Leaving the urban clatter and chaos of Wan Chai for the home of architects Winnie Ling and Scott Findley is to enter a serene refuge.
"We love this part of town, we just like the vibrancy of it, plus the materials shops downstairs make a great resource library," says Ling. "But I wanted [our flat] to be almost spa-like; a place I can come home to after work and feel like I can relax and be pampered."
Together they turned a cramped, three-bedroom 670 sq ft walk-up apartment into a contemporary, Asian-inspired, one-bedroom haven for two.
Although Ling acknowledges that married architects - both former directors at architectural practice RMJM - are bound to knock heads when designing their own home, the doubling up on expertise was a clear advantage.
On buying the flat four years ago, the pair agreed they would need to restructure the space. Working with a contractor, they opened it up into one long, narrow studio, with only the two bathrooms concealed. The living spaces are defined by partitions, furniture, light and mirrors.
"We gutted the whole thing," says Ling. "Opened it up to space and light, but with flexibility and privacy, too."
The new design made the most of the few windows at the front and the back of the apartment, and created plenty of hidden storage. Panes of etched glass screen the sole bedroom and its en-suite bathroom, yet borrow light for the adjacent lounge area. Deep mirrored cabinets line two sides of the bedroom and run the full length of the lounge and study on one side.
"This maximised the light and allowed us to hide all of our stuff," says Ling. "I hate clutter."
Despite the limited sources of natural light, the couple concealed an old light well in the dining area behind mirrored wall panels.
"Hong Kong light wells, especially small ones, are undesirable because they give little light and people just throw their rubbish into it," Ling says. "It was wet, dripping and mouldy."
Ling made a number of adjustments to the space after consulting a fung shui master. To counter bad energy, she used false ceilings to conceal two beams, creating a cove lighting effect, and chose frosted rather than reflective mirror panels next to the bed. Ling notes that, according to the tenets of fung shui, mirrors next to the bed make couples fight.
The architects employed a number of tricks to complete the sense of retreat. When double glazing failed to cut out the street noise they installed double windows, which almost entirely cancelled it out. Electric blackout blinds can be lowered at night. Around the rear window a thin wire cage has added a layer of security as well as, once filled with plants, a green privacy screen.
A largely monochromatic colour scheme employs soothing white shades while black, grey and stainless-steel accents inject a chic, modern vibe, particularly in the bathrooms and kitchen. Restrained splashes of colour are introduced by textiles, art and flowers - many with a modern Asian character.
However, the element Ling is most proud of is their use - or rather reuse - of furniture. The architects had become disheartened by the wasteful consumer culture they'd seen grow in Hong Kong over the years, and were keen to set a positive example with their own home.
"The move from our last apartment was a downsize, but we were able to modify a lot of our original furniture," Ling explains, gesturing to various cabinets, the kitchen furniture, rugs and desks. Many had been custom-designed and built, and could be modified at source.
"It was certainly cheaper than buying new, and I feel better than [I would] just sending stuff to the landfill," Ling says. "I would always advocate upcycling wherever possible. Hong Kong still has a very 'discard' mentality."
Dining area The stainless-steel dining table base and quartz stone top, and the chickenfeather- wood, Chinese-style screen were custom designed for Winnie Ling and Scott Findley’s former home, with the table modified to fit the new space. The Kwun Yum statue in cast bronze was purchased from Ovo Home (16 Queen’s Road East, tel: 2526 7226) while the ceramic tea set was bought years ago in the United States.
Living room The couch and pouffe set; stainless-steel desk, cabinets and office chair; and leather Cab armchairs by Cassina all came from the couple’s previous home, with the former cut down to fit the new layout (modification for HK$2,500 by Patrick Mau, tel: 2614 4118). Mirrored doors concealing deep storage cabinets were refitted from the previous property. The wrought-iron artefact stands (HK$3,300 each) were created to a custom size at Ovo Home, where the couple also purchased the painted metal wire display basket (HK$2,000), lit from beneath by an Ingo Maurer table lamp (no longer in production). An inverted tree base sculpture, from Lane Crawford Home Store (Pacific Place, Admiralty, tel: 2118 3668), came from the previous apartment. A sliding etchedglass partition provides privacy in the bedroom. The Tolomeo Basculante desk lamp, by Artemide, came from Aluminium (58 Queen’s Road East, tel: 2547 5323).
