Land of Discovery

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 February, 2012, 12:00am


Phil Oakden and Anthony Cheung never thought they would buy a property in Discovery Bay. The couple had perceived it as a suburban enclave for expatriate families, unsuitable for two guys who had spent decades living in Central embracing an urban lifestyle. But they were pleasantly surprised when they were persuaded to view an apartment set amid lush gardens looking out to the ocean.

'We have a great view,' says Oakden, managing director of a coffee company. 'We can see Central and Kowloon from here and we get to watch the [Disneyland] fireworks every night. It's also lovely to wake up and sit on the balcony reading the papers while watching the ferries going back and forth.'

The couple say they had a hunch they were going to like the flat before they even saw it.

'We thought it was a good omen when we got in the lift and the property agent pressed 17 - the button to the top floor. We've always had apartments on the top floor and we've been very happy, so we feel it's lucky for us. And seven plus one equals eight, which is also lucky. And, it's good to look out over water,' says Oakden.

With the view and their love of entertaining in mind, they decided to increase the size of the balcony to create a dining area.

'We wanted a dining room but we figured we couldn't fit one inside, so we put it outside,' says Oakden.

The original interior measured about 1,150 square feet and the balcony 150 square feet, which they doubled in size by claiming some of the indoor area. A retractable roof and folding doors were then installed.

They also knocked the two-bedroom apartment into a one-bedroom home and used the former second bedroom to create an open-plan kitchen so Oakden could indulge his passion for cooking and dinner parties. The former small kitchen is now a pantry between the kitchen and study. In addition to renovating the en-suite bathroom, they had a guest washroom installed off the living area.

The couple say it was a challenge persuading contractors to visit Discovery Bay and the project took longer than it would have had the property been in Central.

'[The contractors] start at 10am so by the time they've caught the ferry here it's already 11am; then they go to lunch at one and they leave at five to catch the ferry because they have to be back in Central by six o'clock,' says Oakden. 'And in DB you can only work Monday to Friday - the building regulations are very strict - so we had less than six hours a day to get everything done. It took five months and that was a real push - it should have taken three months, maximum. But it was worth it and we took the time to do things properly.'

Oakden, a former country manager for Pacific Coffee who also designed the stores' interiors, created the concept for the apartment by using a storyboard that included pictures from magazines, fabric swatches and tile samples, many picked up from shops in Wan Chai.

The serene light green and grey colour scheme provides the perfect canvas for the couple's eclectic array of objects purchased on their travels. Sourcing the right materials and furniture for his home has been a lifetime's labour of love for Oakden, who bought the dining table frame and chairs in the United States because he couldn't find what he wanted locally.

'I went there for the outdoor furniture because I wanted a setting that didn't look like it was typically outdoors, because it's an extension of our living area,' he says.

The dining table, the breakfast bar and the sink surround in the bathroom are all made from the wood of a 150-year-old mango tree that was purchased in the Philippines, where Oakden and Cheung have a beach house.

The couple say they were careful about the renovation work and were pleased that there are no adjoining walls to the apartment next door, so they didn't disturb anybody - even when drilling. They needn't have worried. Apparently the neighbours like the changes so much - especially the balcony - they've asked if they can copy the design.

1 Balcony

Contractors Craftic Interior Make (CIM; 7/F, Pan Asia Centre, 137 Wai Yip Street, Kwun Tong, tel: 2389 9872) renovated the balcony for HK$66,000, which included increasing the floor space and installing folding doors, a wooden handrail (HK$5,800, excluding shipping from Wenry Woodcraft in Silang, Cavite, Philippines, tel: 63 929 222 8362) and columns (ordered online for HK$15,500 for four, excluding shipping, from Pacific Columns; The electronic retractable roof was purchased from and installed by Hao Yuan Outdoor Furniture (1/F, Louvre International Furniture Exhibition Centre, 325 Lecong section of National Highway, Shunde, Foshan, tel: 86 1581 3398 564) for 26,230 yuan (HK$32,000). The solid wood tabletop is made from a 150-year-old mango tree, and cost HK$7,000, excluding shipping, from Wenry Woodcraft Silang; the tempered glass top was sourced by CIM for HK$1,800. The two-part cast-iron table base (US$760 for each piece), the cast-iron chairs (US$390 each, including the canvas all-weather cushions) and the pendant lamp (US$800) all came from Restoration Hardware in Seattle, the United States (

