Text Nadine Bateman / Styling David Roden / Pictures John Butlin


A former government housing project in Hung Hom may not seem the most obvious place to make a property investment, but financier Adam Tan Yiaw was pleasantly surprised by how stylishly the apartment building in which he now lives had been transformed.

The attractive communal areas include plush entrance lobbies and well-groomed gardens, as well as amenities such as a swimming pool, which helped sway Tan even though he was less than impressed by the interior of the flat on offer, which was dull and, at 430 sq ft, something of a squeeze.

Fortunately, he knew who to turn to for advice on revamping the place: his cousin. An interior designer, Dylan Tan Dar-luen was given carte blanche to make decisions on everything from renovations to the colour scheme and even the ornaments and bedding.

“We have similar tastes and he trusts me. But, of course, I consulted him along the way,” says Dylan Tan, who rid the flat of its second bedroom to allow for a larger bathroom and more space for the remaining bedroom, in which a built-in wardrobe was installed.

It was not a smooth transition, he says.

“For various reasons, fittings, such as the water heater in the bathroom, could not be moved. They are the sort of things I like to conceal to create a streamlined, sleek look but because the switches are on the front of the unit it cannot be covered.”

In addition, the bathroom piping was exposed. Tan’s solution was to box it in behind a false wall, which helped create the tidier look he was aiming for but used up more space than he would have liked.

Also frustrating was a structural wall that separates the kitchen from the living room, preventing the creation of an openplan area. However, Tan managed to create the illusion of space by keeping the decor simple.

“The walls were a dull peach colour and everything was dirty from the flat having been rented out,” he says. “So we cleared everything out and painted most of the walls white but added a dark colour on one wall of the living room and carried it through to the bedroom walls. It adds warmth.”

In the kitchen, Tan made the most of a tight fit, hiring a contractor to build units in the style of luxury German kitchen brand Hacker – but without the hefty price tag. The sleek, white cupboard doors conceal a sizeable fridge/freezer and even a washing machine. The wine rack installed along the top of the structural wall is further evidence of creative use of limited space.

Tan believes in investing in good-quality craftsmanship and materials – but not necessarily branded ones. He likes to source designer style at affordable prices and has ordered many items online from mainland companies.

“It’s worth the risk because it’s so much cheaper than buying from a store in Hong Kong.”

The results prove that, when it comes to size – of both apartment and budget – small can indeed be beautiful.



Living area The apartment was designed by Dylan Tan of WOM Concept (11/F, Block A, Viking Villa, 70 Tin Hau Temple Road, North Point, tel: 9828 9313). The engineered-wood flooring is from Top Floor Engineering (376 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 3568 6263) and was HK$53 per square foot. The sofa was bought two years ago from The Hamptons Furniture (129 Wellington Street, Central, tel: 2869 8018). The dark wood stool (HK$1,999) was from Artura Ficus (18/F, Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 3105 3903). The cowhide rug was HK$2,290 from Ikea (various locations; www.ikea.com.hk). The black floor lamp (HK$2,090) was from Indigo Living (6/F, Horizon Plaza, tel: 2555 0540). The coffee table was HK$5,760 from Ovo Studio (20/F, Horizon Plaza, tel: 2529 6020). The fish on the wall were HK$200 each from Lane Crawford (25/F, Horizon Plaza, tel: 2118 3403) and the etching artwork was bought in Bangkok, Thailand. The marble-top shelving unit was made by Ngai Mei Interior Decoration (12/F, Kwai On Factory Estate, 103 Tai Lin Pai Road, Kwai Hing, tel: 9435 9333) for HK$8,000.




Dining area The marble-top table (2,199 yuan/HK$2,755) was purchased through www.taobao.com, as were the chairs (529 yuan each) and the stools (800 yuan each), which were handmade from elm wood and sanded but not varnished, at Tan’s request. The custom-built fitted storage cupboards, by Ngai Mei Interior Decoration, cost HK$11,500.









Intercom nook A custom-made horizontal keyholder was installed beneath the light switches and intercom handset. The key tree was a gift.













Living room detail The reproduction antique cabinet (1,600 yuan) and clock (528 yuan) were bought through www.taobao.com. The plant holder cost HK$245 from Ovo Studio. The box (HK$311) and large candle lantern (HK$1,275) were from Indigo Living.









Kitchen The kitchen units were custom built by Royal Kitchen Design (3 Leighton Road, Causeway Bay, tel: 2573 3993) and cost HK$119,900, inclusive of electrical appliances. The wine rack (516 yuan) and pendant light (340 yuan) came from www.taobao.com. The blind (HK$680) was from Tak Yar Curtain (29 Electric Road, Causeway Bay, tel: 2578 6316).






Bathroom The cabinets (HK$21,600 from Royal Kitchen Design) feature walnut veneer and were imported from Italy. The wall tiles (HK$180 each) were from Pacific Gallery (159 Lockhart Road, tel: 2827 9918). The floor tiles (HK$160 each) came from J Power (157 Lockhart Road, tel: 2596 0001). The toilet was HK$6,950 from Hop Lung Building Materials (293 Lockhart Road, tel: 2802 2273). The wooden blind was HK$680 from Tak Yar Curtain.





Clock The quirky cardboard clock cost HK$275 at Mr Blacksmith (88 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai, tel: 2529 7721).









Bedroom Ngai Mei Interior Decoration made the bed, headboard and side tables for a total of HK$9,500 and the chest of drawers for HK$7,000. The etching artwork was bought in Bangkok. The pendant lights (350 yuan each), the bedside lanterns (227 yuan each), the blue pear ornaments (116 yuan for two) and the black lamp (249 yuan) were all purchased from www.taobao.com. The throw (HK$349) and rug (HK$599) were from Ikea. The candleholders on the chest of drawers were HK$600 from Indigo Living. The antique-look blue box was a gift.



Hide and sleek Interior designer Dylan Tan Dar-luen's preference for minimalism and sleek lines extended to the bathroom sink, which was custom built and includes a quartz slab to conceal the plug hole. The sink and worktop cost HK$15,400 from Royal Kitchen Design.