When Louis Lau Chin-ki, of Ample Design, was hired to give a 1,100 sq ft flat in The Arch, in West Kowloon, a 21st-century makeover, he faced a problem. “The first time I met the clients, I saw they had so much old Chinese furniture,” he says. As well as collecting family heirlooms, the clients like to buy wooden antiques and Buddhist art on their travels.
“I thought it would be hard to do something modern,” says Lau. In the end, he decided to incorporate the antiques into a modern design that blends streamlined spaces and sleek materials, such as stainless steel, with classic dark wood and rattan surfaces. “It’s more open, with a stylish, Oriental feel,” says Lau.
The clients also wanted to reverse some of the renovations they had made seven years ago, when they moved in. “The first renovation reduced the size of the kitchen, so this time we had to make it bigger,” says Lau. “It’s completely new. We used dark tiles with white cabinets for contrast and a more contemporary feel.” Because the kitchen doesn’t get much light, spot lighting was installed beneath the cabinets.
The kitchen door is located next to the apartment’s main entrance, in a long hallway that leads to the living room. To allow for a smoother arrival to the kitchen, Lau installed a sliding door that provides a flush surface when closed. The entrance to the helper’s room was moved from the kitchen into the hallway, where a rattan sliding door blends in with a rattan-clad wall.
Opening up the living and dining room was a priority for the clients, who like entertaining. Lau swapped bulky furniture for less intrusive pieces, such as a light wood Matthew Hilton dining table and a custom-made coffee table with a glass top.
Lau says the living area had been dominated by a “horrible yellow stone pillar”, which he demolished – it was decorative, not structural – and replaced with a black marble feature that serves as a television backdrop. “Anyone who came here before swears this is a totally different living room,” he says.
While the living area has a sweeping vista of the harbour, the en-suite bedroom has “the best view in the house,” says Lau. Its floor-to-ceiling window overlooks Tsim Sha Tsui, the harbour and the skyline of Hong Kong Island. Lau kept the room simple, using just a few key antiques, including a hand-carved Chinese screen behind the bed, as accents.
On one side of the bedroom, two studies have replaced small bedrooms. In these workspaces, timber and rattan cabinets draw the eye towards the windows, which also have a remarkable view of Victoria Harbour. One study doubles as a guest room, with a Murphy bed hidden in a cabinet. When the bed is up, its stainless steel support can be used as a shelf.
For the bathrooms, Lau opted for tiles with a rusty, mottled appearance, which are complemented by wood screens over the windows and cupboards with a thick wood grain. The master bathroom’s shower and bath were swapped for a big tub. The clients had wanted his-and-hers basins, but there wasn’t enough space, so Lau found an extra-large Toto Neorest sink instead.
The apartment’s biggest challenge was technical: the clients wanted to replace their split air-conditioning units with a central duct system. To avoid unsightly equipment hanging from the ceiling, Lau placed all of the air-conditioning units overhead in the hallway and masked them with a wavy timber screen. “It makes the space much more interesting,” says Lau.
With no ugly appliances to distract the eye, the distinctive blend of contemporary design and Chinese antiques gets the attention it deserves.
Dining & living room The Matthew Hilton Welles dining table cost HK$31,500 at Lane Crawford (Pacific Place Home Store, Admiralty, tel: 2118 2288), which also supplied the Hilton Mary’s Chairs (HK$10,500 each) and Armstrong sofa (HK$52,000). The Catellani & Smith Turciu Soffitto 16 Suspension Lamp is available online at Ambiente Direct (www.ambientedirect.com) for ¤1,642 (HK$13,900). The coffee table (HK$25,000) was custom built with granite legs and a 20mm-thick tempered glass top by Tim Ho (12/F, Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 2574 6918). The rugs, tall display table and wall art, including two 19th-century wood engravings from China, were all purchased years ago by the clients. The sculpture, Nu Comme Un Vers, by Marie- Madeleine Gautier, came from Singapore’s Opera Gallery (www.operagallery.com).
Living room The Hans Wegner Shell Chair cost HK$29,757 at Amelie & Tulips (56 Sai Street, Sheung Wan, tel: 2291 0005). Lau clad the feature wall in black marble for HK$50,000. The cushion and wall art were purchased by the clients years ago.
Master bedroom The antique screen was bought years ago by the clients. The cost for the bed and installing the screen was HK$25,000. The wardrobe was built for HK$30,000 by Ample Design (13/F, Eastern Harbour Centre, 28 Hoi Chak Street, Quarry Bay, tel: 3529 1864). Two red chests, which have belonged to the clients for years, are used as side tables.
Master bathroom The Kohler tub (HK$12,000), Hansgrohe bath mixer (HK$25,000) and Toto Neorest basin (HK$25,000) all came from Galaxy Bathroom Collection (various locations; www.galaxybc.com.hk). The mottled wall tiles came from Goodways Building Materials (1/F, 343 Portland Street, Mong Kok, tel: 2787 3962). The cabinets and screen were built for HK$18,000 by Ample Design.
Kitchen Jia International (1A, Neich Tower, 128 Gloucester Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2832 5000) supplied the Silestone quartz countertops, custom-built cabinets, floor and wall tiles, lighting and Liebherr appliances for a total of HK$300,000.
Study Ample Design custom built the wall cabinets in the two studies for HK$32,000; it also built the cabinet storing the Murphy bed for HK$21,000. The shelf is used to lower the bed.
Wave machine Four duct-type air-conditioning units were installed on the ceiling and masked with a wavy timber screen. The timber panels, which are removable for maintenance, were built for HK$21,500 by Ample Design.