Choosing a pied-a terre to rest and unwind in when travelling to Asia was an academic exercise for one professor. To pass the test, the flat had to be spacious, have expansive views and be away from the city and crowds. Harmonious, functional and meticulously balanced - it's perhaps no surprise the clean symmetry of this 1,200-square-foot apartment on the beachfront near Hong Kong's Gold Coast belongs to a finance professor. Kalun Tse lives in the Netherlands, but his punishing work schedule takes him all over the world and, increasingly, back to his native Hong Kong. This year, he decided to create a second home here that would be a convenient pied-a-terre in between teaching commitments in China and across Asia. He targeted an out-of-city neighbourhood but was mindful of avoiding the super-dense, high-rise developments that are like mini-cities themselves. 'It's an easy place to land and take off from but it had to be comfortable and relaxing. That's why I chose this location - it's away from the city and the crowds so I can really unwind,' says Tse. Once he'd settled on the right apartment - the bottom line was the spectacular, uninterrupted ocean views that disappear into the sunset - he began searching for a designer. Tse instantly clicked with Andre Fu (AFSO, tel: 2523 6998). 'I spoke to him once or twice and he seemed to understand what I wanted without much prompting,' recalls Tse. 'Space is important for me to be relaxed and not cluttered by things. I prefer a more minimalist approach and don't want to spend a lot of time tidying.' Tse also admired Fu's attitude to colour. Some might describe it as minimal but it's hardly stark white - think latte and lilac as opposed to vibrant accents. 'I didn't specify any colours but I did mention that I wasn't sure about anything too sharp that would be out of fashion within a few years. I wanted something long-lasting, and that really came across in Andre's work,' says Tse. Contrary to the rambling old house he occupies in the Netherlands, Tse's Hong Kong home was originally divided into bite-size rooms. He decided to demolish the walls, leaving only the structural ones standing. Tse is also averse to corridors and, while he initially shied away from an open kitchen, he realised in its enclosed state it left a confined passageway at the entrance to the apartment. Once he saw how spacious the rest of his home felt after most of the walls had been torn down, it was easier to knock out the remaining kitchen wall. The master bathroom stretches the idea of openness even further. The only barrier separating the sleeping and showering areas is a sheet of clear glass. 'This is essentially a bachelor flat so there's no need for all these walls,' says Tse. 'At first I thought about sand-blasted glass for more privacy, but Andre encouraged me to go completely clear.' When the sanitary ware is so exposed, it needs to be as sleek as the rest of the apartment and Tse took time to find a groovier alternative to the traditional rectangular bathtub. As a client always on the move, the design and construction process could have been hazardous, but Tse felt he could leave most of the decisions to Fu. 'I'd drop by every few weeks and check on progress and when there were key pieces of furniture to be chosen, I'd get more involved - things like bathroom furniture are quite personal, so I wanted to make sure it was to my liking.' Fu's design is modest, quietly in awe of the dramatic views rather than attention-seeking. The architectural lines of the living room even point to the sea. 'We read this as a rectangular room with a promenade down the side,' he explains, referring to the format of the living area and path to the bedrooms. 'The lighting track and the bench at the other side elongate the proportions.' The same applies in the bedroom, Fu adds, where the low headboard and integrated side tables are the same height as the window sill. 