Living room detail An aluminium-clad credenza was reduced in length from five metres to three metres (by Chit Tat Sing, tel: 2699 1156, for HK$5,000) to fit the new apartment. It showcases a limited-edition print by mainland artist Zhang Xiaogang, from Gallery du Monde (Ruttonjee Centre, 11 Duddell Street, Central, tel: 2525 0529), architectural photographs that were gifts from the couple’s photographer son, Jason Findley (JLF Studio; www.jasonlfindley.com), and a brush painting by their daughter, graphic artist Jessica Findley (www.sonicribbon.com). The series of bronze sculptures, by Liu Ruowang, were purchased from Gallery 1949 (www.elite-concepts.com), in Beijing. These are back-lit by star-shaped Christmas lights (HK$300) from Ikea (various locations; www.ikea.com.hk). Ling has used an artefact stand (about HK$2,200 from Ovo Home) to support a small, contemporary shrine made from an antique stationery box fitted with a smokeless LED “incense stick” (from Flea + Cents, 1/F, 36 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai, tel: 2528 0808).
Master bedroom The etched mirror doors and decorative headboard came from the couple’s previous apartment, with the latter comprising a framed artwork that was painted by Jessica Findley for her parents’ 25th wedding anniversary. The Fritz Hansen adjustable side tables (HK$11,200 each) and the Tolomeo Mini lamp for Artemide (right; HK$2,800) were sourced from Aluminium while the Philippe Starck desk lamp (left) was from the couple’s previous apartment.
Study A self-levelling epoxy floor coating (HK$50 per square foot, through Cathy Coating, 14/F, 35 Tai Lin Pai Road, Kwai Chung, tel: 2633 4365) was used throughout most of the apartment. The stainless-steel table/desk with quartz stone top and the custom-built lacquered box file cabinet both came from the couple’s former property. The Tolomeo table lamp (HK$3,500) and Herman Miller Aeron chair (HK$9,500) came from Aluminium. The birdcage and stand, in painted steel wire, were from Ovo Home and cost HK$16,800 in total. The contractor, Jimmy Mok (Ko Shing Construction, tel: 9268 0146), created a steel-and-mesh window planter as part of the fit-out. The cream wool rug was bought years ago at Tai Ping Carpets (Prince’s Building, Central, tel: 2522 7138) and was cut by the store into three pieces to be reused throughout the flat.
Kitchen The plastic laminate and high-gloss kitchen cabinets were designed for the couple’s former home but reinstalled for HK$14,600 by Ultimate Kitchen (1/F, Sing Ho Finance Building, 168 Gloucester Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2894 9023) with new upper cabinet doors and slim LED under-cabinet lights. The matt-black ceramic mosaic tiles were HK$30 per square foot from Chun Kiu Tiles (161 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2877 6626). The Franke Faucet (HK$2,500) was from Galaxy Bathroom Collection (283 Lockhart Road, tel: 2802 3008). The framed Jiang Feng print was a gift, and the Richard Sapper kettle for Alessi and fruit bowl were bought years ago.
Guest bathroom Matt-grey, 300mm by 600mm glazed tiles (HK$100 each from Chun Kiu Tiles) were used in the guest bathroom. The mirrored cabinet was custom designed and built by the contractor with a built-in light. The Toto semirecessed basin cost HK$1,100 at Galaxy Bathroom Collection. A printed ceramic tile adds a decorative touch.
The cat's pyjamas Faced with the eternal problem of cat owners - where to hide the kitty litter - Winnie Ling and Scott Findley came up with this innovative solution. A six-inch hole in the side of a mirrored cabinet in the lounge leads their two cats directly into a plastic storage box and litter tray. The box, with a lid to contain odours, is on wheels and is easily washable.
"Our cats started using it after the first time we showed it to them and I suspect they enjoy the privacy of the set-up," says Ling.