Text Nadine Bateman / Styling David Roden / Photographs John Butlin


It’s rare that a floor is so striking it becomes the focus of a home. That is certainly the case, however, in Justin O’Brien’s flat in Discovery Bay Plaza.

Make that two flats: the Australian pilot bought the property next to one he had already purchased as an investment and merged the two to create a unique living space for his growing family.

“I always wanted a concrete floor and I had a particular effect in mind,” says O’Brien, who shares the apartment with his wife, Nicole, a teacher, and their three pre-teen daughters. “I consulted a couple of professional floor contractors, who told me what they could do, but it was too uniform in colour. What I wanted was the sort of effect you see on the floor of shops such as Tree in Ap Lei Chau – a sort of mottled surface that looks ‘au naturel’.”

Fortunately, Bricks & Mortar designer Cynthia Breit knew what was required.

“[Her contractor] showed us a sample, which included a number of effects such as a polyurethane covering that gives it the sheen I wanted,” says O’Brien.

Having bought the first apartment at the end of 2011, O’Brien snapped up the second flat when it became available a few months later. Conscious that his family could do with more space, he soon saw the possibility of combining the properties, giving them a gross area of 1,800 sq ft.

Before work on the floor could start, much demolition was required.

“We ripped out the whole place,” says Breit. “It was a pretty big renovation for the size of the property.”

Internal partition walls were repositioned so that one of the old flats now comprises an open-plan kitchendiner and living area, plus, where the former kitchen stood, a laundry room. The other flat incorporates the master bedroom, with a spacious en-suite bathroom and a walk-in wardrobe, and – for the children, who share a bathroom – a double bedroom (with one of the beds placed partially in a bay window niche, to maximise space) and a single one.

“There was no need to knock down the main dividing wall between the two flats; the contractors just dug a door out,” says O’Brien. “This flat was a mirror [image of the one next door]. So Cynthia had a false wall put in the former master bedroom to create a corridor.”

That area now incorporates floor-to-ceiling shelves for storage and display purposes.

“The [en-suite] bathroom area gave us the most problems,” says O’Brien. “Originally we were just going to have a large shower room and a big walk-in wardrobe but Cynthia persuaded us to put a bath in and I’m so glad she did.”

Even with a tub in a cosy nook, the couple still have a spacious shower cubicle; and “probably one of Hong Kong’s largest wardrobes, barring those on The Peak”.

After the floor, it’s the stainless-steel kitchen that is O’Brien’s pride and joy. That is partly because of the kitchen table.

“When Nicole found it on the internet she was smitten,” says O’Brien. “So it was a surprise gift for her. It’s the heart of our home and it’s such good quality – it’s practically indestructible and will last a lifetime.”



Kitchen/ dining area The total price for the concrete flooring throughout the flat was HK$80,000, including materials and labour. The installation, by contractor Lucky Engineering (23/F Block A, Sun Kwai Hing Gardens, 161 Tai Wo Hau Road, Kwai Chung, tel: 2420 3342), was overseen by Cynthia Breit, designer/director at Bricks & Mortar (37/F, 118 Connaught Road West, Sheung Wan, tel: 2333 8814). The dining table was from Bulthaup (5 Hoi Ping Road, Causeway Bay, tel: 2868 0895) and cost HK$42,000, inclusive of shipping from Germany and installation. The white leather chairs (HK$1,050 each) were from Next Furniture (Discovery Bay Plaza, Discovery Bay, tel: 2987 0222). The kitchen units/cupboards and fittings (totalling HK$175,000, not including appliances) were from Mogen (Golden Jubilee House, 397 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2219 2260). The Elica Ico range hood (HK$19,000) was sourced from HiSpek Electronics in Britain (www.hispek.com). Lighting throughout the flat was from PLC (210 Lockhart Road, tel: 2519 6275) and cost about HK$37, 000 in total.


Balcony The Gilgara Moon folding chairs were bought from Discovery Bay market years ago. The Lack table cost HK$200 at Ikea (various locations; www.ikea.com.hk). 





Living area The sofa set (HK$19,000) was from G.O.D. (various locations; www.god.com.hk). The coffee table (now discontinued) and the Expedit console unit (HK$1,900), both came from Ikea.The prints of old Saturday Evening Post pictures were purchased from Amazon.com. Under the prints is a black computer network cabinet that was sourced from Wan Chai Computer Centre (130 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2832 9781) for about HK$1,600. In the corridor are the Billy bookcases (two medium, two large) and four CD towers that cost a total of HK$3,700 from Ikea.




Master bathroom The stone slate-look tiles in the bath area were sourced by the contractor and cost HK$48 a tile (30cm by 60cm). The print was another purchase from Amazon.com. The Bellini bath cost HK$6,000 at Hop Lung Building Materials (300 Lockhart Road, tel: 2802 2274).











Study nook The red lacquered Besta cupboards (HK$3,900 for both) and Kassett red/white filing boxes (HK$30 to HK$50 each) were from Ikea. Also from Ikea were the desk and chair, which have now been discontinued. The photograph of the Hong Kong skyline is by Nick Gleitzman and was bought at Discovery Bay Market.






Master bedroom The cement brushed-effect wall was done by the contractor for about HK$4,000. The Tessa mahogany bed and headboard were bought at Tequila Kola (1/F, Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 2877 3295) for a total of HK$11,000. The bedside table is Justin O’Brien’s ex-military surplus trunk from his time in the Royal Australian Air Force.


Children's bedroom The “window” bed, which includes storage underneath, was custom made by the contractor for HK$11,500. The bunk bed came from Next Furniture and was HK$2,150, while the Ikea Expedit shelves were HK$1,600.









Children’s bathroom The contractor built the cupboards, drawers and shelves for HK$25,650. The Walrus sink (HK$770) and Hatria toilet (HK$5,600) came from Hop Lung Building Materials. The jumping goldfish canvas prints were about HK$2,000 for the set.






Count me in Hooks attached to numbers provide a personal hanger for each member of the family. The height of each number corresponds to that of its owner: 1, the highest, is for dad; and the lowest, 5, for the couple's youngest daughter. They were purchased on Amazon.com for HK$450 for the set.