2 Living room

The intricate wall carving was bought in 2005 for HK$3,000 from Art & Teak (153/11-2 Banwaen Sub Dist Tumbol Banwaen Amphoe Hang Dong, Chiang Mai, Thailand, tel: 66 53 434 288). The coffee table was found at the refuse station on Arbuthnot Road, Central, and restored by CIM. The reproduction chairs cost HK$2,400 for two in 2005, from Tian Yi Jia Shi Lecong Furniture Mall (Shunde, tel: 86 757 2810 4955) and were reupholstered recently by Next Furniture (Pier 3 Plaza, Discovery Bay, tel: 2987 0222) for about HK$3,000 for both, with fabric from Mina Sofa (3/F, Yimao Centre, 808 Meiyuan Road, Lo Wu, Shenzhen, tel: 86 755 25926910) that cost 120 yuan per yard. The enter- tainment cabinet, built by CIM for HK$18,000, is made from leather-look formica and contains a hidden bar that can be accessed by lifting up one end of the cabinet. The sofa cost 4,200 yuan and the ottoman was 2,500 yuan, both from Mina Sofa. The framed mirror came from the Artists Village in Shenzhen and cost 1,100 yuan. The subway-sign artwork cost US$650 through Restoration Hardware, excluding shipping, and the 1920s art-deco ceiling light cost US$1,800 from an antiques market in Seattle.

3 Balcony detail

Pampered pooch Ella and her sons, Indie and Oscar, recline on chairs (US$395 each, including cushions) from Restoration Hardware. The wood block table (HK$600) came from Art & Teak.

4 Study

The pistachio green units and desk were sourced and installed by CIM for HK$26,900. The chair cost about HK$700 at Ikea (various locations;

5 Kitchen

The kitchen units were custom made by CIM for HK$60,500. The cooking range was purchased as one unit in 2005. The breakfast bar, part of a 150-year-old mango tree, cost HK$1,500, excluding shipping, from Wenry Woodcraft. The stools were US$229 each from Crate & Barrel ( and the lights were purchased in Shenzhen years ago. The slate flooring cost 84 yuan per square metre from Foshan Ming Cheng Da Ceramic (Dongpeng Ceramics Showroom, 8 Jiangwan Third Road, Shiwan, Foshan, tel: 86 757 8271 5358).

6 Bedroom

The custom-built bed base and floor-to-ceiling shelving is one unit and was taken from the couple's previous apartment. The headboard (HK$4,500) came from Chong Yip Sofa (13/F, Tak King Industrial Building, 27 Lee Chung Street, Chai Wan, tel: 2896 3378). The mirror cost about HK$900 at a handicraft market in the Philippines. The ceiling lampshade (US$100), the matching wall light and shade (US$260) and the cushions and bedding were all bought in 2005 from Restoration Hardware. The linen basket came from a rice store in Chiang Mai.

7 Bathroom

The marble tiling was 550 yuan per square metre (total cost 19,800 yuan) from Guangdong Taigu Stone (B310 China Ceramic City, Chancheng, Foshan, tel: 86 757 826 61973). The vanity unit and mirrored cabinet were sourced and installed by CIM for HK$7,500. The sink was US$140 from Restoration Hardware and the shower unit was 38,000 rupees (HK$5,400) from Bathline Sensations (A232 Okhla Industrial Area, Phase 1, New Delhi, India, tel: 91 11 4769 0000).

Tried + tested

Tip top

The kitchen bin, integrated into the worktop by the sink, and hidden inside a cupboard, was sourced and fitted for about HK$800 by CIM.

Stylist David Roden