Into the light

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 December, 2007, 12:00am

With a stunning spiral staircase as its centrepiece, a Pok Fu Lam apartment has left its dark and dingy past behind.

First impressions can be deceiving, as Nia Enticknap discovered after viewing the Pok Fu Lam apartment that would become her home.

'It was disgusting,' she says. 'I told the agent he was wasting my time.'

The apartment was dark and seemed smaller than its 1,950 square feet. She had wanted to work with a square layout, she explains, but was persuaded to consider the L-shaped apartment when she saw what another tenant had done with a similar space. She was further encouraged when her father, a quantity surveyor, helped her devise a floor plan.

Enticknap's idea was to create a home that had clever use of space and good storage. 'We wanted to create a bright, open-plan feel and something relatively modern,' she says.

She worked with architect Ed Billson of MAP Architecture & Planning (tel: 2877 9282) and contractor Project Asia (tel: 2866 3007). Soon the walls came tumbling down in a whirl of remodelling. The windows were replaced and double-glazed for soundproofing. Enticknap also changed the doors. 'I wanted floor-to-ceiling doors to increase the feeling of height,' she says. She installed small skirting boards - about one-inch high - for the same reason.

The neutral palette of mainly grey and white was designed to maximise the sense of light and space. 'We played safe with the colour scheme,' she says. 'I think we could have had a lot more fun.' They were adventurous in other ways, however. The existing maid's room and bathroom and the kitchen became the master bedroom and en suite. The new layout places the family's living space in one area while the bedrooms and bathrooms lead off a corridor at the rear.

The biggest building job was the installation of a glass and steel spiral staircase between the living area and the hall, giving access to the roof. The Enticknaps use the outdoor space when entertaining friends and as a play zone for their three young children. The stairwell is also a welcome source of light in a windowless space.

The main living area is rectangular, with large windows along one side, a spacious, open-plan kitchen on the other and a dining niche in the middle. To Enticknap's disappointment, the long kitchen worktop - made of Italian marble - had to be cut in two to get it into the apartment.

Placed against a wall is a circular glass cabinet with built-in lights and five revolving shelves for easy access to glassware, crockery and other dining essentials (see Tried & Tested).

Behind the staircase a wide corridor leads to the bedrooms, with the compact master suite on one side. Large back-to-back, his-and-her wardrobes form a functional divider between the bedroom and the bathroom, both in a black and white theme.

Luxuries include an air-filtration system that removes bacteria, dust and other particles, and is controlled from a small panel on the bedroom wall. The living room features an EcoSmart Fire fuelled by ethanol. A black glass panel on the wall behind it reflects the dancing flames.

Now that Enticknap and husband, David, four year-old Charlie and twin daughters Saffron and Scarlett, aged one, are comfortably installed in their bright, spacious flat, she is itching to start all over again in another place. Next time first impressions will be ignored. 'Now that I've done this, I'd take on a pig sty,' she says with a smile.

1 The sofa, covered in Bernini fabric, was custom made for HK$37,000 by Simply Sofas (unit 801, Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 2525 2672). The magenta cushions are by Designers Guild from Avant Garde Designs (shop 133, Pacific Place, Admiralty, tel: 2526 0104). The purple Mongolian lamb cushion (centre) was purchased in Britain. The custom-made glass and stainless-steel spiral staircase with triple-glazed treads was designed, built and installed by Brilliant Hope Engineering (8/F, Shun Cheung Industrial Building, 26 Wing Hong Street, Cheung Sha Wan, tel: 2334 4216) for about HK$178,000.

2 The compact study was created with space taken from the family bathroom and Charlie's room. The built-in table, designed by architect Ed Billson, is made of grey laminate. On the wall is a mini gallery of special family moments, including the Enticknaps' wedding photographs and pictures of the children.

3 Chablis, a Jack Russell, sits under a glass table bought from the Harvey Norman store (www.harveynorman.com.au) in Singapore. The chair and lamp are from Philippe Starck's Kartell range and were also bought in Singapore. The painting is by Jane Gray and was bought from her studio in Hawke's Bay, New Zealand.

4 The Effeti kitchen was bought from Essentials (shop 4A, Leighton Centre, 77 Leighton Road, Causeway Bay, tel: 2142 1409). The deceptively simple design hides several smart storage options. A wine fridge is neatly installed under the worktop. Beside the sink, a metal roller door allows easy access to a space housing everyday cooking equipment such as a coffee percolator and a toaster.

5 An EcoSmart fireplace (HK$21,000) from Design Link (11 St Francis Street, Wan Chai, tel: 3113 8728; www.ecosmartfire.com) installed in the living room is fuelled by ethanol, a renewable energy. The fireplace requires no flue or ventilation. Once lit, it quickly heats up the living area.

6 The super-sized walk-in shower in the master bathroom features a black glass wall that creates a subtle reflection. Installed in the ceiling are four Kohler Water Tiles, which cost HK$2,200 each and are available from Arnhold Design Boutique (1/F, Dominion Centre, 59 Queen's Road East, Wan Chai, tel: 2529 7489).

7 Charlie's colourful room has a loft bed custom made for HK$5,800 by Art Deco (238 Queen's Road East, tel: 2834 6203). The bed is accessed by a short ladder to maximise the play area. The patterned rug was bought from Ikea (various locations; www.ikea.com.hk) several years ago.

8 The black-and-white-themed master bedroom successfully marries different patterns. The flocked wallpaper behind the bed and the striped fabric blind (which covers a window overlooking the living room) are by Designers Guild from Avant Garde Designs. The bedside lamp base was bought from Peter Jones (www.peterjones.co.uk) in London. The cushions and lamp cover were made locally with fabric bought in Shenzhen.

tried & tested

counter revolution

The cylindrical glass cupboard has five revolving shelves, built-in lights and a full-length stainless-steel handle. It provides plenty of storage space for crockery and glassware. It came as part of an Effeti kitchen from Essentials (shop 4A, Leighton Centre, 77 Leighton Road, Causeway Bay, tel: 2142 1409) and is the Enticknaps' favourite design feature in the kitchen. 'It's compact, looks good and the revolving shelves make access easy,' says Nia Enticknap.

STYLING David Roden