Lofty ambition

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 November, 2010, 12:00am

Contrary to appearances, this is not an apartment. It's a beautifully appointed showroom for the fledgling solar-power consultancy that owns it. That's because, under government regulations, industrial units such as this cannot be converted for residential use, no matter how tempting the high ceilings, large windows and mountain views.

For one of the consultancy's investors, Phillip Meyer, it's both home from home and work from work; he sleeps in a flat a couple of minutes away and has a day job in finance. As a hangout, this place is hard to beat.

'I'd been looking for a loft space - something bigger and more unusual than the typical Hong Kong apartment,' he says. 'And I wanted to explore green living, particularly solar power, but with an 'eco-indulgence' twist. So this seemed a good opportunity to invest in a working showroom using eco-friendly principles and start a business to encourage other people to do the same.

'The company is still in its early stages, as we've only just finished the unit, and we've yet to formalise the data on just how much power we're saving and so on. But it's something I'm keen to pursue,' he says.

Having lived in New York, where the loft apartment was all but invented, he immediately saw the potential in the wide-open spaces of this 2,000 sq ft industrial unit. But the clincher was the rooftop that came with it, also 2,000 sq ft.

'When I saw that, I had to have it,' he says. 'We're at the edge of the New Territories, overlooking the Sha Tin valley, and there's such a feeling of openness and light. The building was the right size - not too big - and the roof gave us the perfect location for the solar panels, as well as the chance for a 'garden' space. How often do you find that in Hong Kong? Plus the price was more reasonable than [those on] the Southside, where I also looked.'

Meyer's investment was in, essentially, a giant box; an oblong, with two walls of windows in one corner. Not floor-to-ceiling windows - this is an industrial space, after all - but still enormous because of the height of the unit (3.7 metres). Then he had to configure the space.

'It was harder than you'd think,' he says.

Meyer's solution was a kind of dumbbell arrangement, with the sitting and meeting space in the middle and a room at either end, each with a bed in it. Both rest areas have en-suite bathrooms and one shares a space with the office. There's a bi-fold door for privacy. A small pantry has been carved out of the main space and can be screened off behind sliding doors.

Maintaining the industrial look - exposed pipes, poured concrete floor, whitewashed walls, undressed windows - also kept the cost of the renovations down.

'We replaced everything: floor, windows, walls ...' Meyer says. 'But I like the look of the pipes and the concrete. It suits the building.'

The scale of the unit makes it the perfect gallery for his contemporary furniture and large pieces of art, collected in New York, Hong Kong and elsewhere in Asia.

And therein lies part of the appeal of the area for Meyer. He had visited the art studios in nearby Fo Tan during the annual Fotanian Open Studios event and liked the vibe. During the renovation, he dropped in on Fotanian artist Koon Wai-bong at the Blue Lotus Gallery to buy three large, scroll-like canvases for the main wall in the sitting area, which fit neatly behind a drop-down projection screen on movie nights.

'Many of the Fo Tan artists trained at Chinese University, down the road. They're young and talented and just getting going. Now the renovation is finished, I'm considering offering some of them gallery space here, so they can invite potential clients to view their work in a 'home' environment,' Meyer says. 'I'd like to contribute to the area.'

So does he miss anything about his old life in Mid-Levels? He thinks for a moment.

'I miss the convenience of being able to walk down to the bars to meet friends,' he says. 'And Food by Fone. You can't have dinner delivered to an industrial unit.'

Fotanian Open Studios will be held on January 8 to 16 (weekends only). For details, visit

1 The rest area is separated from the office by bi-fold doors and is a popular spot with Mei Mei the cat. The queen-sized bed was HK$10,500 from Ovo Studio (60 Johnston Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2529 6060). The bedside lamp was HK$300 from Ikea (various branches; The Icon Brush ceiling fan cost HK$800 at Life's a Breeze (16/F, Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 2572 4000).

