in the upcoming posts which I have mentioned about in the beginning.. but here’s a quick checklist thus far of everything I’ve written…
✓ Carpentry works done by CraftStyle Furnishing
✓ Open-concept wardrobe, full-height sliding glass doors and dining table from Ewins
✓ King-sized super bouncy mattress from Tilamking
✓ Huge 80-litres water heater from AO Smith
✓ Z-wave hub by Samsung SmartThings, sensors and switch mainly by TKBHome, Heiman, Aeotec, Fibaro and Samsung. Main voice control devices by Google (duh)
Oh yes! The answer to the most important question that many of you asked….
…who is your Interior Designer or Smart Home Planner?
.. oh well – it’s my husband!
..and no, he doesn’t even remotely work in these industries…