Sometimes clients ask a lot of their designers when it comes to 'making' space. In Angus Chan and Ian Scott's case, they wanted two bedrooms, somewhere else for guests to kip down, a work zone, two bathrooms, wet and dry kitchens off their living area and lots of room for storage. All in 914 square feet.
Their wishes were Johnny Li's command. A long-time friend, who knew the pair when they lived in the same block of flats in Mid-Levels, Li found the room needed by designing multi-purpose areas. Not only that but he created the kind of interior his clients enjoy in their favourite chic hotels around the world. It's a look that continues to wow four years later.
High on the must-have list for Chan, who works for an airline, were separate bathrooms for him and Scott. He also wanted a tub. Instead of installing one in the small en suite, Li reconfigured the room so that having a soak is now a spa-like indulgence in a tranquil, airy setting. To impart a sense of space, the bath was exposed to the bedroom and mirrors were installed above it to fool the eye into perceiving double-height ceilings. Serenity was introduced with sandstone surfaces and a false wall on one side to conceal windows and unsightly bathroom fixtures. A porthole allows in light and adds to the feeling of being on holiday.
A second bedroom, with a Murphy fold-down bed, doubles as a walk-in wardrobe, and a sliding door between this guest room and the bathroom shuts off the rest of the flat. 'Close the door and you have a suite with a closet, an en-suite bathroom and a bedroom,' Li says. 'It's like a hotel.'
Beyond, in what was originally the third bedroom, Li fitted a large, rectangular dining table in front of a bay window, with two long benches on the sides. 'If you move the table the two benches can come together to become a bed,' says Chan.
At the other end of the table is a movable work station (see Tried + tested). 'The clients said they often have house guests,' says Li, who designed the layout knowing that Hong Kong-born Chan and Scott, from Scotland, like to cook. Working with the small original kitchen, he created a room that can be closed to prevent food smells from wafting into the rest of the flat, and an adjoining, open area that doubles as a dry kitchen. Behind panels that afford a clean, uniform look are a refrigerator and freezer, a wine fridge and ample storage space.
A panel of glass in the wall separating the wet kitchen from the dining room visually connects the two areas and ensures whoever's toiling behind the stove isn't isolated from activity elsewhere.
'Johnny always refers to the kitchen as my galley because I work on aircraft,' Chan says.
'You can turn around and everything is in reach. It's very convenient.'
Despite the tight space, he adds, he can cook three dishes at a time - two on the stove top and one in the oven - which comes in handy at dinner parties. Ten people can fit comfortably around the dining table, which, when not being used for meals, doubles as a work desk.
Although it is obvious much thought went into making the most of every inch, Li - whose focus is normally luxury-retail and high-end residential design - says Chan and Scott's apartment was one of his easiest projects to date. 'They've been friends for many years and they're not difficult clients,' he says. 'They knew my work - [it has] a subdued feel - and they trusted me.'
What they might not have realised is how exhaustively Li would use the space. Pointing to books lined up on shelves above the dining table and stashed in cupboards, high and low, Chan admits he still doesn't know all the hidey holes that have been created for storage.
'I am discovering things every day,' he says.
1 & 2 En-suite bathroom
The dry area of the en-suite bathroom can be closed to the tub and bedroom and continues the chic-hotel look favoured by the apartment's owners. The Vola tap cost HK$6,000 from Sunny Pro (193 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2156 0388). Exposed to the master bedroom at one end, the tub is a vision of serenity, with sandstone surrounds, a false wall hiding unsightly fixtures and a mirrored ceiling that makes the area seem loftier than it is. The bath set (HK$15,000) came from Toto (138 Gloucester Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2511 7368). The flower arrangement was by Xiao Yi Xiao Hua (Lovcen Ko, tel: 9047 9647).
3 & 4 Living room
The sofa/daybed (HK$22,000) is part of Johnny Li's Yi Line furniture collection, which is available through Blanc de Chine (Prince's Building, Central, tel: 2104 7934). The coffee table was bought in Singapore years ago. The Spun Light lamp (HK$7,920) was from Flos (44 Wyndham Street, Central, tel: 2801 7608). Decorating the wall is a carpet bought in Iran four years ago. The living area opens into the dry kitchen, where equipment is concealed neatly behind wood panels. Extra storage space can be found on the other side of the blue wall. The television console was bought a long time ago in Singapore. The armchair came from G.O.D. (various locations; www.god.com.hk) years ago.
Visible through a picture window is the kitchen, which features Corian worktops and was built for HK$10,000 a linear foot by Li & Co Design (4/F, Yu Yuet Lai Building, 43 Wyndham Street, tel: 2526 8326), where Li is managing director. The appliances are Siemens (13 Duddell Street, Central, tel: 2802 8860).
The stool (HK$5,000) is part of the Yi Line furniture collection.
More storage space can be found in the entrance area, where Italian reconstituted granite tiles were used on the floor (HK$60 a square foot from Wing Ming Marble, 160 Lockhart Road, tel: 2802 7891). The Eames chair is available for HK$2,900 at Aluminium (various locations; www.aluminium-furniture.com).
8 Dining area
Li & Co Design designed the Yi Line walnut dining table (HK$30,000) and the two benches on castors with storage space beneath (HK$5,000) forming a U-shape with the bay window. Overhead is storage space, used as a bookshelf. The Eames chair is the same as before.
TRIED + TESTED
In front of the dining table, but a little bit separated from it, is a work station, which can be wheeled away if the dining area is used as a sleeping area. Li & Co Design came up with the unit, which cost HK$23,000.
Styling Esther van Wijck