Text Catherine Shaw Pictures K.Y. Cheng Styling David Roden
When John and Sandra Spence lived in a 3,000 sq ft rented apartment on Conduit Road, entertaining was an integral part of their social life.
So when the globe-trotting couple downsized and bought a 1,350 sq ft apartment nearby, they had a clear vision of what they wanted from their new home.
“We wanted something comfortable, with a sophisticated edge,” says Sandra.
“It didn’t matter that the design and decor were completely outdated as we were going to gut it.”
The couple, who work in banking and finance and met in the corporate corridors of Melbourne, Australia, had definite ideas about the interior. Sandra compiled a brief
incorporating sketches and pictures that became the template for the renovation of the 40-year-old property, which features high ceilings, views of the harbour and a claim to fame: the property on the site in 1955 appeared in the film Love is a Many-Splendored Thing.
Armed with their blueprint, the Spences interviewed a few designers, finally choosing Philip Fung, whose work Sandra had admired in Post Magazine. The brief was to strip the original three-bedroom flat back to its original brickwork and create separate and distinct private and entertaining spaces. Key to the concept was a single master bedroom with an en-suite bathroom and a spacious walk-in wardrobe. The kitchen and maid’s quarters, adjacent to the living and dining areas, were reoriented to create a welcoming, multifunctional open space comprising an entrance corridor lined with a bespoke floor-to-ceiling wine rack, an elegant open kitchen and a combined living and dining area with a guest bathroom hidden behind mirrored walls.
“Philip was very good at visualising what we wanted,” says Sandra, who admits she micro-managed the renovations, especially the selection of materials and the colour scheme.
She recalls trips to stores to select materials and hardware, in the midst of planning the annual charity wine gala she co-chairs for Room to Read (www.roomtoread.org), which focuses on improving literacy in the developing world.
After a seven-month renovation, the couple took possession of the remodelled apartment and began the process of decorating.
The result is a relaxed, convivial living space with five-star savvy.
The apartment doubles as a private home and entertainment space with the aid of a bespoke system of concealed sliding doors. Double-insulated accordion doors, with remote-control internal blinds, fold away flat to extend the main living and dining area onto a spacious balcony. The study – off the dining area – has doors upholstered in leather to provide privacy and soundproofing. With a push of a button they glide away to stand flush with an elegant timber frame: a doorway linking the two spaces.
“The study has so much storage space that, when we host a party, we simply put unneeded things away in drawers and cupboards, and the long desk transforms into a serving area,” says John. Even the large cabinet doors in the living area slide away to the sides, revealing shelves displaying books and the couple’s artefacts, or the television screen.
With light pine flooring throughout the flat complemented by tinted mirrors, gleaming lacquer and creamy white walls, the atmosphere is inviting and distinctly stylish. The silver-grey and neutral tones are repeated in the upholstery, with accessories such as finely patterned silk carpets and dramatic artworks providing dashes of colour and interest.
However, it is the walk-in dressing room, complete with floor-to-ceiling shoe racks, that really catches the eye.
“Sandra’s friends gravitate there during parties,” says John.
A key feature of the living area is a contemporary interpretation of an art-deco-style bar, with mirrors that divide the kitchen from the living area. Here, an electronically controlled silver-grey mesh screen descends from the ceiling when required (see Tried + tested).
Proof of the apartment’s raison d’etre – or at least half of it – begins, however, at the entrance, which is enticingly lined from floor to ceiling with wine.
“There is no mistaking that we like to enjoy our life in the company of friends,” laughs Sandra.
Kitchen (top) The bar counter with mirrored panels was made by Philip Fung of C&D Engineering (8/F, Wing Tat Commercial Building, 121Wing Lok Street, Sheung Wan, tel: 3178 1028) and cost HK$28,000. The kitchen cost HK$65,000, including cabinets and the Corian countertop sourced from Po Kwong Stone (278 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2392 7580). The bar stools were HK$2,000 each from Aluminium (various locations; www.aluminium-furniture.com).
