Making light work
Facing west, this Tsing Yi flat was often in the dark – so bright ideas were needed
Text Christopher DeWolf / Photography Jonathan Wong / Styling David Roden
Winnie Kwong and her husband, Eddie, had not intended to buy a flat on Tsing Yi – but, in 2000, when a property agent suggested they visit a new housing estate in the middle of the island, they were surprised by what they found.
“We really liked the environment,” says Winnie.
“It’s in the hills, so it’s green and quiet.” It’s also convenient for Eddie, who works at the container port in Kwai Chung.
They liked the development and bought a 1,000 sq ft flat overlooking the swimming pool and verdant hills.
More than a decade later, it was due for a facelift, so the Kwongs brought in Keith Chan of Hintegro, a designer who had worked on a renovation for Eddie’s brother.
The Kwongs’ brief: open up the space.
“The bad thing about the home is that it faces west, so in the afternoon there is a lot of light coming in but at any other time it’s very dark,” says Chan. “When we met they said they wanted to make all the rooms as bright as possible.”
It didn’t help that, like most Hong Kong flats, the Kwongs’ was highly compartmentalised, with three small bedrooms and an enclosed kitchen.
“The first thing we did was to open up the kitchen,” says Chan, who replaced the wall that separated the room from the living area with a bar counter. The kitchen was enlarged by shrinking the maid’s room into a walk-in wardrobe – which made sense because the Kwongs have no helper.
Another wall was removed; that between the Kwongs’ daughter’s room and what was the study.
“Their daughter is a university student now, so I wanted to make her a more adult room,” says Chan, of the glossy green paintwork on the wall behind her bed.
The rest of the apartment was given an earthy colour scheme, with oak-veneer flooring and off-white and dark beige walls. “It makes it seem bigger than it is, and it looks younger, too,” says Chan.
That’s especially true in the kitchen, which has grey ceramic tiled floors, Formica stone counters and glossy white cabinets.
“We cook very simply – lots of steamed dishes and no deep-frying, so it’s not a problem that it’s open,” says Winnie. “Before, it was very lonely in the kitchen. Now I can see the television when I cook and I can chat with my daughter and husband.”
Chan was left with one more challenge: bay windows, the scourge of many a modern Hong Kong apartment.
“They’re useless, except maybe for sitting,” he says. In the daughter’s bedroom, he cushioned the bay window next to the bed to create more room for lounging.
In the living room, he integrated the TV stand into the bay window, creating the illusion of a large, seamless shelf.
“Visually, it’s a lot better,” says Winnie. “There’s a unity now that we didn’t have before.”
Living room Keith Chan of Hintegro (20/F, Block B, New Trade Plaza, 6 On Ping Street, Sha Tin, tel: 3689 4604) placed the sofa in the middle of the enlarged living area to anchor the space. To brighten the room, Chan installed LED lighting strips (HK$100 per linear foot, built by contractor Tonic Decoration & Construction, Block 1, 6/F, Yip On Industrial Building, 1Wang Hoi Road, Kowloon Bay, tel: 2692 2133) above the television and along the ceiling. Origami-style ceramic tiles (HK$92.50 per square foot from Anta Building Material Supplier, 311a Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2180 6950) clad the wall behind the television and along the base of the bar, adding texture to the space. The television unit, designed by Hintegro, cost HK$11,500 for the cabinet and HK$10,000 for the stone top. A mirrored wall (HK$12,000) was installed beside the shoe cabinet. The sofa cost HK$40,000 at Italdesigns (Happy Mansion, 39 Wong Nai Chung Road, Happy Valley, tel: 2892 0598). The yellow stool (HK$880) was from Francfranc (various locations; www.francfranc.com.hk). The Kartell Spoon bar stools (HK$4,320 each) came from Aluminium (36 Cochrane Street, Central, tel: 2546 5904).
Kitchen The kitchen, designed by Hintegro and built by Tonic Decoration & Construction, features a bar-style counter. “We eat very casually, and we probably use the bar more than the table,” says Winnie Kwong. The cabinets and bar counter, designed by Hintegro, cost a total of HK$80,000, including HK$20,000 for the Corian countertop.
Bathroom The flat’s two bathrooms were upgraded with ceramic tiling on the walls that cost HK$40 per square foot from Hing Fat Ceramics and Sanitaryware (329 Portland Street, Mong Kok, tel: 2396 0213). Also new were the Formica countertop (HK$1,200 per linear foot, designed by Hintegro and built by Tonic Decoration & Construction) and Roca sink (HK$1,500) from Hing Fat Ceramics and Sanitaryware.
Dining room Chan chose earthy tones and white furniture to make the flat feel relaxing and spacious. “But the family likes black chairs,” he says, so he worked with Ngap chairs from Kartell they already owned. “Since everything else is so light, it keeps it from being boring,” says Chan. The Dance Long Ten light fixture (HK$26,800) came from Apartment (62 Leighton Road, Causeway Bay, tel: 2882 2198). The cabinet, designed by Hintegro, cost HK$16,000, including HK$5,000 for the stone top. The dining table (HK$33,920) was from Decor (54A Leighton Road, tel: 2882 2763).
Master bedroom Though the master bedroom didn’t change during the renovation, an LED lighting strip was installed behind the bed and an off-white wallpaper feature wall added to soften the space. The bed (HK$15,000), which has storage space underneath, was designed by Hintegro and built by Tonic Decoration & Construction. The wardrobe (HK$36,000), which features spacesaving sliding doors, bedside tables (HK$4,000 each) and headboard (HK$20,000), with LED lights, were also designed by Hintegro and built by Tonic Decoration & Construction. The bedside sconces cost HK$3,000 each at Apartment.
Daughter’s room Green is Christy’s favourite colour, so Chan spray painted a green feature wall that serves as a counterpoint to the room’s otherwise neutral colour scheme. A window box air conditioner was replaced with a split version, allowing more natural light into the room. Hintegro designed the bed (HK$6,000), bedside table (HK$2,000) and bay-window seat (HK$900). The Falling Star bedside lamp (HK$5,800) was from Apartment.
Slatted window Before the renovation, a frosted window in the living room opened to an unsightly view of pipes, walls and the kitchen windows of apartments across a narrow courtyard. This custom-made wooden screen (HK$3,000), designed by Hintegro and built by Tonic Decoration & Construction, allows the window to be left open, bringing in fresh air while maintaining privacy.
Open wide "We had a big argument with our daughter about whether to keep the piano because she seldom plays it now," says Winnie Kwong. Daughter Christy won, so the piano was moved to her room - but at first it couldn't fit through the door. Keith Chan, of Hintegro, responded by adding a 20cm extension to the door (HK$4,800 for the door with frame, built by Tonic Decoration & Construction, which charged HK$3,000 for enlarging the doorway).
Chan says it will give the room more flexibility. "After the Kwongs' daughter moves out, this could be a guest room," he says. "This isn't a short-term design. I'm looking 20 years ahead."