'So when you're in bed, your eyes follow this extended horizontal line, straight towards the view.' 1 Sandstone-coloured floor tiles cover the living, kitchen and dining areas (PKP8957, 600mm x 600mm, $168 each, from Pacific Building Material Supplier, 159 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2827 9918). The effect is softened with a sisal rug made by Rowena's Decor ($16 a square foot, room 10, 1/F, Yee Fai Mansion, 423 Chatham Road North, Hung Hom, tel: 6059 9045). It lies under a stained white-oak sofa designed by architect Andre Fu's AFSO ($12,600, tel: 2523 6998) with Hidey fabric in moss colour from Zu Design ($228 a yard, room 2102, 21/F, Kodak House 2, 39 Healthy Street, North Point, tel: 2561 7377). The coffee table ($3,650) and floor lamp ($4,600) were also designed by AFSO. Fu didn't want to lower the ceiling to embed lights, so they are set in a box and recessed in a surrounding pelmet, which also conceals the air-conditioning unit and roller-blind track. The ceiling-height audio-visual cabinet with sliding doors was custom-made in medium-density fibreboard, with a spray-lacquer finish. 2 The view from Tse's study can be enjoyed from the armchair ($4,200), custom-designed by AFSO using 'bespoke stripe' fabric by Paul Smith for Maharam ($810 a yard, from FabricNation, New Victory House, 93 Wing Lok Street, Sheung Wan, tel: 2180 8772). The kaleidoscope cushions are by Missoni (from $1,200 to $1,700, from a selection at Lane Crawford, Pacific Place, Admiralty, tel: 2118 3668). 3 The compact guest bathroom is covered in tiles from Omega Tiles and fitted with a Philippe Starck basin from Depot ($2,940, 373 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 3106 6008). 4 The open kitchen occupies a convenient niche opposite the dining area. Kalun Tse is particularly happy with his white Corian island prep-station-cum-breakfast bar, positioned so he can enjoy sea views while seated on the bar stools, designed by AFSO ($3,000 each, with Buffalo Bill fabric, $252 a metre, from Cetec, 50 Wellington Street, Central, tel: 2521 1325). The timber-faced kitchen cabinets, by Aran from Italy, were supplied and installed by The Essentials (4A Leighton Centre, 77 Leighton Road, Causeway Bay, tel: 2142 0355), which kitted out the kitchen with appliances, such as the Effeti extractor, for $160,000. 5 The stained white-oak integrated bed frame and side tables in the master bedroom were custom-designed by AFSO ($18,000). The headboard is backlit, projecting a wash of light up the wall, which is finished in Yeomyung 4001 wallpaper from Tat Ming Wallpaper, ($18 a square foot, 16/F, Kwan Chart Tower, 6 Tonnochy Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2893 2337). Clear glass separates the bathroom and bedroom, redefining the meaning of en suite. The Midi oval tub is from H2O (Pro) ($35,800, 332 Lockhart Road, tel: 2834 1661) and the bath tap ($980 a set) is from Delong (284 Lockhart Road, tel: 2588 1212). The architect wanted a monolithic backdrop that would bring the furniture forward, hence the 600mm x 600mm sandstone-effect floor and wall tiles from Omega Tiles ($100 each, 275 Lockhart Road, tel: 2507 4355). The glass-fronted shower cubicle to the right accommodates a Tylo steam-shower system by Kung Sheung International Company ($18,000, 128 Gloucester Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2511 8338). 6 The dining room features an oak table ($6,000) and chairs with olive-green leather upholstery ($1,800 each) by AFSO. The throw is by Missoni ($5,200, from Lane Crawford). A beige vase (from Cocoon, 21 Staunton Street, Central, tel: 2868 3202) sits on a beige limestone-covered ledge (Po Fung Marble, 240 Lockhart Road, tel: 2598 8286). 7 Tse demonstrates how to set up the guest bed constructed by AFSO. It is integrated with the cupboards, which are spray-lacquered lilac. Oak-veneered folding doors lie flush with the wall and can be pulled across to divide the study from the guest bedroom. TRIED & TESTED In reflection Not a fan of traditional feature lighting such as crystal chandeliers, architect Andre Fu proposed making a more modern statement. 'I like to draw light into a space, especially when it's essentially proportions and lines,' he says. The ceilings were high enough to accommodate two vertical sheets of tinted mirror (designed by AFSO for $3,500) that form a neat sandwich around spotlight fittings. The mirror in the light fitting adds an element of transparency, as with a lantern or chandelier. The mirror ends high enough off the ground so it doesn't cause an obstruction.