Text Catherine Shaw / Styling David Roden / Pictures May Tse
Eckhard Liebert has the kind of loft-inspired apartment many in Hong Kong can only dream about. His stylish 520 sq ft studio in Sheung Wan combines a bedroom, living area and sleek modern kitchen that leads onto a balcony. The result is perfectly balanced open-plan living.
Hamburg-born Liebert, creative director of EL Design, has lived in Hong Kong for two decades and says he immediately fell in love with his compact walk-up flat despite the fact the previous owner had not done any work to the space for decades and it was in a very poor condition.
“It was dark and tiny but I knew the balcony space would provide natural sunlight throughout,” he says.
“I also fell in love with the area. The building is tucked in a little lane, so it still has the sense of a real community but is close to everything in the city. People here are so friendly; when I was moving in they even helped carry my boxes upstairs.”
After buying the apartment last year, Liebert set about gutting the space, removing all internal walls, doors and fixtures. Glass floor-to-ceiling doors along one side and generous windows along the opposite road-facing wall were installed to emphasise natural light. With a background in creative design (Liebert worked for fashion designer Nicole Farhi in London and was enticed to Hong Kong by Lane Crawford in the 1990s to create a series of window displays), he decided against employing an interior designer, although a close friend in the industry provided advice during the early stages.
Like a traditional warehouse loft, the apartment is one open space, comprising three distinct parts: a kitchen, with ample countertop space and a built-in refrigerator; a living area sporting a comfortable L-shaped sofa; and a bedroom accommodating a king-size bed.
“Even though it is a tiny space I also created a clearly defined entrance area lined on one side with mirrors and the other with a dividing wall that doubles as storage,” says Liebert.
Elsewhere, minimal fixtures and high-gloss white walls reduce clutter and create a streamlined look.
Liebert customised his apartment with a few of his favourite artefacts, including a Murano glass vase in dramatic red and orange tones; chic black industriallike tree pots; and artworks such as vintage posters from Havana, Cuba, and a particularly striking painting by Australian artist Gavin Brown. The latter was found among the eclectic collection that belonged to the late Greg Derham, owner of events and entertainment company House of Siren, which Liebert bought following Derham’s death last year.
The apartment’s high ceilings also add a feeling of spaciousness while a mixture of modern and antique furniture avoids the “Ikea catalogue” look.
“Actually, I sourced quite a few of the pieces from Ikea,” says Liebert. “They have some of the best modern designers and if you look past the usual items you will often find beautifully designed and highly functional, studio-friendly pieces like my sofa, which transforms into a very comfortable double bed, or a bamboo lamp that casts the most wonderful light pattern over the whole wall at night.”
Liebert says the balcony, with its dark canopy and built-in outdoor kitchen area, is his favourite spot in which to relax.
“I love to cook and entertain, and with the doors to the apartment open there is plenty of room for six to eight friends.”
The trick with small-space living is to tailor it for yourself, he says. Just inside the entrance, for example, is an enticing seating area created by arranging two antique chairs (with cushions added for comfort), separated by a matching table, which doubles as a small desk and accommodates his favourite lamp.
“It is about maintaining a sense of balance and adding personal touches that elevate the sense of a home,” he says. “Here I have the perfect combination of sunlight, comfort and location. Size is irrelevant.”
Entrance: The wool rug and silk throw were sourced from a market in New Delhi, India, for about HK$450 and HK$300, respectively. Liebert found the matching 1920s chairs and table years ago in Dongguan, Guangdong province, and added cushions, which cost HK$1,600 and were made by Sheryia Curtain (1 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central, tel: 2525 6596). The framed vintage print was found at the Olivia Diaz gallery in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, and is part of Liebert’s extensive collection of Cuban poster art from the 60s and 70s. The window blinds (HK$10,000) were custom made by Sheryia Curtain. The bamboo lamp was bought years ago from Ikea for HK$595.
Kitchen Liebert asked an architect friend to create a bespoke design for the kitchen that catered to his love for entertaining. The granite stone counters (HK$180 per square foot, from International Marble Works, 238 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2511 6138) were installed unusually high to suit Liebert’s 193cm frame. Oak flooring throughout the apartment (HK$1,000 per square metre) was from Beautyfloor Engineering (272A Lockhart Road, tel: 3427 8640). The fully retractable glass sliding doors (HK$20,000) that open onto the terrace were supplied by Sunrise Aluminium (387 Lockhart Road, tel: 2866 1082).
Bathroom: The shower and sink fixtures from Kohler (various locations; www.kohler.com.hk) cost a total of HK$2,980. The slate grey wall tiles, which cost a total of HK$7,000, were from Marco Polo Ceramic (231 Lockhart Road, tel: 2877 2150). Liebert designed the Maroq string LED lights draped over the mirror.
Schock value An unobtrusive built-in draining area does away with unattractive metal or plastic drying racks. "It is important to keep clutter under control within small spaces so even the smallest of innovations, like a self-draining drying area, can make a big difference," says Eckhard Liebert, explaining why he chose the kitchen sink (HK$3,880) by Schock (193 Lockhart Road, tel: 2156 0388).