Text Viv Jones / Styling David Roden / Photography Jonathan Wong
When Singaporean Cherie Wong Kai Xin went house hunting in autumn 2012 with her British husband, Kevin, who works in finance, it didn't take them long to find what they wanted.
"This was the first apartment we looked at," she says, "and we came back to it because we love the neighbourhood, the low-rise building and the lovely light."
The 1,500 sq ft flat in Pok Fu Lam was in fairly good condition but the couple wanted a layout that maximised space and views, so Wong, an architect and interior designer, immediately set about knocking down walls.
"By the time we got the keys, two months later, in December, I had already drawn up the plans for the renovation," she says.
Demolition started in January and the couple moved in that June.
From its original three-bedroom iteration, the apartment was reconfigured to accommodate 2½ bedrooms (a study corner of the living area can be partitioned into a guest room). And the living, dining and kitchen areas now enjoy an open-plan layout.
"I rearranged the living spaces to take advantage of the stunning views of Mount Davis," says Wong.
Beyond creating an open-plan living area, Wong's requirements were simple. Pregnant at the time of buying, she knew they needed a baby room. And in one of the two bathrooms she wanted a tub, which their previous apartment had lacked. "I like things to have more than one use," she says. "This is particu-larly important in Hong Kong, where property is so expensive and spaces are generally quite small."
The apartment is now also packed with clever storage solutions. In the "guest room", for example, a drop ceiling creates an area to stash light but bulky items (see Tried + tested) and the ladder providing the overhead access can be used as a shelf or rail for hanging clothes or other items. In addition, there is a small desk concealed behind retractable cupboard doors. In the kitchen/dining area, Wong added a shallow bookcase to capitalise on the sliver of space behind the dishwasher.
"Storage, and lots of it, was very important to me," she says.
Elsewhere, the open-plan kitchen has shallow shelves for glasses built around the enclosed range hood above the cooker.
Other kitchen paraphernalia is stored in a pantry, which was built into a corner where a washing machine once stood.
"I enjoy cooking and we like entertaining," says Wong. "I wanted a pantry that was easily accessible. More importantly, it had to be a space that could hide daily electrical appliances when guests came over."
Explaining her preferred aesthetic, she says: "I like clean and simple. I like straight lines, maybe because I'm an architect, but at the same time I like homely features."
One such accessory is a neon sign, which had been used at their wedding.
"I had that made with the idea that we would use it as a decoration in our home," she says.
The couple purchased 99 per cent of the furnishings specifically for the new apartment - their previous flat, which they also own, has been rented out fully furnished. But there are still many personal touches that make the house a home, including artwork, framed fabric swatches that Wong could not bear to throw away and decorative objects picked up on the couple's travels.
With parties of 30-plus people in the apartment, a baby and the hustle and bustle of family life it seems that Wong has carved out plenty of space for the place she calls home.
Sitting room The Paddington sofa (HK$42,000) came from Tequila Kola (1/F, Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 2877 3295) and the cushions were custom made by Wai Kee Home (1A, 30 Cochrane Street, Central, tel: 2544 3730) for a total of HK$1,500. The armchairs (HK$4,990 each) came from Sofasale (10/F, Lok’s Industrial Building, 204 Tsat Tsz Mui Road, Quarry Bay, tel: 2541 1230), as did the ceiling fan (HK$2,580). The rug (HK$40,000) came from Sinbad Carpets (Worldwide Commercial Building, 34 Wyndham Street, Central, tel: 2524 0092) and the coffee table was acquired in a sale at Tree (various locations; www.tree.com.hk). The storage unit under the television and the shelf above (HK$41,000 for both) were custom made by Novamobili (1/F, East Town Building, 41 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2186 8288). The hurricane lantern came from Thailand. The artworks are a mixture of holiday photos, a painting by Ethiopian artist Wosene Worke Kosrof (wosene.com), bought in San Francisco, and fabric samples that Wong had framed.
Dining area Eight chairs (HK$16,000 in total) from Tequila Kola fit around a wooden dining table (HK$15,000) from Tree. The pendant light (HK$7,000 for a pair) were from Modern Home Commercial Lighting (246 Lockhart Road, tel: 2877 8666). The china, glassware and cutlery were wedding gifts from Jau* Designs (www.jaustar.com). The Chilewich table mats (HK$395 each) and the bar stools (HK$2,300 each) were from Marc James (various locations; www.marcjamesdesign.com). The engineered walnut timber floor throughout most of the apartment cost HK$80 per square foot at Timber International (311 Lockhart Road, tel: 2827 0986). Aria (15 Ormsby Street, Tai Hang, tel: 2577 3030) built the cabinetry for HK$25,822.
