We answer your renovation and decorating questions with help from industry experts. E-mail questions to

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

We answer your renovation and decorating questions with help from industry experts. E-mail questions to

My Reading Room
How can I make the fragrance from my scented candles last in my living room?

The smell seems to disappear very quickly once I put out the flame. Scenting a room is not just lighting some fragranced candles. Michelle Liu, the head of Escentials, shares her tips for making the scents, and your candles, last. Firstly, make sure you have enough candles for the scent to come through. Ideally, use a 180g to 220g candle for every 10 sq m (107sqf) of space. A larger living room might require three to four candles to create a consistent smell. Always burn a candle for at least one hour to allow the candle wax to melt properly and provide sufficient time for the scent to evaporate. If you’re in a rush to go out, opt for a diffuser or room spray as a quick fix instead of a candle. Observe where the candles are placed. If a window is frequently opened, or if the room is air-conditioned – these are factors that affect the strength of a scent. Before lighting, trim the candle wick to between 0.5cm and 0.6cm.

The wick length will impact the burning quality of the candle. For example, if the wick is too long and over burnt, when lit, it will create heavy smoke and block off proper heat transmission to the surface of the wax. Whenever possible, put out the candle with a candle snuffer or a candle lid, to cut oxygen supply to the flame and minimise the generation of smoke, and prevent a burning smell. On how to make candle scents last, Jo Malone’s senior retail and education manager, Christopher Don Au, suggests: “After continually smelling the same scent for more than 15 minutes, our olfactory system will become less sensitive, making us think the scent has disappeared. For a longer lasting fragrance, we suggest using different scents in different areas of the home, so our olfactory system can be stimulated as we walk from room to room.”

I’m having a baby! As my living space is not large (less than 1,000sqf), how can I make my home baby-ready?

The basic pieces of furniture you’ll need are a cot and a changing table. A great way to save space (and money) is to get a cot which can be converted into a toddler bed, or even a single bed or sofa, says Sharon Wong, the founder and CEO of nursery retailer Motherswork. Remember to make provisions for all the items Baby will need – that means planning for plenty of storage. Pick a changing table with drawers to store your little one’s clothes, towels, and diapers, Sharon adds. It’s more convenient that storing them in your wardrobe, as everything is within reach when you’re changing your kid. Consider wall-mounted storage units, too, as that won’t take up any precious floor space.

My Reading Room
The weather’s been very hot lately, and I’m worried about the teak furniture in my balcony as they look really dry. What can I do to prevent cracking?

If you’ve bought your teak furniture from a reputable company, you can rest assured that your pieces won’t crack no matter how hot the sun gets, says Philip Jensen, the export and marketing manager of Teak & Mahogany. He shares that an important part of teak production is the kiln drying process. All reputable companies will kiln-dry their teak for four to eight weeks. This reduces the moisture in the wood to a stable level so that there is very little chance of cracking. For teak, the moisture content should be below 14 per cent. It will naturally reduce to around 8 to 10 per cent by itself and stay at that level. Teak products that crack most likely weren’t kiln-dried properly, or not at all. Teak is a tropical hardwood prized for its durability and weather resistance. It may change colour when exposed to rain and sun, to a light silvery grey. However, this is more of a “sun tan” than the wood drying out, and you can clean and sand away the top surface to revive its golden hue.

I love the surround-sound effect of cinemas. Without spending too much money, how can I get a similar effect?

Homeowners new to getting sound systems for the home can consider buying a sound bar, says Sam Soh, the electrical manager of Harvey Norman Millenia Walk. A soundbar consists of several speakers placed together in one casing, and is a cheaper alternative to the surroundsound system that you mentioned. Some are even engineered to produce sound that mimics that of a surround-sound system; speakers can also be designed to be detachable. Plus, there is no drilling involved! “When looking out for a sound bar, ask questions like whether the sound bar comes with a subwoofer and, if it doesn’t, consider getting one to further enhance the bass. Also, ask to listen to the sound effects from various genres of music or movies so that you can decide on the type of sound quality that you like,” advises Sam.