Mother of invention

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 April, 2012, 12:00am


Henning Voss lived communally until just a few years ago. He had a flat that was turned into an office during the day, when he shared his living quarters with a handful of employees who worked at his dining table and ate in his kitchen.

Then his situation changed. He sold the home-office and relocated the company it accommodated, (a free e-mail magazine for Hong Kong men). The change in circumstances required Voss to find somewhere else to live, so he acquired another flat, gutted the interiors and refurbished it to suit himself and just one other person: co-owner Silvia, his German-born Chinese girlfriend.

Although Voss, who is also German, insists he grew used to the living conditions, he jokes: 'I couldn't have any sick days.'

Voss has moved up - literally. His apartment, three floors above his previous digs, retains a lot that is familiar but, he stresses, it is much more comfortable. Housed in a Sheung Wan building with one flat per floor, it is, like the old place, a touch under 900 sq ft, but it's significantly brighter, and not just because of the elevated position. Unlike those beneath it, the flat has windows on all four sides.

As with the lower apartment (featured in these pages in 2009), Voss' new home was designed by Jennifer Newton, of Newton Concepts. The Australian interior designer again introduced timber to the aesthetic, but this time she swapped concrete flooring for warm oak, leaving the aged, tactile teak sourced in Thailand for table tops, including the dining table, the television unit and the bathroom counter.

Contrary to expectations, his previous concrete floor, Voss says, was a hassle to keep clean. 'Because it had a very rough finish, it was hard even to sweep,' he says, acknowledging that it would have been less high-maintenance had he chosen the glossy finish favoured by some art galleries.

Another significant departure from downstairs, which featured shiny stainless steel, is metalwork with scuffed matt surfaces. Achieving the desired effect on the metal frame of a mirrored shoe cabinet took Newton 'an eternity'.

'Jenny painted it, left it to rust a bit, then took some paint off,' Voss says. 'Then she painted it again, took some more of it off and came up with this.'

To complement the distressed surfaces, Newton whitewashed the brick feature wall in the living area. She was so effective in giving it a patina of age, says Voss, workmen thought it was an unfinished wall and drew on it to mark where a projector screen would fit.

To capitalise on the light, Voss wanted a white kitchen, which, after a layout change necessitated by a low, structural beam, ended up opposite the lounge, with the long dining table acting as a divider.

Behind the kitchen is the apartment's sole bedroom, which shares space with an ablution zone; on either side of a partition wall built shy of the ceiling are the bed and his-and-hers basins.

To make the most of the low beam that cuts across the living areas, Newton cladded it with oak and hung vines from the ceiling. The effect is one reason Voss likes the view from the lounge through to the kitchen. The open feeling also appeals. 'What I love when I lie on the couch and look across to the kitchen is the space,' he says.

Leisurely days off work just might be in the offing.

1 Kitchen

The cabinetry was built by Effect Workshop (2/F, 23 Queen's Road East, Wan Chai, tel: 2625 4696) for HK$48,800. The Formica Stone countertops cost HK$103,300 at Mogen (397 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2219 2260).

2 Living area

Behind the feature wall of whitewashed bricks are a toilet at one end and a store room at the other. The television console (HK$12,000) was made by Effect Workshop, with reclaimed teak from Thailand. The L-shaped sofa (HK$40,000) and blinds, all from Jennifer Newton's Newton Collection (, were custom made by Bricks and Stones (97 Queen's Road East, tel: 2520 0577). The two-tier coffee table cost HK$13,000 at TREE (various locations; The Banksy painting came from the Andipa Gallery in London ( The lamp (HK$1,500) was from Aluminium (36 Cochrane Street, Central, tel: 2546 5904).

3 Dining area

Between the open kitchen and lounge is the dining area, bisected overhead by a low beam that was turned into an eye-catching feature. The table frame (HK$5,900, excluding the reclaimed teak planks) and Tennyson chairs (HK$3,000 each) are from Newton Collection. The wood came from a furniture zone in Thailand (99 Baantawai Moo 2 Khunkong, Hangdong, Chiang Mai, tel: 66 817 166 328). About HK$27,000 worth of wood provided enough to use as features throughout the apartment. The custom-made steel-frame bookshelves (HK$23,500) were made by Effect Workshop. The bar stools (HK$1,600 each) in the kitchen came from Aluminium.

4 Kitchen alcoves

Built into a whitewashed brick wall in the kitchen are a couple of alcoves used to display condiments.

5 Bedroom

Engineered oak (HK$53 per square foot from Wonderfloor, 271 Lockhart Road, tel: 2728 9373) was used for the floor and piano niche, while reclaimed teak from Thailand features in the room divider. The bed was made by Effect Workshop for HK$25,000.

6 Bathroom

Behind the divider in the bedroom are his-and-hers Toto basins (HK$3,840 each) and taps (HK$2,100 each) from Galaxy Bathroom Collection (188 Lockhart Road, tel: 2519 8188). Reclaimed teak from Thailand was waterproofed for use as the splashback and counter. The tiles on the shower feature wall (HK$53 a piece) came from Omega Culture Stone & Construction Material (172 Lockhart Road, tel: 9879 8784). The shower also came from Galaxy Bathroom Collection and cost HK$6,500. For the walls and floor of the shower, Newton used a waterproof plaster called Tadelakt Pro.

7 Wardrobe

Environmentally friendly Ubiq building board (, which can be used indoors and outdoors and is apparently 100 per cent recyclable and non-toxic, was used for the wardrobes. The material is made with minimally processed natural magnesium oxide cement and recycled materials, and is water-repellent and non-combustible.

Tried + tested

Steel the show

For skirting boards throughout the flat, instead of regular wood, Henning Voss had stainless-steel baseboards installed, at HK$380 a metre, by Effect Workshop.

Styling David Roden