A few steps below Mid-Levels' bustling Caine Road lies a small world that time seems to have forgotten. Low-rise buildings accessed by spacious shared terraces line the narrow streets. Vision is needed, however, to see the potential in the dark, compact apartments that make up this peaceful environment.
It was here, after some searching, that Lucienne Leung and her partner found their 900 sq ft home.
'We were looking around this area - Sai Ying Pun and Mid-Levels - and we were very disappointed with the space you get for your money,' says the fashion editor.
'When we came here, it just all fit in. It suits our characters - subtle, low key and with history.'
Leung, who studied at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, put her training to use in restructuring the flat. With a usable area of 770 sq ft, space was at a premium. The previous owners had renovated but 'in an Ikea way', says Leung, who gutted the apartment.
Her key decision was to transform the second bedroom, located behind the kitchen, into a spacious walk-in wardrobe and storage room. First, she reduced the size of the room by moving two of the walls in by three feet. That gave her a bigger kitchen and a wider section of corridor, which she used to create an open study area.
Leung and her partner work from home occasionally, so they both needed a study space, but they were reluc- tant to share a desk. The solution was a narrow rectangular table with a laptop computer at either end, so the two can face each other but still have their own areas.
'People call it 'his 'n' her workstations,'' Leung says. 'We're not workaholics but ... you often see us sitting here working with candles and flowers between us.'
The large main room comprises a living area, a dining area and an open-plan kitchen.
Throughout the home, Leung has used a blend of old and new furniture that fits well with the style and dimensions of the apartment. The rich but subtle colour palette brings it all together.
Terracotta-coloured cushions on the dining chairs, a natural wood table, granite slabs in the kitchen, moss-green curtains and soft coverings in hues of rose, heather and pale green combine seamlessly.
'I don't like everything old and antique, I like to mix,' she says. 'We don't like things too planned.'
The open kitchen is spacious and contemporary with creative touches that add interest. The fridge doubles as a picture gallery and under-cupboard lighting creates an attractive low border of light in the evenings.
Achieving satisfaction, however, was a 'nightmare', says Leung. 'It was back and forth with the measurements and the design.'
That was partly because she changed the plans several times in order to build her coveted storage space and accommodate the wishes of her partner, who wanted to maximise the living space.
'So this is the compromise - the storage that also gives more space,' says Leung, with a happy grin.
1 The bed was bought from Indigo (6/F, Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 2555 0540) for Lucienne Leung's previous apartment. She covered an old desk lamp with an Etro vintage silk scarf to provide bedside lighting. The painting, La Princesa, by Mexican artist Daniel Romero, came from State of the Arts Gallery (36 Pottinger Street, Central, tel: 2526 1132). Leung bought an altar table for HK$2,800 from The Green Lantern (72 Peel Street, Central, tel: 2526 0277) to use as a dressing table. The stool cost about HK$400 from G.O.D. (various locations; www.god.com.hk ).
2 The green trunk cost HK$2,000 from Chine Gallery (42A Hollywood Road, Central, tel: 2543 0023). The Ektorp two-seater couch cost HK$2,400 from Ikea (various locations; www.ikea.com.hk ). It is covered with a vintage woollen shawl by Dries Van Noten, which was a gift, and a red embroidered quilt, which cost about HK$900 in Jaipur, India. The cushions were gifts bought at G.O.D. The Hunter Soho ceiling fan in nickel and maple wood cost HK$2,290 from Life's A Breeze (16/F, Horizon Plaza, tel: 2572 4000).
3 The Kotak dining table was custom made by Tree (various locations; www.tree.com.hk ) for HK$11,950. The former office chairs were rescued from the scrap heap by Leung. The open- plan kitchen was fitted by You's Kitchen Design (205A Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2598 1022) for HK$16,750, excluding appliances. On top of the fridge stands an Ex five-piece knife set (available from www.rolostore.com ), which was a gift. The mirror on the wall was bought in New York for about HK$1,200.
4 The black and white floor tiles in the bathroom cost HK$1,945 from Po Yick Building Materials (321 Portland Street, Mong Kok, tel: 2395 2655). The original, hand-painted North Korean propaganda poster cost US$100 in Pyongyang. The fittings, including a shower head and mixer, tap and sink, cost HK$6,200 from Galaxy Bathroom (188 Lockhart Road, tel: 2519 8188).
5 A 19th-century map of lower Manhattan decorates the work area, where Leung and her partner share a black rectangular table, which cost HK$2,490 from Ikea; the chairs are old. The mirror was bought from Indigo several years ago.
6 Artwork from around the world, including a wooden mask from Tanzania and a pair of miniature fishing spears from the Solomon Islands, help relieve the heaviness of the bookshelves. An antique horse complements the books.
7 The entrance passage is lined with bookshelves made to meas-ure by the contractor, Vertex Furniture and Construction (tel: 2356 8786; firstname.lastname@example.org ), for HK$35,800, including instal-lation. The four small paintings, by Romero, were from State of the Arts Gallery.
Tried + tested
Paper trail Lucienne Leung bought a birdcage from a shop in Sheung Wan that has since moved. The contractor cut a hole in the base and wired it so she could use it as an overhead light. Leung then wrapped the cage in the Financial Times newspaper, because she liked the colour. This creates a cosy, antique effect while allowing the structure of the cage to shine through.
Styling David Roden