A30-year-old apartment on The Peak presented as many challenges as opportunities for interior designer Deborah von Eldik. Although the 2,200 sq ft flat enjoyed generously proportioned rooms, relatively high ceilings and attractive parquet floors, its dated bathrooms, aluminium-framed windows and flimsy doors meant it was in dire need of renovation.
Her clients, expatriates working in the financial sector, were renting the property, so it did not undergo a complete renovation. Rather, von Eldik concentrated on 'overcoming the industrial look' by brightening the walls and ceilings, adding classic touches and generally trying to ensure the traditional apartment upheld a colonial feel.
Cleverly employing inexpensive polyurethane moulding throughout the flat, von Eldik upgraded many elements - doors, wardrobes and kitchen cabinets - to give them a more substantial look while adding to the home's classic ambience. Rather than ripping out unattractive bathroom and kitchen tiles, she had them spray painted, and unsightly floor tiles were disguised with faux-wood linoleum that looks and feels like the real thing.
'This flooring is a favourite of mine for its high quality and low price,' says von Eldik.
Even the aluminium window frames were sprayed white in keeping with the decor of the rest of the house.
The kitchen presented the biggest challenge, says von Eldik. 'We ripped out the galley kitchen and installed white base cabinets and glass-fronted wall cabinets on one side to widen the room and give it depth.' Lighting was particularly important since there was little or no natural light, she says.
Von Eldik installed lighting under the hanging cabinets and downlights inside the glass cabinets to show off the owners' collection of glass and porcelain. Two hanging ceiling lamps were also installed. Plenty of deep drawers provide storage, and von Eldik had her contractor make co-ordinated units to cover unsightly piping and the water heater. With a wine cabinet and a generously sized Smeg cooker, the kitchen is now a bright work area that maximises every inch of space.
Elsewhere in the apartment, von Eldik set about creating the right environment to showcase her clients' eclectic collection of furniture, art and antiques.
During 20 years in Asia, the British couple have travelled extensively and amassed a wide selection of Anglo-Indian furniture, English antiques and modern art. 'My job was to reflect their taste and personality in their home,' she says.
To make the most of the limited light in the low-floor, tree-surrounded apartment, von Eldik had the interior walls painted in crisp whites and soft creams. The generous balcony was decked and forested with plants to create a leafy outdoor space.
Taking pride of place in the living area is a beautiful century-old teak fireplace (see Tried + tested) that von Eldik rescued from a soon-to-be-demolished 1890s house in the old Whampoa dockyards (which were razed in the 1980s to make way for the residential estate, Whampoa Garden).
'The client wanted a focal point for the sitting room, other than the standard big-screen television. Since the flat's overall look was to be classic, a fire- place was the answer.'
'I covered up a lot of sore points,' von Eldik says. 'The whole apartment needed an upgrade and my clients' existing furniture needed the right environment. It was important to make the apartment feel more substantial, to give it a classic feel.'
The result is a graceful, elegant home full of memories and mementos, perfectly in tune with its lofty location.
1 Sitting room
The sofa (HK$40,000) was from Altfield Interiors (11/F, 9 Queen's Road Central, tel: 2524 4867) and was covered in Colefax and Fowler fabric, as was the striped chair. The ottoman was upholstered in Jim Thompson silk by Wai Kee Home (1/F, 30 Cochrane Street, Central, tel: 2544 3730) for HK$2,500. The Tibetan rugs were collected by the couple over the years. The lamps were bought years ago from Altfield Interiors. The Qing-dynasty cupboard was purchased from an antique dealer in Macau. The antique birdcages were bought in India, where the couple lived before moving to Hong Kong. The painting above the mantelpiece, by 19th-century English landscape painter James Baker Pyne, came from John Noott Galleries (10 The Green, High Street, Broadway, Worcestershire, Britain, tel: 44 1386 858969).
The decking cost HK$40 per square foot from Ample Sino Holdings (367 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 3102 9138). The plants were sourced from EBO Nursery (Sun Fung Garden, San Tam Road, Long Ha Section, Yuen Long, tel: 9489 7916), as were the table and chairs, which cost HK$1,600 in total.
The antique sideboard under the mirror was bought in Macau years ago. The wooden lamps on the sideboard are English antiques and the antique mirror is a family heirloom. The ceiling lights were bought in India.
The cabinetry was designed by Deborah von Eldik of Compass Interior Design (tel: 2869 5128) and built and installed by contractor Olive Decoration and Engineering (3/F, Block 7, Belvedere Gardens Phase 3, 625 Castle Peak Road, Tsuen Wan, tel: 9198 2036) for HK$60,000. The ceiling light (HK$388) was from Ikea (various locations; www.ikea.com.hk). The faux-wood flooring is ESL NeWood (HK$40 a square metre, including installation) from Excellence Holdings (1/F, Hutton Square, 28 Bute Street, Mong Kok, tel: 2893 3858).
5 En-suite bathroom
Von Eldik gutted the en-suite master bathroom and replaced all the cabinets with custom-made units (HK$8,000), made by Olive Decoration and Engineering, which also supplied and installed the bevelled glass mirrors (HK$1,800). The sinks were from Ikea and cost HK$890 each. The tap (HK$250) was from Delong (275 Lockhart Road, tel: 2588 1212). The heated towel rail cost HK$2,200 from Bowin Building Material Centre (283 Lockhart Road, tel: 2824 2108). The ceiling light (HK$2,800) was from Element Lighting Design (48 Morrison Hill Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2573 7772). The faux-wood flooring is ESL NeWood from Excellence Holdings.
6 Dining room
The table (HK$25,000) came from TREE (28/F, Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 2870 1582) and the Chippendale- style bamboo chairs were bought in Britain 20 years ago. The sideboard is an English antique, as are the lamp and the candelabra, which the couple has owned for years. The glassware cabinet was bought in Kerala, India, about 15 years ago. The birdcage was bought in India and the ceiling light in Singapore. The Qing-dynasty vases on the sideboard were bought during the couple's travels around Asia. The painting, by Bo Yun, was bought from Zee Stone Gallery (Chinachem Hollywood Centre, 1 Hollywood Road, Central, tel: 2810 5895).
The bedding, cushions and throws were all purchased at Wai Kee Home. The side tables are Chinese antiques bought many years ago, as were the lamps, which were purchased in Britain. The ceiling light (HK$2,800) was from Element Lighting Design. The artwork on the wall is the Birds and Flowers series by Japanese artist Rakuzan that the couple bought from Hanlin Gallery (56 Hollywood Road, tel: 2522 4479) several years ago. The clothes horse (HK$2,800) came from Tequila Kola (Prince's Building, Central, tel: 2520 1611).
Tried + tested
Fire the imagination
The faux fireplace in the living room is an unusual sight in a Hong Kong apartment. The century-old piece is composed of a hand-carved solid teak mantelpiece and surround with a cast-iron grate and tray. Deborah von Eldik had contractor Olive Decoration and Engineering build a wooden box frame (HK$5,000) in place of a chimney breast, with additional mouldings to hide joins and add consistency with the look and feel of the woodwork.
'We needed to hang the original brass hood on a frame, which was also anchored into the box frame. The inside was painted flat black to create an illusion of depth,' says von Eldik.
Styling Fox Daniels