Text Christopher DeWolf / Photography John Butlin
If there’s one thing Donna NguyenPhuoc loves about her Wong Chuk Hang studio, it’s the 12-foot-high ceiling.
“The high ceiling is No 1… by far,” she says. Not only does it make the place feel less constricted, it also allowed her to install a cockloft, which transformed one corner into a two-level space with a bedroom above and a workspace below.
Though consisting of a staircase and platform, and several integrated drawers and cupboards for storage, it was surprisingly straightforward to build.
“I’m still amazed,” she says. “The carpenter came in with a few pieces of wood and did so much with them.”
The set-up is one that’s popular with artists and designers who have settled in industrial areas and converted factory units into combined livingworking spaces. When NguyenPhuoc, director of Ap Lei Chau’s Damina Gallery, bought her 1,100 sq ft property, she says: “It was concrete floors, four walls and that’s it.”
A priority was to keep the space as open as possible. “I don’t like chopping spaces into small rooms, which you see in a lot of Hong Kong flats,” says NguyenPhuoc, who undertook the redesign herself.
The kitchen, dining area and living room all flow together, bathed in light from a south-facing window – to make the most of which she installed a bathroom with frosted glass walls and a glass barrier for the cockloft.
In the bathroom, a deep Japanesestyle tub – clad in black, grey and white mosaic tiles, to set it off against the black walls and floor – is a space-saving alternative to a regular bathtub. “It’s big enough for four people,” she says, half-jokingly.
NguyenPhuoc wanted to keep an industrial feel to the place, so she retained the concrete floor but applied a black varnish with rough strokes to give it an undulating, painterly quality.
For contrast, she painted the concrete and brick walls white, which, though uniform in hue, boast interesting textures.
For the open kitchen, which runs along one side of the flat, NguyenPhuoc opted for a glossy black finish to the cupboards and a black-and-white tile backdrop. One corner was left unfinished, revealing the raw concrete beneath. Why? “People always wonder what the space was like before,” she says.
The cockloft bedroom is more intimate than the rest of the unit, thanks to a carpeted floor. Instead of a bed, there’s just a mattress – partly out of necessity, because of the proximity of the ceiling, and partly because NguyenPhuoc liked the casual feel. Shelves, drawers and wardrobes are all built into the wall at the foot of the bed.
NguyenPhuoc’s decor softens the inherently industrial space with bright colours, shaggy rugs in the living and dining areas and – crucially – a lot of art, including sculptures and paintings.
Throughout the flat, simple, streamlined features such as the black coffee table play against busier, brighter items such as the bright-red living room rug and sofa. “I wanted it to be black and white with a few colours that pop out,” she says.
Dining area The dining table was imported from Italy for HK$20,000, along with the wool-covered chairs (HK$5,000 each). The paintings are from the “Birds of Paradise” series by Fox Daniels, who is represented by Damina Gallery (tel: 9575 6439).
Painting Midnight by Colour Z.
Living room In front of the glass wall of the bathroom is a red sofa that was custom made for HK$20,000 by Tequila Kola (various locations; www.tequilakola.com); the red rug (HK$7,000) came from the same shop. The coffee table and console table were imported from Italy and cost HK$15,000 each. The Floob Ceiling lights (HK$300 each) were purchased from Design Catalogue in Singapore (www.designcatalogue.com.sg). The colourful painting is by French graffiti artist Kongo (www.cyril-kongo.com), the white marble sculpture is by Alex Eymieu and the bronze sculpture, on the console, is by Jose Sacal, all of whom are represented by Damina Gallery.
Entrance The entrance to the apartment features graffiti painted by Miguel Souchon, who is represented by Damina Gallery.
Kitchen The kitchen was custom made by Ikea (various locations; www.ikea.com.hk) for HK$45,000.
Cockloft A mezzanine bedroom overlooks the unit. The lamps were bought for about HK$1,000 each from a shop in Vietnam.
Bathroom Lo Wan Designer & Decoration Engineering (9A Mosque Junction, Central, tel: 2547 0068) built the Japanesestyle tub for HK$25,000. The mosaic tiles (HK$60 per square foot) and wall tiles (HK$130 per square foot) came from Q&S Tile (282 Portland Street, Mong Kok, tel: 2406 8600). The candle lanterns (HK$700 to HK$1,500) were from Twenty Two North (Unit B, 2/F, Cheung Hing Industrial Building, 12P Smithfield, Kennedy Town, tel 3907 0386). The basin (HK$3,700) and shower set (HK$7,800) were from Luen Hing Hong Building Materials (718 Shanghai Street, Mong Kok, tel: 2398 9299).
Work nook The desk (HK$8,000) and storage baskets (HK$550 for a set of three) came from Tequila Kola. The vintage phone (HK$2,000) was found on Le Cong Kieu Street (aka Antique Street), in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The lanterns are from Twenty Two North (HK$700 to HK$1,500). The black-and-white painting is by artist Phuong Quoc Tri and the colourful painting by Kongo; both of whom are represented by Damina Gallery. The work chair cost HK$2,390 at SofaSale (2/F, Tung Kin Factory Building, 196 Tsat Tsz Mui Road, Quarry Bay, tel: 2541 1230) and the white lamp (£110/ HK$1,288) was from John Lewis in London (www.johnlewis.com). The rug cost HK$2,000 at Thanksliving (2/F, Oceanic Industrial Centre, 2 Lee Lok Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 3693 4585).
New horizon Donna NguyenPhuoc originally wanted to replace the unit's small aluminium windows with floor-to-ceiling glass, but building codes would not allow it. Instead, she replaced them with a folding window on a track that opens to give an unobstructed view of greenery and waterways. The windows were designed and installed by Lo Wan Designer & Decoration Engineering for HK$23,900.