East meets West
Cynthia Breit's Indonesian style and husband Oliver's German functionality have combined to create a stunning home in Discovery Bay. The Breits' low-rise apartment at first feels like a chic and serene Asian spa, with warming woods, calming stone, pots of plants and statues of Buddha. But a closer inspection reveals clever, utilitarian details.
With both husband and wife boasting backgrounds in design - Cynthia in fashion and Oliver in product design - each wanted to influence the look of their home.
'My style is warm and tropical, reflecting the places I have lived,' says Cynthia, who was born in Jakarta, and has travelled and worked in India and Thailand. 'And being German, Oliver's is Bauhaus and modernist. We wanted to blend our two different styles somehow.'
A beautiful Malaysian wood, pilang (or white bark acacia), is a unifying theme throughout the apartment. 'I always wanted a natural home,' Cynthia says. 'I won't say it's eco[-friendly], but we tried to use natural materials as much as possible. We used hardwood flooring and real stone, not laminate or tiles that look like wood and stone.'
Cynthia and Oliver both had apartments in Central when they met, so the challenge was to find a place large enough for them and their belongings. They managed to maximise the space in this 1,600 sq ft apartment by gutting it and refiguring the layout.
First to go was a wall in the kitchen, which blocked off three windows in the front of the flat to create a utility room. With the utility room moved to the side, the kitchen now extends to the windows. This allows a clear run from one side of the flat to the other, and the kitchen blends seamlessly into the living room, which offers floor-to-ceiling bifold doors leading to a sizeable balcony. 'I wanted to see all four sides of the apartment [in the open-plan living room and kitchen] to give a sense of space that you don't often see in Hong Kong homes,' says Cynthia.
As a result, light pours in and air circulates throughout, cutting down on the need for air conditioning.
The striking kitchen is the heart of the apartment. The open-plan design features stainless steel, exposed brick and polished concrete walls with top-of-the-range appliances. To prevent the area appearing cold, Cynthia added plenty of wood in the form of flooring, shelving, a breakfast-bar countertop and a dining table and benches.
'The apartment was built around the kitchen as we love to entertain,' she says. 'We have friends over at least once a week for dinner and kids come over for pizza with our son, Marlo.'
The balcony - leading off the living room at the opposite end of the apartment - is 50 per cent larger than it was originally. 'Most people in Hong Kong would do the opposite and get rid of the balcony to make the living room bigger,' says Oliver.
Cynthia adds: 'We use it as an outdoor room. It's about bringing the outside in and the inside out.'
The balcony features a large number of plants as well as a herb garden containing mint, basil, parsley and coriander lining the edge.
Oliver flips a remote control and a mosquito net descends to cover the space between the balcony rail and the ceiling. Such hi-tech touches, along with fixtures and appliances, were Oliver's contributions.
'I was more the technical consultant. Cynthia gave me complete control over the lighting,' he says with a laugh. 'We wanted lots of light. I've gone for quite a few options. I didn't want to be stuck with just one lighting setting.'
The project took only 11 weeks to complete but the couple spent three months planning the work - with Cynthia responsible for the interior design and Oliver creating detailed drawings.
Cynthia says as much as possible should be planned in advance, but unexpected problems will always arise - such as walls or pillars that can't be removed.
Cynthia was on site every day, managing the project to save money.
'For a renovation to be successful, you need at least one of three things: a lot of time, a lot of money, or a lot of effort. We didn't have the first two, so we put a lot of ourselves in.'
The stainless-steel units were made by Mogen (397 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2219 2260) for HK$165,000. All the appliances are by Gaggenau and were sourced in Germany. Wooden shelving and flooring prevent the kitchen from looking cold. The acacia wood cost HK$42 per square foot from Kin Kat Timber (31 Mong Kok Road, Mong Kok, tel: 2393 4183). A breakfast bar made from the same wood is flanked by two bar stools, by Kartell (www.kartell.it), which were bought in Germany for HK$2,500 each. The leather bar stool (HK$500) is by Lem and was also sourced in Germany. The ceiling lamp cost HK$1,400 from Artemide (1/F, Ruttonjee Centre, 11 Duddell Street, Central, tel: 2523 0333).
