Space programme

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 February, 2008, 12:00am

One businessman wanted a place in which he could work, hang out and occasionally sleep. After a lot of searching, a light-filled flat became the ideal bolt-hole.

Howard Chan had specific requirements when he started flat hunting last year. Planning to build a home/office, he wanted a rectangular apartment with lots of windows and no structural walls inside. 'I envisaged everything would be torn down to give the place a studio feel,' he says. 'I also wanted to use up most of the space.'

Perhaps not surprisingly, it took him six months to find the perfect pad. Having inspected more than 50 places in Happy Valley, he chose a 450 sq ft, three-bedroom apartment that met his criteria. He then handed the space to George Lam, a design consultant at Bugs (tel: 2866 0279;, and asked him to create a bolt-hole in which he could work during the day, chill out with friends in the evening and, if necessary, sleep overnight. Chan, who is in personal finance, lives in a 1,000 sq ft flat nearby with his wife.

Although Lam calls it a home/office, his client stipulated the decor should be 'industrial and not too cosy'.

'It is foremost a work place,' Chan says, which is why 'there is no wooden flooring, no sofa, and the most comfortable chair is the work chair.'

Chan wanted to be able to enjoy music while he pondered his sums, so much so that he moved in his home audio system. In addition, he had a brick wall, which had been erected to separate the living room from the office, redesigned.

'It was the only thing I asked them to change,' he says. 'Initially the wall went all the way up to the ceiling. I wanted a low wall, but I also wanted something that looked structural.' The solution was a partition with a large steel-framed opening that separates work and relaxation areas, but in open-plan fashion.

Delineating zones (for sleeping, cooking, bathing, living and working) in such a tight space required creativity. 'The layout is a bit odd because [save for the shower and toilet area] there are no doors in the flat,' says Lam. The bedroom is tucked into a corner but doesn't feel cramped or claustrophobic because it is bathed in light during the day.

Windows on three sides of the flat are an especially attractive feature of the apartment and were a crucial factor in designing the layout. The simple work space - which boasts a large desk, a tall blackboard and a low filing cabinet accommodating a fax machine - enjoys the best of the natural illumination.

Although he rarely uses it, a functional kitchen was built in case Chan decides to sell or rent out the flat. Flanking it is the bedroom and a roomy shower, which, together with the toilet, can be closed off with glass sliding doors. The bathroom sink is situated between the doors and a bookshelf-cum-room divider.

As with most small flats, compromises had to be made. In Chan's case he had to decide between a double bed and a washing machine. The bed won in the end because, he reiterates, it would be easier to find tenants or buyers if the flat could house a couple.

A permanent resident would have to pare back their belongings, but this is a minor detraction from an apartment that offers a lot, including low-maintenance surfaces. Along with Corian worktops in the kitchen and no-nonsense tiles in the bathroom, the flat boasts commercial-style epoxy flooring.

Chan feels right at home in his new premises. 'The only thing I don't do here is cook,' he says.

1 Occupying the brightest area of the home/office is the work area, situated in front of the bedroom and beside the lounge. The L-shaped desk cost about HK$4,000 from Office Max (2801, tower one, Times Square, Causeway Bay, tel: 2838 3830). 'The most comfortable chair in the flat,' according to owner Howard Chan, is the Aeron chair, which he bought from Flea + Cents (1/F, 36 Queen's Road East, Wan Chai, tel: 2528 0808) for HK$8,700. Also from the shop is the classic Eames Management Chair (HK$12,750), which features an aluminium frame and Spinneybeck leather. Camel blackboard paint covers a panel beside a filing cabinet (HK$2,350) from Office Max. Occupying the narrow space between two beams is a ceiling lamp that cost about HK$4,000 from Artemide (shop 111, Ruttonjee Centre, 11 Duddell Street, Central, tel: 2523 0333).

2 Sharing an interior 'window' with the office is the living room, where Chan hangs out with friends after work. Standing on self-levelling epoxy flooring, usually used in commercial buildings, are two moulded plywood Eames LCM chairs (HK$8,000 each) and a cork stool (HK$3,460), all of which came from Flea + Cents. The blue upholstered chair, designed by Hans Olsen, was bought through eBay for HK$9,000. The chest, formerly packaging for audio equipment, now serves as a side table. Bugs custom made the glass-backed bookshelves (HK$7,500), behind which the bathroom sink is situated. The red dog cost HK$700 from a Paul Smith store in Tokyo.

3 Although it is hardly used, the kitchen is fully functional and boasts a stylish black Corian work top. Zebra-wood cabinets, which accommodate counter lighting, are teamed with white laminate cupboards for visual interest.

4 The only room with a door is the one housing the shower and toilet. White mosaic tiles (HK$25 a square foot) came from a shop on Lockhart Road, Wan Chai that has since closed. Black granite stone was used for the floor of the shower. The shower head cost HK$3,200 from Luen Hing Hong Building Materials (370 Lockhart Road, tel: 2836 5183). The shower curtain cost HK$250 from New Bedford Interiors (67 Queen's Road East, tel: 2520 0330).

5 The bathroom sink and tap, between the bookshelf and toilet, cost a total of HK$2,500 from H20 (332 Lockhart Road, tel: 2834 1661). The wall light above the mirror cabinet was HK$2,300 from Artemide.

6 Although it is tucked into a corner of the flat, the bedroom does not feel cramped because it benefits from an open-plan layout, which is enhanced by a bank of windows on one side. The teak bed, dressed with bedding from Ikea (; various locations), was custom made by Bugs for HK$6,400, which included the deep storage chest at its foot. The glass bedside-table bottle cost HK$300 from Flea + Cents. The lockable office-style closet (HK$3,600) came from Office Max. The Count Basie poster at the rear of the flat cost ?45 (HK$520) from

tried & tested

packing heat

It may partially cover a window but the bathroom mirror cabinet also hides an eyesore: the water heater. George Lam of Bugs (6B, West Wing, Sincere Insurance Building, Wan Chai, tel:

2866 0279; moved the unit (HK$7,500 from Towngas) to its current position and built the cabinet for HK$2,000.

Styling David Roden