Text Adele Brunner / Pictures Jonathan Wong / Styling David Roden
Kwong Shook Ling is proof that contemporary design is not solely the domain of the young. When it came to renovating her 2,400 sq ft apartment in Jardine’s Lookout, Kwong, who is in her mid-70s, eschewed the traditional for a modern and minimal look.
“I prefer to keep things simple and have everything neat and tidy,” Kwong says. “I like to be up to date and wanted to have a modern style throughout.”
She gave architect Dylan Baker-Rice, of Affect-t, carte blanche to design her home, starting from scratch.
“The apartment was a typical Hong Kong high-rise,” Baker-Rice says. “It had lots of little rooms that blocked out the light and didn’t do the amazing views justice. We opened it all up by knocking down most of the walls and changing the positioning of the rooms.
“We grouped all the living areas together and situated the [two] bedrooms and bathrooms farther down the corridor.
White sliding doors have been incorporated to block off the living from the sleeping quarters, for privacy.”
Situated in a 26-year-old block, the apartment has high ceilings but also beams and structural walls that, according to Baker-Rice, were a design challenge.
He created softly curved walls to hide structural columns, the wires of a flat-screen television and audiovisual accessories, and incorporated cupboards into the walls to increase storage space.
“I tried to add in as much storage as possible, but Hong Kong apartments never have enough,” says Baker-Rice.
He also came up with the idea of a directional flow, using updated fung shui principles to suggest movement from one area to another. He designed a floor-toceiling, red oak screen to separate the foyer from the living area and continued its pattern across the floor, to usher visitors into the main apartment space.
Here, an innovative ceiling treatment – what looks like ripples of water – draws the eye towards the dining area and echoes the ribbon-like red-oak flooring, which seems to emanate from the screen.
“I was inspired by Venetian palazzos and heritage buildings I had worked on,” says Baker-Rice. “I wanted to bring back techniques that have almost been lost and give the apartment a feel of craftsmanship and quality. It was difficult to find someone in Hong Kong or China to make a single screen by hand.
Companies were willing to do it, but only if I ordered about 50. So I found a craftsman in Kentucky, in the United States.”
The architect sent drawings of his design along with 3-D files to the craftsman, who cut out the screen accordingly and shipped it to Hong Kong in three pieces.
Similarly, the thin strips of flooring, which look like roots growing from the screen, arrived in a box individually numbered. Baker-Rice’s carpenter fitted the red-oak strips first, followed by the white-oak parquet flooring, which had to be cut precisely.
The ceiling, made of glass-reinforced gypsum, was made on the mainland and also arrived in Hong Kong in pieces.
“Although we worked with an excellent contractor and craftsmen, I am very picky, and communicating a non-standard design was hard at first,” says Baker-Rice.
“When it comes to renovations, the focus in Hong Kong is usually on speed over quality, and I had to try to switch that mentality. Once we had a mutual understanding, the process worked well.”
Baker-Rice left the hunt for furniture and accessories to Kwong, whom he describes as a “dream client” because of her openness to creative ideas. With a little guidance on where to find good shops, she chose a few pieces that made a bold design statement – from the ruby Egg chair in the master bedroom to the Swarovski chandelier that hangs above the dining table.
“I really like my new apartment but my favourite aspects have to be the living and dining areas,” says Kwong.
Who says a grandma can’t be groovy?
Screen (top) The red-oak lattice screen was designed by Dylan Baker-Rice of Affect-t (28 Po Hing Fong, Sheung Wan, tel: 2548 8873) and made by Parrish Production (www.parrishproduction.com) in Kentucky, in the United States. Price is on application. The cabinets were built by the contractor.
Dining area Complementing the lattice screen are Hiroshima dining chairs by Maruni, which cost 235,500 yen (HK$23,300) for eight from Pour Annick (2-22-12 Jingu-mae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan, tel: 81 3 5411 5366). The Mobimex X2 European walnut dining table with lazy Susan cost HK$218,000 from Le Cadre Gallery (Ruttonjee Centre, 11 Duddell Street, Central, tel: 2526 1068). The Tord Boontje Autumn Blossom chandelier with LED lights (US$15,000) was shipped from the US to Swarovski in Hong Kong (various locations; www.swarovski.com). The Kwun Yum statue cost HK$15,000 from Chinese Arts & Crafts (55 Des Voeux Road Central, tel: 2901 0338). The stand accommodating the statue also came from Chinese Arts & Crafts and was bought during a sale. The Schotten & Hansen engineered-oak parquet flooring cost HK$318 per square foot from Hop Sze Timber (220 Gloucester Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2833 6069).
Kitchen The all-white kitchen features appliances from Miele (111 Leighton Road, Causeway Bay, tel: 2890 1018). The flooring cost HK$90 per square foot from Yip Wah Marble (240 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2802 2931).
Master bathroom The shower is covered with Bisazza Blends wall tiles, which cost HK$2,950 per square foot from La Casa (175 Lockhart Road, tel: 2511 7880). The Just Rain chrome shower head (HK$41,100), by Dornbracht, came from ColourLiving (333 Lockhart Road, tel: 2510 2666). The onsen bucket was bought on a trip to Japan.
Guest bedroom The Continental bed cost HK$150,000 from Hästens (111 Leighton Road, tel: 2895 0698). The Wrongwood Collection bedside tables were £1,345 (HK$16,690) each from Established & Sons (5 Wenlock Road, London, Britain, tel: 44 20 7608 0990).
Entrance Kwong Shook Ling requested something other than the shiny security gate typical of Hong Kong high-rises, so Baker-Rice designed this bespoke alternative (price upon request). It is made of copper – a lucky colour that, according to fung shui, represents gold or wealth flowing into the apartment.
Living room The Urbani sofa (HK$74,300) and the Archi armchair (HK$30,400) were from Ligne Roset (16 Blue Pool Road, Happy Valley, tel: 2891 0913). The striped and floral cushions cost from HK$395 to HK$595 each from Marimekko (42 Leighton Road, tel: 2203 4218). The Dida set of small tables with Calacatta Oro marble tops (HK$29,000) are by Flexform and came from Le Cadre Gallery.
Master bedroom The Continental bed cost HK$150,000 from Hästens. The Egg chair (HK$60,000) and stool (HK$20,000), by Arne Jacobsen for Fritz Hansen, came from Lane Crawford Home Store (Pacific Place, Admiralty, tel: 2118 3652).
TRIED + TESTED
Ahead of the curve Skirting boards in heritage buildings often reach relatively high up the walls. Dylan Baker-Rice updated this traditional element by blending it into the flooring to echo the base of the lattice screen and give it the same curve as the corridor walls. To obtain the curve, grooves were cut into the back of multiple sheets of plywood, which can bend, and these layers were glued together before being mounted. The white oak parquet flooring was cut to fit flush against it.