Alex Frew McMillan
Will and Nicole Toye wanted room to entertain and display their sizeable collection of art, so, when they bought their Pok Fu Lam penthouse three years ago, the young couple decided a renovation was in order.
Working with designer Richard Blight, the Toyes picked a muted colour scheme of greys and browns to draw attention to their collection of colourful modern Chinese art. That decision, like several others, required some give and take.
'If I had had my way, every inch of space would be covered with art,' says Nicole, who is an avid collector of Asian art. 'The two words we came up with were 'modern' and 'eclectic'. Will is very modern [which explains the streamlined, minimalist furnishings] and I'm a collector.'
Most of all, the couple wanted easy access to the roof, which, on a clear day, has panoramic views of Victoria Harbour, Mount Davis and the Tsing Ma Bridge. With this in mind, an internal staircase was installed to link the 1,080 sq ft apartment to the rooftop, which they covered in terracotta tiles. On an elevated area decked in Brazilian hardwood are armchairs and sun loungers fitted around a glass-edged wall. Bougainvillea and a miniature banyan tree add colour, and there is an outdoor shower under which Patch, the Toyes' Jack Russell, is sometimes washed.
'The crux of the flat is the roof,' says Will, who works in shipping. 'That's the X factor that makes the flat a bit special.'
Downstairs, the open kitchen is the heart - or belly - of the apartment. But one aspect of it still rankles: the granite-like manufactured surface they used for the countertop, called Technistone.
'It wasn't sealed properly, so when you drop something on it, it absorbs it,' Nicole says.
She negotiated a discount with the supplier but accepts the problem will never be fixed to her satisfaction.
There's an office where the original corridor-style kitchen once stood. Although narrow, it accommodates a fold-down bed and can be separated from the living area with sliding doors to create a guest bedroom. An attached bathroom virtually makes it a suite, although, jokes Will, 'It's not comfortable enough for people to stay too long.'
The master bedroom, however, oozes comfort. A custom-made futon-style bed takes up two-thirds of the room and complements the washed oak floor.
The bedroom is linked to the main bathroom and the suite can be closed off from the living room with another sliding door. The bathroom features an oversized sink with his-and-her taps, and a large mirror covering the wall above the sink.
Connected to the master bedroom suite, a second bedroom has been converted into a spacious walk-in wardrobe. That decision, too, was the result of negotiation and a little quid pro quo.
'I said, 'You can have a huge walk-in shower as long as I can have a huge walk-in closet,'' recalls Nicole.
The Toyes designed the apartment around their lifestyle and say they'll stay put for at least five years. Only an addition to the family would change their plans, in which case, they say, they would probably rent out the flat.
'This is definitely an apartment for a young couple,' Nicole says.
'Could be an old couple,' Will interjects. 'We don't think we'll ever sell it.'
The kitchen, particularly the oversized breakfast bar and countertop, was designed to be the focal point of the home. The grey kitchen counter around the sink is made from Silestone, a plastic-based composite, and the bar was made with Technistone. East Asia Giotto (160 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2877 6770) built the kitchen for HK$95,000 and supplied the appliances, such as the Smeg fridge-freezer (HK$20,800) and Siemens built-in dishwasher (HK$10,800). For a morning pick-me-up, the Toyes splashed out on a built-in coffee machine (HK$24,800). The painting is Adam Neate's 2D Red Self Portrait, which came from Elms Lesters Painting Rooms in London (www.elmslesters.co.uk). The large bell-shaped lampshade (HK$14,000) came from ColourLiving (333 Lockhart Road, tel: 2510 2666).
2 Living room
An oil-on-cotton print by Zhao Fang, titled Fist Power Series No 9A, is the centrepiece of the living room. The artwork came from Schoeni Art Gallery (21 Old Bailey Street, Central, tel: 2869 8802). The white oak flooring, which covers the main living areas, cost HK$80,000 for materials and installation from Wonderfloor International (271 Lockhart Road, tel: 2728 9373). The custom-made sofa and ottoman (HK$20,000 for both) came from TREE (28/F, Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 2870 1582). The coffee table was a gift. The Buddha statue, a 17th-century gilded- bronze piece from Cambodia, is a family heirloom. The silver pouffe (HK$1,500) came from Indigo (6/F, Horizon Plaza, tel: 2555 0540). The Artemide floor lamp cost HK$9,800 from ColourLiving.
Making the most of the roof was key to the apartment's design. Wonderfloor International installed dark-stained Brazilian hardwood for the decking (HK$42,955 for a raised deck area of about 500 square feet). The 'sofa' is a set of three sun loungers custom made for HK$25,000 by Irony Home (11/F, Horizon Plaza, tel: 2845 2567). The umbrella and stone base were display models from Everything Under the Sun (9/F, Horizon Plaza, tel: 2554 9088) and cost HK$3,500 in total. The armchairs came from a previous apartment, as did the white Verner Panton table, which lights up from the inside. The stool was a hand-me-down and the rug (HK$1,200) came from Inside (12/F, Horizon Plaza, tel: 2873 1795).
The staircase cost about HK$500,000 to design and build, with the help of Chung & Ng Consulting Engineers (9/F, Sun House, 90 Connaught Road, Central, tel: 2854 0120) and Luck Win Engineering (5/F, Wellborne Commercial Centre, 8 Java Road, North Point, tel: 2571 2887). Nicole Toye made the light installation with a bird-cage from TREE (HK$3,000) and lights bought at Chatuchak market in Bangkok, Thailand.
The walls are adorned with two of Chen Fei's patterned-skirt drawings, Electro and Jungle (from Schoeni Art Gallery) and a computer-generated painting in the traditional 'shan shui' style, titled Forbidden City, Edition: 8. The bed frame (HK$6,800) was custom built by Wing Ki Decoration & Contracting (13/F, Sui Fai Factory Estate, 5 Shan Mei Street, Fo Tan, tel: 2728 1870).
The sliding antique door panels were a gift from Nicole's uncle, Dave Kwan, who runs an antiques business in Zhongshan, Guangdong province (tel: 9010 6177). Wing Ki Decoration built the frame for the sliding door (HK$5,000), the wooden cabinets (HK$19,500) and a fold-down bed (HK$5,800).
7 Walk-in wardrobe
By buying directly from the factory, the Toyes were able to reduce considerably the cost of the shelving and frame for the walk-in wardrobe (HK$18,000), which came from Ximula (2 Parkmall, 9 Penang Road, Singapore, tel: 65 6336 5255) and one of its showrooms in the mainland. The Buddha picture above the window was a gift from Nicole's father, as was the desk by the window. The white Componibili units (HK$1,110 for three-door unit; HK$800 for two-door unit) came from Aluminium (various locations; www.aluminium-furniture.com).
Tried + Tested
Rays of light
Having long admired the use of skylights in his native Britain, Will Toye was keen to install them in his Hong Kong home. With help from Chung & Ng Consulting Engineers, Toye asked the Buildings Department whether they would be legal but was told there was no precedent in Hong Kong.
'We haven't had one problem with them,' says Nicole Toye, who was worried about leaks. 'It's a nice feature when we have night barbecues because the light comes up from below.' Luck Win Engineering installed the three skylights for about HK$50,000.
Stylist David Roden