Eight years of living in a New York studio-loft gave graphic designer Gloria Wong plenty of ideas for set- ting up home in Hong Kong on her return in 1997. Three years ago, those ideas were put to the test when she moved into a 450 sq ft studio flat in Sheung Wan.
'Four hundred and fifty square feet means it's probably only about 350 sq ft really but then I lived in a similar-sized place in New York,' says Wong.
By unlocking every inch of space and pressing certain features into performing double duties, Wong has made for herself a functional and comfortable home. The smart bachelorette pad doubles as the base of operations for Wong's graphic-design company, Gee Design, so, with clients visiting for presentations, making the space look professional and clutter-free was a priority.
A pale hardwood floor and spotlights have been teamed with clean white furnishings in a loft-inspired setting but the most eye-catching feature is the wall- to-wall whiteboard panelling that lines the multifunctional main room. Glossy and bright, the panels reflect more light into a space already suffused with sunlight and serve as presentation aids. To complete the studio's professional look, a white curtain screens off the bed.
A simple white table for two fits on to end of the main desk area while the pale-wood floor gives the studio its spacious ambience.
Trained in communication design, environmental graphics and mural-size painting, Wong designed museum shows during her time in New York.
'One was about the life of Chinese-Americans in the United States so we made this huge Chinese lantern structure and portrayed different parts of that life inside the lantern,' she says. 'We really had to think about how to use every inch of space effectively and stylishly and I think I've used the same kinds of ideas in my flat.
'I liked this flat because of the light and the fact that you can open windows at both ends and get a good cross-breeze through. That's pretty rare around here. The flat had recently been renovated but it was totally wrong for my needs so, unfortunately, I had to have the whole place ripped out and start from scratch,' says Wong.
She designed the flat's layout, calling on contractor Gary Yan to work out the practical details for her vision of an airy space with plenty of storage for her shoes, clothes and books. The studio's unusually high ceiling allowed for a custom-built raised bed, under which are stored infrequently used items such as suitcases and off-season clothing. The sofa was custom made to slot into the space in front of, and give access onto, the bed as well as provide more storage space, in two deep drawers under the seat.
'Gary was great at listening to my long list of needs and coming up with solutions - like bringing a pump in to increase the shower water pressure. In old high-rises like this, the water pressure is always terrible,' says Wong. 'I talked to quite a few designers before deciding on Gary and it's funny how different their responses were to my ideas. When I explained how much storage I would need, one architect said, 'Can't you just throw away all your stuff?'
'I told him, 'No.''
1 The custom-fitted bed, installed for HK$17,000 by contractor Gary Yan of Interior Design (7/F, Lee West Commercial Building, 375 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2366 8141), is larger than a standard queen size and has hinges that allow it to be raised to access a storage compartment that is more than one metre deep. There are shelving and cupboards at the sides of the bed and more storage in drawers inside the custom-made sofa.
2 A white table topped with pale green glass serves as additional office space and also as a dining area for two. The table and chair set were purchased for about HK$3,000 from Pricerite (B/F, 1 Yee Wo Street, Causeway Bay, tel: 2923 7010).
3 The main desk is wide and deep enough to accommodate a piano keyboard on a slide-out drawer, while a notebook computer doubles as a sheet music stand. The tall window has been split in half by a shelf and though currently employed as a pretty indoor window box, is on hand as extra storage should the need arise.
4 A wall of wardrobes, along with almost every other vertical surface in the flat, has been covered with magnetic whiteboard panels. Predominantly for use during presentations to clients, the room-wide jotting board provides graphic designer Gloria Wong of Gee Design (tel: 9261 1689; firstname.lastname@example.org) with an always-to-hand scribble 'pad'.
5 Glossy white cabinets and a wall mirror reflect light from the gallery kitchen's corner windows. Wine glasses and utensils hang neatly in the one-person space, providing a fully equipped workstation. Wong's contractor built the cabinets and counter for HK$9,500.
6 With so much space cleverly employed elsewhere, the bathroom could afford to take up more of the studio's square footage than might be expected. Brightly lit and with a high ceiling, the room is made to feel even more spacious with simple white furnishings and a generously proportioned shower cubicle.
7 The owner's stuffed bookshelves are hidden behind large magnetic whiteboards, which slide open on heavy-duty rails. A handle on one of the whiteboards doubles as a mini-vase, which always holds a fresh flower. Three spotlights in the ceiling, sourced by the contractor from Zodiac Lighting (Amber Commercial Building, 70 Morrison Hill Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2882 9082), contribute to the flat's loft style.
The good and the ugly
Good: One of the simplest features of owner Gloria Wong's flat is also one of the most useful. Mirrors fixed to the back of not one but two wardrobe doors can be pulled open to face each other. Moving the doors adjusts the angle of the mirrors, providing Wong with a 360-degree view of her appearance before she goes out.
Ugly: With every other inch of her interior meticulously planned out, the 'mess of sockets and wires' next to her pull-out television screen is a daily source of regret for Wong. 'They're hidden when the television is put away but when I pull it out, I can see all that mess and it drives me crazy,' she says. 'I should have put the sockets a foot lower.'
Tried + tested
If the shoes
fit Gloria Wong wanted wall-to-wall shoe cupboards by the entrance of her studio flat and wouldn't let the bathroom door get in the way. Heavy-duty hinges allow her to have a shoe cabinet-cum-bathroom door that is easy to push open. When closed, the cupboard door lies flush with the adjacent cabinetry. The doors are lined with magnetic whiteboard. The racks and cupboard doors were installed for HK$6,600 by contractor Gary Yan.
Styling Gloria Wong