Kitchen detail The back of the kitchen island counter houses shelves designed by Cherie Wong (tel: 9438 9013; firstname.lastname@example.org). “The practical side of me didn’t want any space unused,” she says. “After the dishwasher was fitted, I realised there was a leftover depth of about 200mm. It wasn’t quite deep enough to make into a cabinet, so I thought maybe a cafe-style display bookcase might work.”
Master bedroom The bedroom was given a hotel ambience with a full-height headboard, upholstered with fabric (HK$6,000) from Sheryia Curtain (1 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central, tel: 2525 6596). The dimmable pendant lights were custom made by Hoking Lighting Design (9 Morrison Hill Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2572 9003) for HK$1,500 each. The bed (HK$12,000) was custom made by Area Home (11/F, Horizon Plaza, tel: 2556 8008). The bedside tables (HK$3,500 each) were custom made by Old Shanghai (15/F, Horizon Plaza, tel: 3527 3135). The throw is a vintage obi bought in Tokyo. The accent cushions (HK$899 each) came from Indigo Living (various locations; www.indigo-living.com).
Living area detail The antique-style sideboard (HK$7,500) was from Old Shanghai. The neon light (an amalgam of the couple’s names) was designed by Jannene Atkin-Day and made for HK$5,000 by Po Wah Neon Light (207 Tong Mi Road, Tai Kok Tsui, tel: 2398 0069). The table lamp (HK$3,500) came from Tequila Kola; the Villeroy & Boch metal fruit bowl was bought on a trip to Europe; the vase is from Ikea (various locations; www.ikea.com.hk) and the candles (HK$800 in total) came from The Candle Company (11 Lyndhurst Terrace, tel: 2545 0099).
Guest room In the guest room-cum-study, a double sofa bed (HK$7,500) from G.O.D. (various locations; www.god.com.hk) is adorned with an ikat cushion (HK$800) from Indigo Living and a pair of silver-wave-patterned cushions (HK$350 each) from FrancFranc (various locations; www.francfranc.com.hk). The rug was bought years ago from Sinbad Carpets. The cupboards (which open to reveal a desk on one side) and ceiling storage were built by Aria for a total of HK$28,840. The feature gallery wall hides a sliding roller mechanism in the drop ceiling, from which the wall slides out to create the guest-room space. Five other panels also slide out from a concealed cabinet, closing off the guest room when needed.
Baby's room The changing table (HK$1,200) came from Ikea and the baskets (HK$295 to HK$395 each) beneath were found at Tree. The chair is a single sofa bed (HK$5,000) from G.O.D. The orange Moroccan-print cushion came from FrancFranc; the others were bought on trips to Europe. The Pop & Lolli fabric wall stickers were bought through amazon.com for a total of HK$1,200 and the Themis geometric mobile (HK$400), by Scandinavian designer Clara von Zweigbergk, came from Vitra Design Museum (www.design-museum.de).
Bathroom The master bathroom was refitted to accommodate his and hers sinks (not shown) and a Kohler bath (HK$4,940) from Arnhold Design Centre (315 Lockhart Road, tel: 2865 0318). The 30cm by 60cm grey wall tiles (HK$148 each) and 60cm by 60cm floor tiles (HK$298 each) came from La Maison (189 Lockhart Road, tel: 2877 3081). The Marble Arabescato feature tiles were designed by Wong and manufactured by Max Deco Art (7/F, Winful Centre, 30 Shing Yip Street, Kwun Tong, tel: 2191 9428) for a total of HK$11,200.
Top-down approach Homeowner Cherie Wong came up with a clever storage solution in the guest room. "We have a drop ceiling throughout the apartment, to incorporate the down lights, but I had to lower the ceiling in the guest room area further to house the sliding tracks for the panels [which close up to form the guest room]," she says. "The ceiling in that area was lowered by about 700mm and I designed panels on hinges that could be pushed up to access the ceiling."
DIY Design (tel: 9437 8585) then reinforced that portion of the ceiling so it could support additional weight. Wong uses the space to store items such as winter clothes and bedding. "I also designed the ceiling-access panels as two grey recessed strips down the centre of the guest room so that it looked like a feature," she says.
The total cost for the drop ceiling throughout the apartment (materials and painting) came to HK$62,000.