1. Find the a contractor or a certified interior designer and not a sales man
The reason is simple, sales man preach and sell a perceived space to you but contractors are always the ones who validate the actual space in detail! Always bear in mind that, whatever that is being preached to you, it might not be feasible on the actual site. (ie, uneven wall surface and etc).
We all have heard some horrific stories when customers have to cough out additional money on top of what was being quoted.
Coordination issues between sales designers. interior designers and contractors - Subcontractors usually mean a blurred shift in responsibilities. Whenever there is something that do not go according to what is planned (designed), an increased in fee quotation for the go-between will be inevitable.
Therefore it is always a problem for design firms to assure clients the quality of handiwork when the job is being sub-contracted out.
2. Always check in frequently!
If the sales designer or anyone tells you that you don't need to visit the workshop for whatever reason. Don't believe him or her! You need to visit the workshop to see for yourself whether you are getting what you have paid for. Unless you have an incredibly trustworthy person to oversee your renovation, you really don't want to turn a blind eye on it.
Mistakes will happen, and you need to make sure that you're there to react to them. The longer that mistake goes unseen, the more expensive it will be to change it.
3. Be realistic and always know what you want
No doubt money has always been the issue but you want so much, so much more that you want a backdrop, bigger kitchen entrance, a platform, a false ceiling, a different floor tiles and so on. But have you wondered the additional cost on top of the "Package" you have seen online?
As a rule of thumb, Always decide on the necessities first before going into the details
Lets say you have a budget of 15k. You wouldn't want to end up spending 15k on your living room just to have your "dream living" but end up without a kitchen, bedroom, a toilet and so on.
Make sure that you prioritize what you need first before you think that the packages online are just a "gimmick".
1 thing for sure that can never go wrong, keep it plain and simple if budget is an issue.
4. Years of experience
Unfortunately, in Singapore, most residential "sales designers" do not have any prior formal education on design concepts. Basically, they use sales talk with some technical knowledge to sell their idea to you. Their end goal? Commission.
In this context, you should approach a company with in-house interior designers and contractors instead. In-house designers usually have prior formal education of space concepts, texture and color coordination .
Contractors usually have vast amount of technical knowledge, means they have better fore-sights and are able to see what could possibly go wrong so you won't have to cough out additional money for any unforeseen errors.
5. Renovate for the future, not just for "Love at first sight"
Trends are for accessorizing, not for renovating. If you invest in quality finishes, you won't regret it in the future for sure. In any case, if you decide to cut cost on the quality within so to look better on the surface, always bear in mind that in the long run, visible flaws and defects will be inevitable depends on how you use it.
As a rule of thumb, Quality for the Kitchen must never be compromised.
To conclude, it is always vital to seek advice from a professional than to seek a sales designer for it. On the contrary, why isn't salesman involved in commercial renovation (i.e Hotels, Restaurants and etc)? You know the answer.
Renovation is a 1 time affair. It is either you do it right the first time or you have to face the consequences by coughing out additional cash in the long run.