Text Catherine Shaw / Pictures Shia Sai-pui / Styling David Roden
David and Laure Fontaine were fans of the clean, uncluttered lines of modern minimalist design when they arrived in Hong Kong in late 2010.
After four years renting an apartment in the centre of Shanghai, the couple – who lived in Paris for more than a decade – were keen to buy their own home and create a contemporary space that would be both stylish and family friendly enough to accommodate their two children, aged five and three.
After an exhaustive search on Hong Kong Island, they zeroed in on a 1,350 sq ft apartment in Mid-Levels.
The flat, a three-bedroom, two-bathroom abode, high up in a 20-year-old building on Robinson Road, offers panoramic harbour views, child-friendly facilities and easy access to the Fontaines’ nearby offices.
“We may have compromised a little on space, but Mid-Levels is a good [place from which] to enjoy life, and the apartment ticked all the boxes,” says Laure.
“We have a car but really don’t need one as we walk everywhere. The building also has a large playground and swimming pool, but it doesn’t feel like a resort. And although it has 47 storeys, there is no sense of being in a massive complex. It is very quiet,” she says.
The four-month renovation proved surprisingly simple, David says. The couple share a similar sense of aesthetics with interior designer Clifton Leung, whose knack for minimising clutter while maximising efficiency appealed to them.
“We did a similar thing in our apartment in Paris. Using a professional helps you develop an efficient layout, and everything fits so much better,” Laure says.
Before the renovation, the kitchen and helper’s quarters imposed an awkward, boxy layout that Leung reworked by knocking down a wall to create a flowing, open-plan space linking the kitchen, living area and study.
The apartment’s entrance has a floorto- ceiling, custom-made shoe cupboard cleverly designed with smooth, rounded edges to maximise space while protecting children from sharp corners. A low-slung oak shelf fixed to the dining-room wall doubles as extra seating for the couple’s chic Ligne Roset dining table.
In the living room, a small study area has been created behind a glass-topped white wall.
“We wanted a study but needed all three bedrooms, so the design team came up with the half-wall solution that helps break up the place but keeps it open at the same time,” says David.
A shelf that curves around the wall into the study adds to the continuity.
The original apartment was stripped back to the basics and fitted with a compact kitchen, bathrooms (one en-suite) and dove-grey, rimmed windows to create a comfortable yet modern retreat.
The neutral palette celebrates the softer side of minimalism, proving that clean lines and warmth can go hand in hand. “The style is exactly what we wanted: not too busy; modern but not fussy,” says Laure.
The kitchen, her favourite space, is the centre of the home; Laure says she wanted to be able to “work in it while still keeping an eye on the children but not have it take over the space”.
The design solution? A sliding door, complete with porthole window (see Tried + Tested). “We can pull it closed or slide it away completely. It works just as well open or shut, but even with it closed we are all together,” says Laure.
The apartment keeps decorative items to a minimum. The striking Aboriginal painting bought on holiday in Australia makes a colourful statement in the dining room while delicately painted panels by Argentinian artist Hugo Bonamin provide a visual contrast above a sleek black lacquer console. A family picture taken by American photographer Gena Falzon in Shanghai and African statues discovered in London’s Camden Street flea market add personal touches.
The children’s bedrooms feature quirky miniature desks, shelving and cupboards, paired with vivid rugs and bed linens.
Each of the bedrooms, including the master suite, has a wall infused with colour, creating a strong visual identity. The corridor walls are edged in Corian marble, which is durable and easy to clean.
The entire apartment is testament to the face that child-proofing and comfort can be done in style.
Master bedroom (top) The bed (HK$38,800) came from Ligne Roset (32 Oi Kwan Road, Wan Chai, tel: 3106 3221) and the side tables (HK$3,500 each) were custom made by Artura Ficus (15/F, Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 3105 3903). The Melanpo Notte bedside lamps cost HK$1,800 each at Artemide (1/F, Ruttonjee Centre, 11 Duddell Street, Central, tel: 2523 0333). Under the side tables are lacquer boxes (about HK$600 each) from Simply Life in Shanghai (www.simplylife-sh.com). The oak wardrobe with mirrors (HK$31,200) was designed by Clifton Leung of Clifton Leung Design Workshop (3/F, 128 Wellington Street, Central, tel: 3106 8384). The painting, by Li Qian, was bought in Shanghai.
Entrance and dining area The dining room table (HK$27,300) and Petra chairs (HK$3,400 each) were from Ligne Roset. The black Nur Mini-Gloss lamp (HK$5,500) was from Artemide. The diptych is by artist Hugo Bonamin (hugobonamin.wordpress.com). The black lacquer television console (HK$12,800) was custom made by Artura Ficus. The oak shoe cabinet (HK$15,200), wooden screen (HK$7,250) and dining bench (HK$7,500) were designed by Leung. The engineered walnut flooring (HK$80 a square foot) throughout most of the flat is by Solar Lake International (4/F, Ngan House, 210 Des Voeux Road, Central, tel: 2838 9986).
Guest bathroom The sink (HK$3,600) came from Toto (11/F, 3 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2861 3177). The laminated cabinetry was designed by Leung for HK$9,300. The tap (HK$1,200) came from Hansgrohe (various locations; www.hansgrohe-int.com).
Kitchen The cabinets and marble-topped bar counter cost a total of HK$158,600 from The Galley, which is in the process of moving to Central, tel: 2838 9986. The bar stools (HK$600 each) were from Ikea (various locations; www.ikea.com.hk). The Miele appliances and the Vintec wine fridge were all from The Galley.
Child’s bedroom The Kritter table (HK$269.90) and chair (HK$159.90) were from Ikea. The bed (HK$5,500) came from Bumps to Babes (various locations, www.bumpstobabes.com).
Living area The citrus rug (HK$6,200) was from Yarns (26/F, Horizon Plaza, tel: 2525 2338). The leather Polaris sofa cost HK$53,500 at Euro Decor (135 Wong Nai Chung Road, Happy Valley, tel: 2890 1332). The coffee table was custom made for HK$3,132 by Ovo Home (16 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai, tel: 2526 7226) while the lamp in front of the windows cost about HK$370 at Casa Pagoda in Shanghai (www.casapagoda.com). The white UV roller blinds (HK$15,000) came from Solar Lake and the ceiling spotlights (HK$2,480 each) were bought online at Delta Lighting Design (deltalightingdesign.com). The oak television cabinet, and walland- glass panel (HK$16,000) were also designed by Leung.
Study The desk (HK$7,800) and hanging bookshelves (HK$5,800) were designed by Leung. The ergonomic desk chair (HK$6,032) was from Posh (15/F, Blink, 111 Bonham Strand, Sheung Wan, tel: 2815 8282). The plastic CD racks (¤70/HK$700 each) were from the Montparnasse, Paris, branch of Habitat (www.habitat.fr).
TRIED + TESTED
Clifton Leung of Clifton Leung Design Workshop (3/F, 128 Wellington Street, Central, tel: 3106 8384) designed the blue lacquer door (HK$6,800) that divides the kitchen from the living area and study. The door, which slides away when not in use, has a porthole window, allowing the cook to keep an eye on the children while keeping them away from the stove.