Darius and Claudia Tang had long dreamed of owning their own place, so when property prices slumped during the Sars outbreak more than a decade ago, they put a foot on Hong Kong’s housing ladder.
Back then, as newlyweds, they undertook only basic renovations to the 1,600 sq ft apartment in Mid-Levels, which came with three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a maid’s room. Fast forward 10 years, the Tangs – now parents to two children, aged eight and three – felt the flat needed a makeover.
“It was like a 10-year anniversary gift to ourselves,” says Claudia, who grew up in Hong Kong but lived in the United States for a few years before returning in 2000.
“It helped that we had lived in the apartment for a long time. We knew what we liked, what we needed and what we wanted to change.”
To realise their vision of simple but eye-catching decor, the couple enlisted Kilo Pai Chi-wing, of local interior design firm S.I.D., which had helped Claudia’s brother renovate his apartment in the city.
The Tangs decided to retain the three bedrooms, so their son and daughter could each have their own space.
However, they got rid of a narrow corridor, using the newly gained space to build a walk-in wardrobe outside the main bedroom and to enlarge the remaining two bedrooms. To make the otherwise dark apartment appear bright and airy, the parquet was ripped out and substituted with a lighter flooring.
One challenge, says Claudia, was to strike a balance between her more feminine tastes and those of her husband. Darius, a creative director at Warner Brothers, is a fan of raw, tactile materials and industrial design.
“It was fun to come up with designs that reflected both our tastes,” says Claudia.
In the living area, for example, Pai designed a textured concrete wall adjacent to the entrance, which was clad in warm, medium-density fibreboard. In the dining area, a black iron bookshelf, with detailing in the same material as the entrance, takes up an entire wall.
Here, a wooden dining table and bench, inspired by contemporary cafe decor, help to soften the look of the stark metal bookshelf.
“We love to read and hope our children will, too,” says Claudia. “With the bookshelves right next to the table, our kids have got into the habit of grabbing books to read as the table is now the hub, which reflects the whole point of this apartment – to be a family-oriented home.”
Colour plays a big part in the Tang household, from vibrant artwork and colourful cushions to vivid wallpaper and dining chairs in different shades.
“Colour makes us happy and the whole family loves purple,” says Claudia.
In the master bedroom, the walls are painted a deep plum and match a Balinese painting, which alludes to the Indonesian island where the Tangs spent their honeymoon. Black metal and glass sliding doors add masculine appeal and lead to the en-suite bathroom, where exposed brickwork continues the industrial look. “We wanted a hotel-style design for our bedroom,” says Claudia. “It’s hard to travel [for pleasure] with our work and kids, so we just close our door and imagine we’re in a boutique hotel.
“From a privacy aspect, we struggled at first when it came to the see-through sliding doors to the bathroom, but opaque glass would have defeated the purpose, which was to create an impression of space.”
The project took five months to complete and since the Tangs moved back in, just before Christmas last year, the apartment has seen a lot of entertaining and family gatherings.
“I believe it’s the people that make a place but the apartment has also made us so happy,” says Claudia.
“We really do have the best of both worlds.”
Living room The Snoopy paintings are by Tom Everhart (www.tomeverhartstudio.com), the only artist authorised to paint characters from the Peanuts comic strip. The sofa was bought at a sale at Tree (22 Elgin Street, Central, tel: 2841 8844) and the cushions (HK$430 to HK$650) were from Marimekko (42 Leighton Road, Causeway Bay, tel: 2203 4218). The throw (about HK$300) and the floor lamp (HK$669) were both from Ikea (various locations; www.ikea.com.hk). The rug was HK$18,000 from CarpetBuyer (17/F, Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 2850 5508). The curtains came from Sheryia Curtain (1 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central, tel: 2525 6596) and the ceiling fan was HK$3,320 from Life’s A Breeze (16/F, Horizon Plaza, tel: 2572 4000). A print of The Knife Thrower, by surrealist Gill Del Mace, was bought online. The Boen engineered wood (HK$1,500 per square metre), used for flooring throughout much of the flat, came from Equal (111 Leighton Road, tel: 2881 7066).
Dining area The dining table (HK$25,450) was from Tree and the chairs were HK$1,683 each from Tequila Kola (34 Elgin Street, tel: 2520 1611). The bowl and the wooden giraffe were bought on a trip to Cape Town, South Africa. The shelving unit (HK$60,000) was designed and built by S.I.D. (15/F, CRE Building, 303 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2752 8911).
Kitchen The kitchen, which features black durable laminate countertops, was designed and built by S.I.D. for about HK$150,000.
Children’s bathroom The wood-look ceramic tiles (HK$50 per square foot) came from Luxe (282 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2802 3880). The handshower (HK$1,300) and tub (HK$9,000) came from Hop Lung Building Materials (298 Lockhart Road, tel: 2802 2296).
Master bedroom The bed and bedside tables were custom made for a total of HK$27,000 by S.I.D. The painting above the bed was bought in Bali, Indonesia. Reflected in the bathroom mirror is a painting by Sheila Benford that came from The Studio Gallery (www.thestudiogallery.com.au), in Perth, Australia. The bedside lamps came from e Lighting (199 Wan Chai Road, Wan Chai, tel: 3469 9700). The en-suite bathroom was designed and kitted out by S.I.D., including the Corian trough sink (HK$12,000).
Daughter’s bedroom The bed was HK$13,000 from Kokoon for Kids (The Arcade, Cyberport, Pok Fu Lam, tel: 2518 8382). The Mammut table (HK$349.90) and stools (HK$45.90 each) and the bookshelves all came from Ikea. The alphabet flooring was from Wise Kids (Pacific Place, Admiralty, tel: 2868 0133). The Bloom wallpaper, by Eijffinger, came from Tat Ming Wallpaper (16/F, Kwan Chart Tower, 6 Tonnochy Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2893 2337).
A play on words Darius Tang came up with the idea of showcasing proverbs the family like to live by. To add visual interest, the handmade wooden letters, which were created by S.I.D. for HK$25,000, were made in different sizes, thicknesses and fonts.