More retirees buying offices as private spaces to work, relax or entertain

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 April, 2014, 9:53am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 April, 2014, 9:53am

What do you do after you have retired? Some people spend their days playing golf, others travel. A few sit at home. But not Nick Wong, who opened an office. Wanting a "study away from home" where he could relax, entertain and continue to work, the father of three and former banker searched for a large space in a convenient location that would accommodate his new lifestyle.

When eventually he found what he wanted, in Lyndhurst Terrace, Central, he hired Jason Yung and Caroline Ma, whose designs he admired in the homes of friends, to create his private/public retreat.

Jason Caroline Design knocked together two flats to form a 1,300 sq ft work/play space that, they say, reflects an increasing desire to entertain at "home" but not actually in one's personal digs. Their design, called "Home Office, Office Home", last month won a merit prize in the Spacial - Office category of the Hong Kong Designers Association's Global Design Awards.

"Inviting people home requires lots of tidying up before and after," says Yung. "Buying a second home is costly but office or warehouse space is relatively cheap. You can create a second dream home for yourself without being too concerned about your kids, or spouse."

The set-up perhaps also reflects a trend sparked by growing numbers of semi-retirees worldwide, whose population is set to increase to 1.5 billion by 2050, according to the US Census Bureau.

While they may not put in the same hours as they once did, many (19 per cent of people between 55 and 64, according to a recent HSBC survey) segue into semi-retirement because they like to work, have to work or just like being around colleagues.

Although he keeps the office mostly to himself, Wong says his children use the 3.2-metre conference table when they're back in Hong Kong during school holidays, as do his temporary staff.

The table is also useful for parties, as is the bar area, which accommodates all the kitchen equipment needed to host soirées, including a wine fridge, a stove and a microwave. Wong also has plenty of storage space. Behind full-height floor-to-ceiling cupboard doors are a family-sized fridge, a filing cabinet, office equipment and a wardrobe, presumably filled with an assortment of work and party apparel to be pulled out when necessary.

Complementing the minimalist aesthetic - which pops with judicious additions of colour in the form of art and furniture - is a mirror-panelled wall, which makes the room feel larger and conceals a television. The TV screen, which is visible only when turned on, is also used for work presentations.

When others are around and absolute privacy is needed, Wong can withdraw into an inner sanctum, behind doors that otherwise slide open to create one free-flowing, open space. It's here that he shows off, in a strikingly illuminated open storage unit, the retro toys he collected in his younger days, including Thomas the Tank Engine trains and robots from the 1980s, as well as miniature R2D2s and Astro Boy models. "They were always in storage, but now I can display some of them," says Wong.

"It's a space that represents the true self behind your family life," says Yung, adding that another client, who also bought himself a home away from home, uses his space for karaoke and for jam sessions (his drum set is stored there).

While Wong typically spends six hours a day in his office (mostly managing his investments and those of others), Yung and Ma say that when they retire and if they can afford it, they would set up a space for themselves "to paint and do photography".

"There is no way we could do anything like that at home, with kids there," Yung says. "And how nice if we could … invite our friends to a space that belonged to us, and to cook for them there.

"Buying one more home is everyone's dream," he adds. "One's quality of life would go up."

The HKDA Global Design Awards2013 Exhibition, featuring the competition's winning entries, continues until April 6 at Telford Plaza, Kowloon Bay, and at PopCorn Shopping Mall in Tseung Kwan O MTR Station. For more information, visit