2 The large sofa is by Ligne Roset (HK$58,000; 16 Blue Pool Road, Happy Valley, tel: 2891 0913) and the two-seater is the Osaka sofa from Homeless (HK$5,250; 29 Gough Street, Central, tel: 2581 1880). Both were reupholstered by New Bedford Interiors for HK$20,000 (67 Queen's Road East, Wan Chai, tel: 2520 0330). The Gina Carollo Planet table was HK$15,000 from Decor Collection (55 Wong Nai Chung Road, Happy Valley, tel: 2882 2763). The Eames rocking chair came from a shop that has since closed. The large painting is Singing in the Wild Branches by Emma Walker, from Gaffer (17/F, Hing Wai Centre, 7 Tin Wan Praya Road, Aberdeen, tel: 2521 1770). The paintings on the left are by Koon Wai-bing from Blue Lotus Gallery (tel: 6100 1295;

3 Mismatched seating and the industrial-chic chandelier give the meeting area a quirky appeal. The grouped Torch Lights are by Sylvain Willenz for Established & Sons (HK$26,000; Lane Crawford Home Store, Pacific Place, Admiralty, tel: 2118 3668). The table and bench are from Ovo Studio (HK$14,000 and HK$4,900, respectively). The white Knoll Saarinen Tulip chairs were HK$7,000 each (similar chairs are available at Dream Interiors, 5/F, Yu Yuet Lai Building, 43 Wyndham Street, Central, tel: 2881 9122) and the red and white Catifa 46 chairs are by Lievore Altherr Molina (HK$2,000 each; Posh, 18/F, Siu On Centre, 188 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2816 2282). The painting is Long Night by Chen Ping, from Gaffer.

4 The pantry is equipped with Fisher & Paykel appliances (HK$30,000 for the dishwasher, oven and stove top; Kelvin Electric Trading, 42 Leighton Road, Causeway Bay, tel: 2358 4228). The overhead Kartell Ge lamps cost HK$2,500 each at Kartell (Ruttonjee Centre, 11 Duddell Street, Central, tel: 2810 0408). The bar stool cost HK$1,900 from Aluminium (1 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central, tel: 2546 5904) and the orange step stool was HK$300 from Homeless.

5 The wall and floor tiles in the bathroom are from In Plus (HK$310 and HK$330 per square metre, respectively; 183 Lockhart Road, tel: 2380 9681). The Kohler sinks cost HK$2,100 each at Hop Lung Building Materials (293 Lockhart Road, tel: 2802 2273) and the Hansgrohe taps were HK$4,350 each at Arnhold Design Centre (Lucky Plaza, 315 Lockhart Road, tel: 2865 0318). The cabinet was custom made by contractor Advance Engineering HK (tel: 2891 2715).

6 Phillip Meyer's small desk - a draughtsman's table given to him by a friend - came with him from New York. The chair cost HK$500 from Ikea and the Tolomeo table lamp cost HK$2,700 from Artemide (Ruttonjee Centre, tel: 2523 0333). The tribal art was bought in Guilin, Guangxi.

7 Wooden fencing divides Meyer's part of the roof from the rest of the space. The umbrella features solar-powered LED lighting, operated through a panel on the top of the stand. He bought it along with the table and six chairs for HK$9,000 from Sun & Rain Canvas Awning (29C Chik Shun Street, Tai Wai, tel: 2691 1444). The artificial turf and wooden panels were sourced and installed by contractor Long River Design (tel: 9017 1733, e-mail:

Tried + tested

Catching rays

The 500W photovoltaic solar panels and solar water heater on the roof are a key part of Phillip Meyer's 'eco-indulgence' business plan. Still in the trial phase, they provide power for the showroom and hot water for the second bathroom. The panels and heater were bought for HK$80,000, including installation, from Renewable Energy Group (23/F, World-Wide House, 19 Des Voeux Road Central, tel: 2862 0020). To contact Meyer's consultancy, EcoIndulgence, e-mail

Styling David Roden