An old Happy Valley flat proved more than suitable for a ''loft'' conversion with a taste of London town
Text Nadine Bateman / Styling Esther van Wijck / Photographer Jonathan Wong
London loft living was the inspiration behind the design of Hermes Li’s 1950s Happy Valley bachelor pad. Li spent his formative years in Britain and he so admired that particular style of interior design, he decided to create a version of it in his Hong Kong home.
To realise his vision he sought the help of architect Kent Lui, whose work he had seen in Post Magazine.
Their plan included the use of bare bricks for many of the walls, studded-metal door frames and hand-finished oak flooring for the living areas.
“It’s not often you get these old buildings in Hong Kong,” says Li, “so we wanted to create something sympathetic for the interior.”
He liked the 2,500 sq ft flat partly because it was in a three-storey block in a street filled with low-rise buildings, which reminded him of where he grew up.
“I like the space in these old buildings – you can customise a lot,” he says. “Because the ceilings are quite high here, I could do something really different with the walls.
[Plus] I really like brick and metal. The industrial materials, the colour scheme, the feeling of spaciousness and the type of furniture – all were chosen to reflect the style of loft living in London.”
Lui says: “We agreed that using brick for the walls would result in a warm look, but that whole bricks might create a burden on the structure of the building. The solution was to have them cut to a thickness of one inch.”
Effort also went into making them look old.
“We covered them in a thin layer of plaster, then took most of it off with steel-wired brushes so some plaster remains in various depths, creating an aged patina,” says Lui. “It’s not [complicated] but it takes a bit of thought.”
The flat originally had three bedrooms, but because Li, who works in finance, enjoys luxuriating in the tub at the end of the day, he had one of them transformed into a spacious master bathroom, with marble walls and floors, plus a standalone bath. For the space between Li’s bedroom and bathroom, Lui designed a walk-in wardrobe that he calls a “thoroughfare” because it leads to another doorway into the hall and living area.
“I didn’t want to have a dead-end space in this apartment.
I thought opening it up in this way would be good for parties as it would allow you to circulate.
It adds another dimension,” says Lui.
He also persuaded his client to choose Germanengineered oak flooring, which he favours because of its look and feel: the hand-finished surface is uneven because of knots in the grain. “The look is old but the technology is new,” he says.
Although it took four months for the order to arrive from Europe, Li says it was worth the wait.
“It feels so nice when you walk on it barefoot.”
Alterations included adding ceiling beams in the master bedroom to disguise the fact that there were two off-centre ones already there. Li says the beams now coordinate well with the brick, and “[make] a feature out of an eyesore”.
He also made the most of existing windows in the master bedroom. Li had wanted the room’s three windows replaced with a large one, but when he realised that would require planning permission he settled on framing them (as he did around all the doors) with studded metal (see Tried + tested).
“Framing them in this way, creates the illusion of bigger windows,” says Li.
Creating features out of unsightly elements of the flat seems to be something of a theme. Another such feature is the pillar in the hallway near the front door. To make it more of a focus, a wall directly behind it was moved.
“We created a gap of about one foot, which makes quite a difference to the entrance – it opens it up so that it feels more spacious when you come through the front door,” says Lui. “It makes a statement.”
Living area The custom-made bricks (HK$150 per square foot) were sourced by architect Kent Lui (Kent Lui Tactics, 7/F, Nexxus Building, 41 Connaught Road, Central, tel: 2668 3811) and installed by Wing Sing Interior Design (99 King’s Road, North Point, tel: 2885 7221). The oak flooring (HK$350 per square foot) by Schotten & Hansen was supplied by Hop Sze Timber (220 Gloucester Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2833 6069). The Minotti Allen sofa (HK$175,000) and Bresson coffee table (HK$45,600) came from Andante (Ruttonjee Centre, 11 Duddell Street, Central, tel: 2537 9688). The Grasshopper chair was bought in Europe years ago. The side tables were bought online from Danish company Hay (hay.dk/m) for HK$1,000 each. The floor lamp (HK$4,000) was from Mr Blacksmith (7 Gough Street, Central, tel: 2581 1110). The television console (HK$22,000) was made by Wing Sing Interior Design. The print is by Romain Jacquet-Lagreze and came from AO: Vertical Art Space (3/F, Asia One Tower, 8 Fung Yip Street, Chai Wan, tel: 2976 0913). Floral arrangements throughout the flat were by A.J. Schep (tel: 6916 0601; email@example.com).
Hallway The silk screen print, titled How long will the love last?, is by Wu Mingzhong (www.wumingzhong.org). The console table – a 1960s vintage radio unit – was purchased in Britain several years ago. The vintage telephone was bought in Apliu Street in Sham Shui Po. The perspex chair was bought in Central years ago. The vintage stool was purchased in Brooklyn, New York, years ago. The London train stations sign was made by Hermes Li. The metal-studded door frames were custom made by Wing Sing Interior Design and cost HK$15,000 each for the materials and installation.
Dining area The marble dining table with metal frame and legs was custom made by Wing Sing Interior Design for HK$43,000. The chairs were purchased over a number of years from various sources. The gold lights were bought years ago from Danish company Lightyears (www.lightyears.dk). The faux greenery on the wall was created by Greenland Landscape Design (4/F, Block 2, Yip On Industrial Building, Wang Hoi Road, Kowloon Bay, tel: 2795 7006) for a total of HK$3,500. The bronze tray (HK$300), holding apples, came from Deem (252 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, tel: 2540 2011).
Kitchen/diner The kitchen island and woodentop table were designed by Lui and made by Eggersmann Küchen (11/F, 111 Leighton Road, Causeway Bay, tel: 2890 9292). The Louis Ghost (square top; HK$2,900) and Victoria Ghost (round top; HK$2,400) chairs were bought from Kartell. The white ceiling lights were from Lightyears. The art on the wall was created by Li.
Kitchen The kitchen, including the stainlesssteel- topped black units and wooden-top table (mentioned above), was designed by Lui and made by Eggersmann Küchen for HK$250,000, excluding appliances.
Master bedroom The ceiling beams were made by Wing Sing Interior Design for HK$2,400. The oak flooring is by Tristar and cost HK$560 per square metre; it was installed by Kwan Tai Engineering (8/F, Eastern Centre, 1065 King’s Road, Quarry Bay, tel: 2541 8090). The bed and headboard were made for HK$18,000 by Wing Sing Interior Design, which also built the bedside tables for HK$3,600 each. The circular Dyson fan (HK$3,099) was from Gurus (67 Sing Woo Road, Happy Valley, tel: 2891 0138). The walk-in wardrobe was made by Wing Sing Interior Design for HK$83,000. The wall lamp was bought years ago.
Master bathroom The marble was installed by Wing Sing Interior Design and cost HK$185 per square foot. The vanity unit and mirror were custom made by Wing Sing Interior Design for HK$52,600. The Alape sinks (HK$11,000 each) were purchased from colour.living (333 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2295 6263), as was the Victoria + Albert bathtub (HK$73,500).
Window treatment The owner, Hermes Li, wanted one large picture window in the bedroom but that would have required planning permission, so architect Kent Lui transformed three existing windows using a combination of materials: brick (for the walls), studded metal (for the window frames) and marble (for the window sills). The work and materials cost about HK$120,000. The Queen Elizabeth ornament was a Secret Santa gift.