For 40 years, John and Claire Chan have presided over a happily crowded home. For much of that time, three generations of their family, helpers and “a menagerie” of pets have shared the 2,700 sq ft Mid- Levels space. Now a fourth generation has joined them: the offspring of their daughter, Caroline, are frequent visitors.
Last renovated in the 1990s, the flat needed “a major overhaul”, Caroline says.
“My parents wanted something that was completely different; which could comfortably accommodate them, my ageing grandmother and teenage brother, and be child-friendly for the new additions.”
On the recommendation of a New York friend of her father, Nelson Chow Chi-wai, principal and founder of NC Design & Architecture, was hired.
“It was a typical 60s high-rise apartment, with exposed beams and limited ceiling height,” Chow says.
The clients’ flexibility freed him to create a “very modern, almost futuristic” interior. A rounded ceiling hides the beams, luminous ceiling oculi (round openings) give an illusion of depth, and a curved wall takes centre stage.
During the year-long renovation, all non-structural walls in the house came down. When Caroline stood in the empty shell she was surprised by how spacious it felt.
Internal walls can feel confining, she realised. So Chow created one sinuous, undulating wooden feature wall that gently rolls from the kitchen, through the dining room and into the living room.
Its serpentine form, in variants of grey from gun metal to light ash, unifies the spaces, and is a neutral backdrop for the new, richly coloured furniture. The 16- metre-long wall also conceals a plethora of storage space, keeping clutter neatly out of sight.
At the end of a long, seamless corridor, a round white bathtub stands like a sculpture. This glimpse of the bathroom draws one into a curved room clad in blue hexagonal Italian ceramic wall tiles.
Overhead swirls one of the apartment’s beam-concealing simulated skylights (the others are in the living and dining rooms).
Continuing the theme, in the living area a curved glass curtain wall frames the apartment’s expansive city view, and opens on to the balcony.
The absence of angular shapes is in line with tenets of fung shui, Chow says, and also safer for children, who merrily scoot their trikes across the stone floor.
The minimalist aesthetic is a far cry from the antique-laden decor of the home’s former incarnation. Caroline says her mother divested all her previous possessions in order to start afresh.
Caroline has happy childhood memories of having big family dinners around a communal table – a tradition the clan maintains to this day. “No one plans a Sunday with friends – it’s always dinner together [at our parents’],” she says.
A dedicated dining room was therefore important to Claire, who’ll spend most of Sunday shopping and cooking ahead of the mid-afternoon arrival of her extended family.
The adjacent kitchen – long and narrow – can be closed off by a sliding door, to contain cooking smells, and powerful extractor fans were also installed.
With four bedrooms and three bathrooms, as before, the home can comfortably accommodate all who inhabit this “residence of flowing volumes”, as Chow describes it, but Caroline says the sleeping zones were deliberately kept low-key, to emphasise the communal areas.
You might think it required a leap of faith to embrace such an innovative interior, but Caroline says her parents didn’t need convincing – such was their confidence in their architect.
“We are all really happy with the result,” she says.
Evidence, indeed, that a multigenerational family, and their cats and dogs, can all live comfortably and harmoniously, when the design mix is right.
Living area The black pebbles and Japanese MWood planks (HK$350 each) on the balcony came from Beauty Floor Engineering (various locations; www.beautyfloor.com.hk). The landscaping was by Greenfingers (6 Aberdeen Street, Central, tel: 2827 8280). Inside, the purple Bend sofa (HK$80,000), by Patricia Urquiola, came from B&B Italia (Wilson House, 19 Wyndham Street, Central, tel: 2866 8829). The Oda lounge chair and ottoman (HK$60,000 for the set), by Nanna and Jorgen Ditzel, came from Magazzini Vivace (Ruttonjee Centre, 11 Duddell Street, Central, tel: 2521 3282).
Dining room The furniture and accessories in the dining room were chosen to appear “as fun sculptural objects”, hence the eclectic mix. The long table, bought from a shop that has since closed, is teamed with Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec’s Vitra Softshell chairs in green (HK$6,000 each, from Aluminium; various locations, aluminium-furniture.com) and Gentle chairs (HK$14,000 each) from Porro (The Ellipsis, 5 Blue Pool Road, Happy Valley, tel: 2577 5716). The niche accommodating the floral arrangement has a sliding back that opens to reveal a desk in a bedroom.
Living area detail The bowl tables (HK$3,240 to HK$4,740), by Indonesian designer Ayush Kasliwal, came from Magazzini Vivace and the rug (HK$5,600) was from Lane Crawford (various locations; lanecrawford.com). The sliding panel, which hides a television, and the entertainment cabinet, were made for HK$50,000 by NC Design & Architecture’s contractor, Kin Wah Decoration (19/F, Mai Kei Industrial Building, San Hop Lane, Tuen Mun, tel: 2458 2599).
Bathroom The Agape white stone tub (HK$125,750, from ViA, 1A Star Street, Wan Chai, tel: 3102 0808) beneath a swirling faux skylight. The wall tiles, like those in the kitchen, are Tex by Mutina and cost HK$25 each from Anta Building Material Supplier (311A Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2180 6950). The Vola bath mixer and handshower (HK$32,960, in chrome; HK$46,570, in stainless steel), designed by Arne Jacobsen, came from Portfolio Group (tel: 2868 0765) and the side table (HK$1,599), by Hay, came from Eclectic Cool (5 Sun Street, Wan Chai, tel: 5699 6882).
Front door The white-painted front door is engraved with the letter “B” – signifying the flat’s address – in curved script to correspond with the interior design. It was custom made for HK$39,000 by Kin Wah Decoration.
Kitchen The long, narrow kitchen was fitted by a local, custom-made kitchen supplier, now closed. Linear LED lighting is integrated as part of the overhead cabinets above the Corian counter. The splashback tiles are Tex by Mutina.
Hallway A long corridor, offset by curvilinear walls, leads to the bedrooms and bathrooms. The passage frames the tub, which doubles as a sculpture. Stone flooring, from Mutina’s Flow series, cost about HK$100 per square foot from Anta.
Let there be light Most internal walls could be removed for the flat's new layout, but the outdated, dark-wood ceiling beams, being structural, could not. Architect Nelson Chow Chi-wai, of NC Design & Architecture (6/F, UWA Building, 18 Connaught Road West, Sheung Wan, tel: 2915 8088), overcame this challenge by crafting backlit LED oculi into a free-form false ceiling. Moulded plywood sections were assembled on site to create a curved effect, then plastered for a smooth finish. A final layer of translucent Barrisol (stretchy, lightweight PVC sheeting) was then used to cover the LED lights to create three artificial skylights (total cost HK$143,000 for three units by Art Lab Fabrication Specialist, 3/F, Block B, Wah Luen Industrial Centre, 15 Wong Chuk Yeung Street, Fo Tan, tel: 3595 1400). Spacing the LEDs at 100mm intervals gives evenly distributed light.
"There are no dark spots in the oculi, just like a real skylight," Chow says.
This treatment gives an illusion of depth, he says, while making the space feel cosy and sensual.