Text Jane Steer / Styling Anji Connell / Photography John Butlin
This is a tale of two ribbons. Or, to be more precise, twin bands of laminate that snake around this Tai Kok Tsui apartment on parallel lines. Set against unadorned white walls, the bands are the visual focus as they dip and turn to accommodate seating, entertainment and storage.
“The ribbons define the space,” says FAT Design Studio’s Tony Tsui Wing-fai, who bought the 700 sq ft apartment (540 square feet net) direct from the developer as a new-build and spent six months working on the design, knocking out non-structural walls. “It took so long because I kept tweaking. The main idea was to make a place where the space is integrated although it’s still two rooms.”
It’s an effective device. Starting in the living area, the lower band extends from the bay window and dips to create a reading nook, a seat and an entertainment centre. There’s a long, almost empty, display shelf, then the band drops at the corner to create a step to the bedroom, folds back up to form a large desk and continues as display and window shelving to the end of the apartment. The upper band is simpler, running on one plane in the living area, rising over the bedroom entrance and dropping down to form a shelf above the cosy study space.
Tsui, who trained as an architect in Melbourne, Australia, chose a plastic laminate with a random wood pattern for the ribbons.
“In Australia, they use a lot of timber but it doesn’t work so well in Hong Kong as it tends to warp in the humidity; that’s why I chose laminate. I kept the background as plain as possible and used the timber as a highlight,” he says. “Less is more.” The bands are so effective at drawing the eye that the discreet rows of white cupboards lining the spaces above and below them virtually disappear. At night, LED backlighting further accentuates the ribbons, bathing the apartment in an ethereal blue glow.
“The LED lighting makes the bands appear to float,” Tsui says. “It’s kind of cool for movie nights.”
The step where the lower ribbon dips and turns a corner announces the entrance to the bedroom (“It’s also good for tying up your shoelaces”), which is on a raised platform in the same wood-pattern laminate, with the mattress placed tatami-style directly on the floor.
“It’s cosy,” Tsui says of the raised floor. “The platform gives us lots of storage, and I left the original floor intact in case we want to take it out.”
Sure enough, hidden beneath the mattress is a pair of hydraulic hatch doors that open to reveal storage for suitcases and other paraphernalia. The padded headboard is a recent addition, courtesy of Tsui’s new bride, Angie Yip. The couple was married in March, moving into the apartment as newlyweds. “I designed the space three years ago for myself,” Tsui says. “I lived in it for a while, then I rented it out and lived back at home until Angie and I moved in after we got married. It’s very different living in it as a couple than as a single person. There have been a few privacy issues, but I’m pleased that the space works just as well for two people.
“When I work, I think about how people will personalise a space so they can use it not just as they need to but as they want to,” he says. “The space is a framework for the people who live in it – it has to be flexible and practical.”
Yip is beginning to make her own impression on the apartment.
“She’s personalised the space with lots of pictures and pots, pink and red. When I lived here on my own there were no decorative items,” Tsui says. “You could say Angie has brought colour into my life.”
She’s also brought soft furnishings. As well as the headboard, she insisted his bachelor beanbags budge to make way for a sofa and added a cushion to the window nook. But while Yip is making the apartment more comfortable, the essence of Tsui’s original design remains unchanged.
Yip’s pink crockery aside, the main colour comes from a wall of lime-green perforated-metal cupboard doors opposite the bedroom (now stuck with Yip’s Polaroids: “She’s a keen photographer”) and matching cupboards in the bedroom that house an air conditioner and a second television. The perforated study chairs are in the same shade.
The doors hide wardrobes and yet more storage (“We have more storage than we need”) as well as a sliding door to the bathroom and utility area.
“I decided not to replace the bathroom or kitchen – they were brand new – to save costs and be more environmentally friendly,” Tsui says. “The kitchen is standard but fortunately it works well as the background is white with a splash of timber – like my design.”
The floor is equally neutral: pale grey epoxy resin. “It’s the same stuff they use in car parks. I had it mixed to a Pantone colour. It’s durable and warm, even in winter,” Tsui says. “It’s seamless.”
Laminate feature Twin bands of plastic laminate snaking around the walls are the defining design device of the flat. Tony Tsui (tel: 6349 2771; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.facebook.com/ fatdesignhk) chose Comet Plank 786-01 with zero-reflection finish from GreenLam Far East (tel: 2782 8670), custom made by the contractor, Yip Chun-hang (tel: 9773 0370), who was paid HK$270,000 for all the work he did on the apartment.
Dining area The 1.5-metre solid oak bench (HK$6,000) came from Woodmark Living (HomeSquare, Sha Tin, tel: 3622 1988). The cushions were about HK$100 each at Ikea (various locations; www.ikea.com.hk). The beanbag (HK$398) came from Bukeylux (www.bukeylux.com). The Wooster top hat pendant lamp cost HK$1,980 at Homeless (29 Gough Street, Central, tel: 2581 1880). The lime-green perforated-steel shoe cupboard, next to the front door, was custom made by Yip. The little white house was bought on holiday in Norway.
Sitting room The twin rows of storage cupboards lining the ceiling and floor were custom made by Yip. The two-seat Tamara sofa cost HK$6,300 from Sofasale (10/F, Lok’s Industrial Building, 204 Tsat Tsz Mui Road, Quarry Bay, tel: 2541 1230). The bench cushion cost HK$1,100 at Giormani (en.giormani.com). The scatter cushions cast about HK$100 each at Ikea. The grey epoxy flooring cost HK$16,500 in total from ABS Building Systems (Far East) (tel: 2798 0376; www.absfloor.com).
Bedroom and work area The bedroom is on a raised platform featuring the same plastic laminate as the bands. The space beneath the platform provides extra storage, accessed by a hatch (hidden under the bed) built by Seiko Floor Engineering (Lucky Plaza, 315 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2739 9638). The fabric headboard was custom made for HK$1,000 by a store on Fa Yuen Street, Prince Edward. The green wall unit, custom-made by Yip, hides the air conditioner, with a door for access, and neatly encompasses the 32-inch TV, which can be swivelled around for easy viewing. The breakfast tray at the end of the bed cost about HK$300 from Homeless. The extra-large desk is big enough for two. The Myto study chairs (HK$2,500 each) came from Aluminium (www.aluminiumfurniture.com).
Storage The wall of lime-green perforated-steel sliding doors was custom made by Yip. They hide a wardrobe and the door to the bathroom and utility area. Angie Yip uses magnets to display her photographs on the doors.
Kitchen The breakfast bar and stainless-steel countertop were custom made by the contractor. The kitchen came with the laminate cupboards, Corian countertop, Philco appliances and glass splashbacks.
Table bodied Made in the same wood-effect plastic laminate (Comet Plank 786-01 from GreenLam Far East) as the bands seen throughout the rest of the apartment, the dining table is a clever piece of engineering. A simple elongated "n" shape, the table fits perfectly into a nook in the kitchen counter to form a breakfast bar. Hidden rollers mean it can be pulled out to seat six comfortably for dinner parties. The desk was made by the contractor, Yip Chun-hang (tel: 9773 0370).