Changing spaces

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 December, 2007, 12:00am

A couple who love to cook had only one request of their architect: a kitchen that could be a social hub but could also be closed off to contain the smell of stir-frys.

When Grace and Tim Wong bought their 2,600 sq ft Mid-Levels apartment, they knew it needed an extensive revamp. In true Hong Kong style, its chopped-up layout made poor use of the space available.

Grace, who is in the property marketing business, knew the apartment had lots of untapped potential so she sought someone to help transform the space. 'We chose from about four designers, all of whom gave us a general idea of what they would do with the space and provided sketches and quotations.'

In the end she chose architect Frank Chiu of Hong Kong and Beijing-based Atelier: China (tel: 9779 7153 or 86 137 1855 5773). 'Frank gave us a vision of how he would maximise the use of the space and that was very important to us.'

When it came to a design brief, however, the couple's requirements were free from dogmatic preconceptions. Chiu was free to remove non-structural walls and reconfigure room sizes to turn what was a four-bedroom apartment into a much more spacious two bedrooms plus study. 'The intention was to make the flat open and interconnected using neutral tones and natural materials,' says Chiu.

One thing the couple did request, however, was a large kitchen that was open, or half open, to the rest of the space. Says Grace: 'Initially people thought, as we were a young couple, we would be spend more on the bathroom or other parts of the apartment. But we love cooking so we wanted all the right appliances and a large countertop.'

To cater to this request, Chiu removed a guest bedroom that stood between the original kitchen and living room and turned the space into an open kitchen connected to the living area by two large glass sliding panels. 'We wanted an open kitchen that was comfortable so we can sit on the bar stools, have dinner and cook while we entertain. But we also wanted a space we could close off if we were doing a roast dinner or a stir-fry. The sliding doors allow us to have both elements.'

Retaining an open and interconnected feeling throughout the apartment was a key concept in the design. In the master bedroom, the en-suite bathroom is now partitioned from the sleeping area by clear glass walls, an idea that has become popular in some Hong Kong boutique hotels, such as the Cosmopolitan in Wan Chai. 'The bath area is situated opposite the master bed to create a more sensual private visual experience,' says Chiu.

'Initially we were shocked when we saw the floor plans for the open bathroom,' says Grace. 'But then we thought, 'Well, there's just the two of us at the moment so we may as well enjoy the space.' We did debate using frosted glass but after thinking about it we decided clear glass would be cooler.'

The large bathroom is split in two by a bold matt-black wall, with a tub on one side and a shower, sink and toilet on the other. 'Initially I was thinking along the lines of the Mandarin Spa for the bathroom but my husband preferred this look. He doesn't think a home should look like a spa because, otherwise, when you go to a spa, what's the difference?' However, the bathroom remains a place in which to recharge and relax.

The transition between city and home life is integral to the general design, starting with the entranceway and its signature bamboo wall (see Tried & Tested), which creates a connection with nature. Subtle lighting helps create peaceful, intimate zones; recessed downlights and concealed trough lights have been used extensively.

Most of the furnishings were chosen by the Wongs, who consulted Chiu about materials and shapes. They chose a mixture of contemporary pieces with clean lines in addition to built-in cabinetry and floating shelving, which work well within the architecture of the space.

The walls remain free of art and accessories. As Chiu explains, 'By having a neutral backdrop it allows for the furnishings to take on more of an 'art-piece' role.'

1 An open kitchen was a requirement for Grace Wong. The area can be closed off from the living room by a set of large opaque-glass sliding doors (not pictured). Grey slate tiles cover the floor around the workstation; white oak timber flooring runs through the rest of the apartment. The huge Corian workstation was purchased as part of the Effeti kitchen from The Essentials (shop 4A, UG/F, Leighton Centre, 77 Leighton Road, Causeway Bay, tel: 2142 1409). Above is a Siemens hood with an inset barbecue grill. The bar stools were about HK$2,000 each from Hamptons Furniture (basement, 61 Caine Road, Mid-Levels, tel: 2869 8018).

2 The light and airy living room is defined by a sweeping semi-circular window, which affords expansive views. The cotton-linen curtains cost about HK$23,000 from New Bedford Interiors (67 Queen's Road East, Wan Chai, tel: 2520 0330) and the wool carpet (HK$15,000) was custom made to the couple's colour specifications by Tai Ping Carpets (shop 213, Prince's Building, 10 Chater Road, Central, tel: 2522 7138; www.taipingcarpets. com). The black leather daybed (HK$9,800) is from Artura Ficus (109 Queen's Road East, tel: 2527 2893), as is the white leather square coffee table (HK$6,500). The floating TV unit was custom made by Ka Yue Design (tel: 6178 9668).

3 The open dining room features a mushroom-coloured feature wall for added warmth. Three floating shelves, custom made by contractor Ka Yue Design, provide display space for photographs and collectables. The large wooden dining table and the upholstered dining chairs are from Artura Ficus.

4 The en-suite bathroom is clean and modern, emphasising materials rather than accessories. A bold matt-black feature wall divides the room in two, with a freestanding tub on one side and a sink, toilet and shower on the other. The Hansgrohe Axor Uno overhead shower (HK$5,600) and the Hansgrohe Raindance hand shower (HK$2,200) are from Arnhold Design Centre (315 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2865 0318;

5 The floor and the walls of the guest bathroom have been clad in metallic Bisazza tiles, available from 7/F, Beverly House, 93 Lockhart Road, tel: 2861 3525; A custom-designed stainless-steel vanity unit houses a large Roca sink. Above is a long horizontal mirror that runs the length of the room, enhancing the visual proportions of the space.

6 The spacious master bedroom features a glamorous open en-suite bathroom divided by sliding clear-glass panels. The bed, with its white leather headboard (HK$20,000), was custom made by Artura Ficus. The leather trunk at the foot of the bed (HK$6,000) is also from Artura Ficus. The suede curtains, which wrap around a curved window, cost HK$15,000 from New Bedford Interiors. The bedlinen cost about HK$10,000 from Lane Crawford (IFC Mall, Central, tel: 2118 3388; www.lane

tried & tested

sticks and stones

Frank Chiu decided to make a feature of the entranceway and create a smooth transition from outside to inside. On the right as one enters is a miniature grove of dried bamboo, which was randomly planted to create wall shadows and visually increase the width of the space. The bamboo extends up into the ceiling, where a trough light has been installed to extend the vertical sense of space. White pebbles on the floor add a contemporary touch.

On the left (reflected here in a free-standing mirror with a leather frame) is a custom-made floating cabinet, which is lit from beneath to visually extend the space underfoot. The cabinet provides space for shoes, gym gear and other necessities.

An inset mirror in the cabinet (unseen) extends the width of the space further.

STYLING David Roden


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