Text Adele Brunner / Styling David Roden / Pictures John Butlin

 

When Joseph Chang took on the renovation of Manden and Jennifer Fong’s apartment in Mid-Levels, it was a case of reality mimicking reality television. Although the couple had given the designer a few clues as to their tastes and needs, Chang had carte blanche to execute a makeover that included everything from demolishing walls to picking the wine glasses and photo frames.

“The apartment had been left to me and my wife by my father when he died three years ago,” says Manden, an investor by profession. “We gave Joseph an idea of what we wanted – for example, we like Victorian and old French styles – but he was the creative one and he did everything. We left the flat in November and didn’t come back to see it until it had been finished, in May. We put some of our old furniture in storage, sold the antiques and asked Joseph to buy everything new.”

Under Manden’s father’s residency, the 3,500 sq ft flat had been a series of small rooms. Chang knocked down all the interior walls and started over. The renovated flat now has two bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms, plus a study, a piano room and a guest bathroom.

“The apartment was very closed off and unwelcoming,” says Chang. “For example, there was a separate entrance hall and living area; the kitchen was right in front of the front door, where the entrance is now. Can you believe there was even a room in the hallway devoted to all the air-conditioning compressors? It was a mess. I removed walls and partitions and made it much more inviting.”

The most striking aspect of the home is its size. While many Hongkongers struggle with space – or the lack of it – there are no such problems here. The flat feels vast. Its open-planned entrance, living and dining area make the grand piano look almost miniature while a large, square archway offers a glimpse of more rooms stretching beyond.

“Even though it is a large apartment, my challenge was to make it feel even more spacious,” says Chang.

“Because the building is 40 or so years old, the ceilings are quite high, which helped, but I was required to add in several big bathrooms as previously there had only been a couple of small ones.”

Different zones of space have distinct functions but are simultaneously part of the whole. Chang achieved this with seating and lighting, using different pendant and table lamps to delineate various areas.

“Lighting is my priority for a successful project and is very important to set the mood,” says Chang. “In the same way, the hub of the living room is obviously where the sofas are but the brown leather armchair in the corner, for example, is perfect for a solitary activity like reading. It echoes the style of the cream armchair [next to the sofa] but suggests an entirely different area and function.”

Chang likens furnishing the home to going on a treasure hunt and scoured “the planet” for everything he had in mind. When he couldn’t find what he wanted, he designed it himself.

“Everything had to fit in with the neutral palette as well as the style,” he says. “I even bought Manden and Jennifer a particular brand of hand wash because the packaging matched the decor.”

When the Fongs finally saw their apartment, Chang says, it was like a scene out of lifestyle makeover programme Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. They were bowled over by its transformation.

“He gave us such a big surprise,” says Jennifer. “It was unbelievable. There were things [like the kitchen tiles and the beige colour scheme] that I hadn’t really liked at the planning stage but when I saw them in place, I loved them. The apartment looks very sophisticated.”

Living room corner (above right) The Turkish hand-forged pendant lamp (HK$7,000) and the vintage cigar leather armchair (HK5,000), both came from Tequila Kola. The footstool (HK$2,400) was bought at Indigo Living (6/F, Horizon Plaza, tel: 2555 0540) and the frog vase (HK$3,180) on the mantelpiece was from Lane Crawford. The wall lamp (HK$3,200) came from Lightingale (tel: 2524 4377; e-mail lightingale@lightingale.com). The four prints were from Rare Prints Gallery, in the US (www.rareprintsgallery.com).

Living room detail (right) The Spanish antique chandelier (HK$39,800) and the Clemency chandelier- style lamp (HK5,000) both came from Tequila Kola. The horse pictures were from Antique Map Shop in Dallas, in the United States (www.antiquemapshop.com). The side table (HK$3,500) and the coffee table (HK$6,500) were both from Artura Ficus (15/F, Horizon Plaza, tel: 3105 3903). The sofa (HK$24,000) was from Lux Home (80 Queen’s Road East, tel: 2528 3223) and the monogrammed cushion (HK$800) from New Bedford Interiors (67 Queen’s Road East, tel: 2520 0330). The lamp behind the sofa (HK$4,500) came from Pearl Lighting Collection (25 Morrison Hill Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2838 6606), as did the lamp (HK$3,800) on the chest of drawers (HK$23,000), which came from Safari (91Wong Nai Chung Road, Happy Valley, tel: 3167 7306). The photo frame (about HK$650) came from Lane Crawford (various locations; www.lanecrawford.com).

 

Period drama To keep kitchen smells and noise from polluting the rest of the home, a door was fitted, with a glass pane featuring an acid-etched pattern designed by Joseph Chang of JCAW Consultants to fit in with the Victoriana feel of the apartment.