Dining area The Australian Aboriginal artwork, by Kurun Warun, was from the Original & Authentic Aboriginal Art gallery in Sydney (originalandauthenticaboriginalart.com) and the built-in mirror lighting frame (HK$11,000) around it was designed and made by C&D Engineering. Seating around the dining table (HK$10,000), from Artura Ficus (various locations; www.arturaficus.com), consists of two MI Ming chairs (HK$5,000 each) by Philippe Starck and Eugeni Quitllet from Aluminium, and two leather benches (HK$7,000 each) from Artura Ficus. The lacquered-tile box was purchased several years ago in Shanghai. The leather trays on foldable stands (HK$2,500 each) were from White Contemporary Homewares (156 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai, tel: 2907 5338). The sliding balcony doors (HK$35,500, from Hang Yue Aluminium Steel, 268 Lockhart Road, tel: 2517 1611) feature electronically controlled blinds between the two frames of glass.
Living area The wooden floor, laid throughout most of the apartment, cost HK$58 a square foot from Beautyfloor Engineering (272A Lockhart Road, tel: 3427 8640). The white leather sofa, comprising three pieces that can be reconfigured – and the ottoman – were custom made for HK$35,000 by Artura Ficus. The sleek white and black coffee table (HK$7,000) also came from Artura Ficus. The drinks tray (HK$3,355) was from Town House (Prince’s Building, Central, tel: 2845 0633). The mirror wall (HK$69,000) was built by C&D Engineering. The “ice cube” light fitting cost HK$3,280 from Modern Lighting (206 Lockhart Road, tel: 2893 6768).
Study John Spence and Fung collaborated in the design of the study desk, shelves and cabinets, which cost HK$33,000 in total. “I wanted all the wiring hidden so it is perfect for working or using as an extension of the living and dining area,” says John. The leather chair was bought years ago from Teknion (www.teknion.com), in Toronto, Canada.
Wine rack The floor-to-ceiling wine rack lining the entrance was built by C&D Engineering for HK$35,000.
Master bedroom “We wanted to keep the bedroom a calm space, taking inspiration from hotel suites with their seamless technology for opening and closing blinds and turning off lights,” says John. The custom-made bed (HK$13,000) was designed by Sandra in collaboration with Artura Ficus and provides storage space in the base and a leather headboard topped with a frosted-glass shelf with light panels. C&D Engineering built the cabinets and lighting for HK$30,000.
Bathroom The wall and floor tiles are from Conway Ceramics (296 Lockhart Road, tel: 2877 9398) and cost HK$18,000. The German Keramag bath (HK$20,000) and basins and tap fittings (HK$18,000 in total) came from Pacific Lifestyle (189 Lockhart Road, tel: 2598 0728). The cabinetry (HK$28,000) was built by C&D Engineering. The towel heater was HK$4,800 at Shun Lee Building Materials (17/F, Bright Way Tower, 33 Mong Kok Road, Mong Kok, tel: 2478 2023). The mosaic vases were bought years ago in Vietnam.
Dressing room The bespoke shelving displays Sandra’s collection of shoes and handbags and was built by C&D Engineering for HK$29,000. The tall antique boxes were bought years ago from Chinese Arts & Crafts (various locations, www.cacgift.com). The two silver mosaic altar tables were bought years ago from Lane Crawford (various locations, www.lanecrawford.com) for a party the couple were hosting and now serve as tabletops to lay out Sandra’s accessories, or as a bar on the balcony during parties.
TRIED + TESTED
On the blind side The electronically controlled mesh screen (HK$5,300, Ying Ho Curtains, 212 Lockhart Road, tel: 2706 1338) descends from the kitchen ceiling, providing a temporary barrier to conceal the kitchen when the Spences are entertaining. The idea came to Sandra Spence at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental's MO Bar. "I noticed the mesh blinds coming down above the bar and decided I wanted to incorporate this feature in our apartment for a practical purpose - to act as a divider between the open-plan kitchen and living space when a little more privacy was sought, especially during dinner parties."