Text Eleanor McCallum / Pictures Edward Wong / Styling David Roden
Benjamin Ang Lip-huat is a man who likes to do things differently. He designed the interior of his new home before he'd even gone flat hunting to look for it. He is also a man who gets things done - the renovation of his 700 sq ft flat into a swanky bachelor pad took just 45 days.
Ang is the Hong Kong managing director of the Xiao Nan Guo chain of Shanghainese restaurants. But, if you are imagining a typical suit, think again. Before embarking on his career, he busked his way across the United States. Mementos from that period are three well-worn guitar cases covered in travel stickers. A few other clues in the luxurious two-bedroom, two-bathroom home point to a devil-may-care past.
When Ang devised a layout for his ideal home, he had an ace up his sleeve - Ray Yeung Kwok-lai, founder of design company 2rE Associates. Ang knew that Heng Fa Chuen, on the eastern side of Hong Kong Island, was his ideal location and knew, too, that Yeung would build him the flat of his dreams after having worked with him on various commercial ventures over the years.
The kitchen was opened into the living room, with a breakfast bar doubling as a drinks station. Large patio doors were installed, extending the interior space onto a balcony. While light is bounced around the living areas by judiciously placed mirrors, it floods in through the master bedroom's bay window, illuminating the space and the en-suite glass-walled shower room. Ang has never lost the travel bug. He flits between Hong Kong and Shanghai for business and regularly heads overseas for pleasure, leaving him little time to do the dusting.
"Ang spends a lot of time out of town," says Glenn Aquino, project director for 2rE Associates. "He was really concerned about having too many flat surfaces and exposed shelving where dust could gather when he wasn't in town."
Extensive built-in, hidden storage space seemed the logical solution. But Aquino was mindful of making the flat seem cramped.
"In the end we focused on using highend, polished wood finishes that would reflect light throughout the space," he says. "We also used mirrors on the walls that weren't used as storage, to give back the feeling of space that we'd taken away."
That includes in the living room, where a mirrored wall continues onto the balcony to create the illusion of an outdoor area double its actual size.
To increase floor space in the living area, a corner of the spare bedroom was "excised" and now accommodates a television cabinet. The corner was then given a reflective finish to help spread the light coming in through the patio doors. Ang also took a stand against omnipresent downlights.
"He hates downlights," says Aquino. "If you look through the apartment you'll notice that there is almost nothing to ruin the flat surface of the ceiling."
With the exception of a large lamp hanging over the breakfast bar, cove lighting is the prime source of artificial illumination. In the hall, panels on the ceiling provide a gentle glow.
The subdued lighting creates a stylish ambience in this well-considered and surprisingly spacious home. Not everyone's plans for a perfect apartment become a reality, but for Ang, failure was never an option.
Living room (top) A corner of the spare bedroom was removed to lend space to the living room, where a semi-reflective television cabinet was built by an in-house contractor for 2rE Associates (3/F, 1 Des Voeux Road West, Sheung Wan, tel: 2559 6888) to fit the new space. The contractor sourced and fitted the solid oak flooring throughout the home, barring the kitchen and bathrooms, for a total of HK$48,000. The TV cabinet was built by the contractor for HK$25,000. The custom-built patio doors (HK$7,100), motorised roller blinds (HK$8,200) and wall mirrors (HK$3,500 each) were also sourced by the contractor, who built the side cabinet for HK$12,000. The L-shaped sofa cost HK$15,000 from Indigo Living (18/F, Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 2552 0545). The pouffe (HK$90) and lamp (HK$180) came from Ikea (various locations; www.ikea.com.hk). The side table (HK$8,000) was by Genesis Furniture (17/F, Block B, Vigor Industrial Building, 14 Cheung Tat Road, Tsing Yi, tel: 2146 6881).
Study The study doubles as a guest bedroom. To maximise light, it shares a window with the living area. The contractor made the shelving and the desk for HK$3,600, the mirror cabinet for HK$3,600 and the semi-opaque glass door for HK$5,400. The chair cost HK$3,800 from Indigo Living.
Bathroom The contractor replaced the bathroom walls with glass and a semi-opaque door similar to the one in the study. The wall and floor tiles cost HK$8,500 in total through the contractor. The Roca shower (HK$4,500) was also sourced by the contractor.
Dressing room On either side of the room are built-in wardrobes, made for HK$38,000 by the contractor, who custom built the mirror and glass dresser for HK$5,800. The stool (HK$710) came from G.O.D. (various locations; www.god.com.hk).
Corridor On the left of the corridor are the doors to the bathrooms. Their frameless structure is designed to appear seamless while the high-gloss finish reflects light. Overhead panels provide soft lighting.
Kitchen The contractor built the kitchen, including the Corian worktop, for HK$30,000. The overhead light cost HK$2,500 from Skylighting (5/F, Cheong Lee Building, 206 Tsat Tse Mui Road, North Point, tel: 2896 1777). The mirror was sourced and installed by the contractor for HK$4,000. The breakfast-bar top is made from recycled wood and the whole structure was built by the contractor for HK$12,000. The bar stool (HK$690) was from Ikea.
Bedroom The king-size bed (HK$12,500) was from Indigo Living. The wall lamps (HK$2,400 each) were from Homeless (29 Gough Street, Central, tel: 2581 1880). The bay window has been transformed into a seating area with cushions (HK$6,500) and blinds (HK$2,800) that were custom made by the contractor.
TRIED + TESTED
Open bar One of the few places in the home where exposed shelving has been used is in the kitchen and dining area. The small, glass shelves store items used regularly and are perfect for drinking glasses.