2 Living room
The tepee, from one of Marlo's pizza parties, was sourced at Petit Bazaar (80 Queen's Road East, Wan Chai, tel: 2528 0229) for HK$1,800. Curtains provide an informal divide between the living and dining areas when needed. The huge floor lamp cost HK$7,800 from Artemide. The antique chest serving as a coffee table was bought in Thailand a long time ago. The sofa, by Cassina (www.cassina.com), was bought in Germany for HK$62,000.
3 Dining room
A dining area has been created between the open-plan kitchen and living room. The table (HK$14,950), made from reclaimed wood, came from TREE (28/F, Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 2870 1582). The copper candlestands cost HK$4,900 for a set of three from Tequila Kola (1/F, Horizon Plaza, tel: 2877 3295). The overhead light cost HK$5,400 from Artemide. The poster is by Gregory Colbert and was bought online through ashesandsnow.org.
4 Marlo's bedroom
Marlo's bed is on a raised area in his bedroom - allowing for storage space underneath and also creating a separate area from his playroom. The bed, by Oeuf Sparrow (www.oeufnyc.com), was bought in Germany for HK$8,000. The table and chairs are by Bopita (www.bopita.com) and were also sourced in Germany, for a total of HK$4,900. The wall lamp cost HK$1,900 from Artemide.
So as not to waste space, the couple narrowed the size of the original corridor, leading from the living area to the bedrooms and bathrooms. What was left was put to better use by creating a library along its length. The shelving system is by Interl?bke (www.interluebke.de) and was bought in Germany for HK$70,000. At the end, leading to the master bedroom, are dramatic floor-to-ceiling curtains instead of a door. The curtains, from New Bedford Interiors (67 Queen's Road East, tel: 2520 0330), cost HK$1,800.
6 Master bedroom
Cynthia and Oliver Breit decided to take space away from their bedroom to give it to their son's room next door so he could have room to play. Their clothes are housed in custom-built storage units that line the corridor leading to the bedroom. As a result, the bedroom just accommodates a bed, which was built on a platform to provide storage underneath. The bed, made of acacia, was designed and built by Cynthia's company, Bricks & Mortar Design (118 Connaught Road West, Sheung Wan, tel: 2333 8814) for HK$8,900. The bedside lamps cost HK$1,700 each from Artemide. The bedlinen is by De Bijenkorf Home Collection and was sourced in the Netherlands. The posters are by Colbert. The Servonotte clothes stand (zanotta.it) was bought in Germany for HK$1,900.
A study area in a corner of the living room has been built around an antique Burmese desk, which was bought in Thailand a long time ago. The chair (HK$2,500) came from TREE. The desk lamp cost HK$2,600 from Artemide. The poster is by Colbert.
8 Master bathroom
Cynthia wanted a Zen-like feel in the bathroom, which meant keeping all piping concealed and most of the products out of view in storage units to achieve a clean, streamlined look. The tall cabinet, countertop, under-counter cabinets and mirror were all designed and created by Bricks & Mortar for a total cost of HK$10,500. The basin is by Kohler (www.kohler.com) and was sourced in Germany for HK$2,300. The Hans Grohe tap cost HK$4,900 at Sunny Pro (193 Lockhart Road, tel: 2156 0388). The ceiling light cost HK$1,300 from Artemide.
Tried + tested
Cynthia Breit tried to incorporate as much foliage into her home as possible and where there was no room for planters she used vertical space, with hanging plant pockets made from recycled materials. The pouches work equally well inside (Cynthia has used them in the dining room) as they do outside, in the balcony (below). The plant pockets, by Ecotropolis (20/F, Oceanic Industrial Centre, 2 Lee Lok Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 9231 4370), cost HK$490 each.
Styling Fox Daniels