There’s an art to living in Hong Kong’s small spaces. Disciplined types strictly edit their possessions, granting precious space only to beautiful things they love and use regularly.
But most of us can only aspire to such domestic ergonomics, as we cram our lives into overflowing cupboards, traipsing back to Ikea for yet more storage after every shopping spree.
But it is possible to have a Hong Kong-sized shopping habit in a Hong Kong-sized flat and still create the illusion of space, says PJL Interior Design & Construction owner Pamela Lee.
Banker Winnifred Kwok has managed exactly that with her 568 sq ft bijou apartment, perched almost 30 storeys above stylish boutiques, lively bars and Michelinstarred restaurants, in a fashionable part of Wan Chai.
“It was a simple design brief: Winnifred wanted a big space in a small apartment,” Lee says. “It sounds like an oxymoron, but I was up for the challenge.”
While Kwok does not have a major shopping habit, she does have a lifetime’s worth of possessions, including a substantial collection of heels, a guitar and a bulky vacuum cleaner.
The apartment’s original design felt cramped, with two bedrooms, dark floors and bay windows.
Lee reconfigured the space as a one-bedroom apartment centred on a surprisingly large kitchen peninsula and breakfast bar, and put every available square inch to work. There are literally drawers within drawers.
“One of the bay windows I turned into a desk,” Lee says. “I turned the other bay window into a tabletop that forms a coherent part of the total kitchen design.”
Discreet storage solutions enabled Lee to meet her brief.
Press on one of the glossy white wall panels throughout the apartment and it will likely click open to reveal a floor-to-ceiling cupboard.
That impressive shoe collection now occupies seven shelves in the units facing the breakfast bar. Another cupboard has a custom-designed compartment each for the guitar and vacuum cleaner. Even the narrow gap next to the refrigerator has a bespoke door creating a tailored space for a stepladder.
“We bought the stepladder to fit the space,” Lee says.
“But mostly we fitted the cupboards around the things Winnifred already owned.”
In the living room and bedroom – where the white palette is broken up with splashes of floral wallpaper – side-tables have been created by taking a thick slice out of cupboards, suspended on the wall, and illuminating the niche with hidden lights.
During the day, the bedroom opens out into the living room. A bit of architectural origami, however, means that at night the room can be separated. A sliding wall, on one side of the bedroom, can be extended to meet a door: a panel which swings out from the television unit, to close the room, and is held in place with a hidden magnet.
“Normally in a flat this size most people will adopt a free-plan design,” Lee says. “However, I wanted to take this a step further, to introduce some variety within a small space, so I created a bedroom that can be fully opened or enclosed.”
When the panel door is extended, it reveals hidden display shelves in the living room, filled with chrome Alessi objets and a small collection of Jurassic fossils Kwok picked up on holiday in the United States.
Also serving double duty is the desk tucked into the former bay window in the living room. A desktop panel on its left side pops up, revealing a mirror on its reverse and a drawer below, for Kwok’s make-up.
“I gave a lot of liberty to the designer,” Kwok says.
“I wanted the apartment to be bright, cheerful and young. I like white because it makes the place look bigger. It was important that it had lots of storage but still looked spacious.”
Even better, she says, “I’ve only filled about half the storage space so far.”
Kitchen The glossy white units and Staron countertop were custom made for HK$98,500 by PJL Interior Design & Construction (3/F, Soho77, 77 Bonham Strand East, Sheung Wan, tel: 2155 0628). Contrasting with the glossy kitchen, the Leonardo Ceramica textured wall tiles were HK$240 per square foot from Hop Hing Lung Material (235 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2511 3013). The Topaz sink (HK$1,980) and Fima Carlo Frattini tap (HK$12,000) were from Classic Bathroom Accessories (249 Lockhart Road, tel: 2802 0382).
Living area The hand-tufted acrylic rug (HK$6,900) came from Netherlands-based Brink & Campman (www.brinkcampman.com). The righthand door of the marble-topped bespoke wall unit (HK$36,000) can be used to enclose the bedroom, along with a sliding wall panel (HK$8,500). Both were custom made by PJL. The waterproof flooring, a combination of vinyl and high-density laminated board, by Floover cost HK$97 per square foot from Karlian International (17/F, Yue On Commercial Building, 385 Lockhart Road, tel: 2892 1873). One of the only pieces of furniture that is not built in, the sofa was HK$6,500 from Aluminium (various locations; www.aluminiumfurniture.com). The colourful cushion (HK$2,800) came from Lane Crawford Home Store (Pacific Place, Admiralty, tel: 2118 2288). The wool throw was HK$2,000 from Avant Garde (100 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai, tel: 2526 0104). The bespoke glossy wall unit (HK$13,500) and marble-topped drawers (HK$7,500) were both made by PJL. The Italian bar stools were HK$4,200 each from Oscar Bath & Kitchen (336 Lockhart Road, tel: 2988 1491).
Bedroom The queen-sized bed (HK$20,000), finished in semi-gloss paint, has plenty of underbed storage. Like the high-gloss wall cupboard with built-in lighting (HK$12,000), drawers (HK$10,000) and plastic laminate wall panels (HK$17,000), the bed unit was custom made by PJL. The Pierre Frey wallpaper (HK$1,600 per roll) came from Altfield Interiors (11/F, 9 Queen’s Road Central, tel: 2524 4867). The throw (HK$2,200), by Designers Guild, and Christian Lacroix cushions (HK$1,100 to HK$1,750 each) were from Avant Garde.
Study nook Pamela Lee created a small study area by building a desk into the original bay window. The plastic laminate desk (HK$8,000) was custom made by PJL. Kwok has owned the chair for years. Built into the desk is a dressing table area with a soft-closing drawer and mirror. As in the bedroom, the wallpaper was HK$1,600 a roll from Altfield Interiors.
Bathroom High-gloss fixtures and mirrors contrast with roughly textured tiles in the bathroom. The Fima Carlo Frattini shower mixer (HK$3,388), Bellini cast-iron bathtub (HK$3,300) and sink (HK$800) were from Classic Bathroom Accessories. The shower curtain was HK$880 from Bed & Bath (2/F, Prince’s Building Central, tel: 2522 5151). The bespoke marble-top vanity unit (HK$18,000) and mirrored cupboard (HK$20,000) were custom made by PJL. The Italian FAP Ceramiche wall tiles (HK$68 per square foot) came from Hop Hing Lung Material.
Flick me Adding a touch of hi-tech drama to the mostly white scheme are funky circular light switches set in dark-wood panels. The switches (HK$940 each), by German company Berker, came from Passion Living Accessories (9/F, Westlands Centre, 20 Westlands Road, Quarry Bay, tel: 2511 2777). The handset is the door phone for the main entrance security gate.