In the heart of Central, clever architectural gymnastics turned a flat with an awkward floor plan and few windows into a light, spacious retreat from the busy city. In the search for a new home, it often takes one unique feature to make or break it. In the case of Tom Hall and Chai Santos-Hall, it is the stunning frosted-glass skylight in their apartment in Central. Fortunately, they found the right architect to accentuate its effect. Hall was familiar with the work of K plus K (tel: 2541 6828), having asked the practice to design his offices and a series of villas in Bali, Indonesia. He felt comfortable entrusting the apartment to the firm's partners, twins Johnny and Paul Kember. They set about it in their usual manner - gutting the interior and starting again. Despite the generous 1,000-square-foot space, Hall had some tough requirements in terms of what had to be shoehorned in. He and his wife wanted open-plan living but they also wanted a guestroom and guest bathroom. 'We had to do some serious reconstruction to try to open the apartment up and it was a bit of a challenge to get the guest suite in without it taking a chunk out of the main living space,' says Paul. Who needs a view when the sky is one's ceiling? The pyramidal light-well creates a natural heart to the apartment. 'It's the central space, not only in terms of living and socialising, but it's the main natural light source for the whole apartment,' says Paul. Previously, walls enclosed the skylight, but these were removed to create a sense of space and visual continuity. An open kitchen is de rigueur, but when there's heavy-duty cooking in progress glass doors can be rolled out to trap the steamy smells. The same applies to the bedroom on the opposite side of the dining room, which has an acoustically sealed glass wall and door to mute sounds from the living area. The flat's awkward floor plan demanded clever architectural gymnastics. From the main entrance, the living room curves around to the dining area, guided by walls of discreet storage. These fulfil another job, papering over dysfunctional corners and unsavoury columns. 'We tucked it all away as neatly as possible so one isn't aware of huge amounts of storage protruding into the space,' says Paul. One of the twins' trademarks is their meticulous attention to edges, which are either extended or smoothed off to bend effortlessly around corners. A perennial problem with Hong Kong apartments is air-conditioning. Typically, there were plenty of beams intersecting the ceiling in the living room. 'There were quite a few differentials in levels,' says Paul, 'but we used them to our advantage in concealing the air-conditioning.' The architects cut a hole in the ceiling and mounted the air-conditioner in it. Cold air circulates in the hole before descending gently to permeate the room. 1 From the main entrance, looking towards the dining area domed by the large skylight, the living space is cocooned by streamlined walls and ceiling. Stark white is muted by natural elements such as the bamboo floor (from Jeb Asia, 50B Boat Quay, Singapore, tel: 65 6535 3886; www.jeb.com.sg ) that spans the entire apartment. The armchair was purchased from Lane Crawford (Pacific Place, Admiralty, tel: 2118 3668). 2 White walls provide a gallery-style backdrop for artwork. The green resin vase was bought from Lane Crawford. Confident enough to marry old and new, the owners put together a red lacquered altar table (from Altfield Gallery, shop 248, Prince's Building, Central, tel: 2537 6370) and a triptych of paintings from Vietnam. 3 Lightweight dining furniture continues the theme of transparency. The glass-topped dining table is a 1946 classic called Reale, by Italian designer extraordinaire Carlo Mollino. It is available in two sizes ($42,700 and $47,900) at Dentro (shop 4, 23 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2866 8829; www.dentro.com.hk ). The 'silver' chairs were designed by Vico Magistretti (1989) for DePadova and are available through Louvre Gallery (Ruttonjee Centre, 11 Duddell Street, Central, tel: 2762 2393) for about $5,000 a chair. The 'XYZ Arm Nomad' cantilevered overhead lighting (about $9,000, from Worldshine, 2 Fung Yip Street, Chai Wan, tel: 2889 3017) can be directed upwards, downwards or onto the artwork for dramatic effect. 4 The double sink unit in the bathroom was designed by K plus K and incorporates the tabletop-mounted taps and mixers with shallow porcelain basins (by Antonio Lupi, www.antoniolupi.it ). 5 Sandstone walls and a limestone floor provide a natural aura to the palette of frosted glass, stainless steel and white porcelain in the master bathroom. The 'Purist' bathtub ($28,000, by Kohler, from Arnhold Design Centres, 315 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2865 0123; www.arnhold.com.hk ) has a deep lip to capture any overspill and a tap ($5,400, from Arnhold) - inserted into the ceiling - that shoots out a stream of water to fill the bath. Another luxury is a small flat-screen television on the wall overlooking the tub. 6 In the master bedroom, a thick white curtain can be pulled across the acoustically sealed glass wall and door to provide privacy. 7 The kitchen can be sealed off from the bright and airy dining area by steel-framed glass doors that slide out from the walls and meet neatly at the corner. A monochromatic pattern in the mosaic wall tiles contrasts with the white walls and offsets the aluminium-finished cabinets and stainless-steel appliances by Smeg (from Grand International, unit 703, Car Po Commercial Building, 18 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central, tel: 2541 8003). The cabinets, hardware and Corian countertop were custom-built by contractor Arcon International (tel: 2798 5068). 8 Display shelves were cleverly recessed into storage walls so nothing interrupts the clean lines. They also provide the opportunity for streaks of colour - orange, red and green form a vibrant palette. Artefacts from various trips are on display - the timber vase was found at the Chatuchak market in Bangkok, while the snake-like letter-holder, made from narra wood and carved by Claude Tayag, and the iron vase, made by Ann Pamintuan, were from B at Home, Makati City, Manila. TRIED & TESTED Cool colour K plus K came up with a low-tech idea to infuse colour into the bathroom. In the ensuite bathroom, they custom-designed a hanging cabinet with sliding translucent panels and glass shelves. Arcon International built the cabinet using circular-door hardware by d-line (from Tung Fat Ho Building Material, tel: 2487 6199). The rear panel of the cabinet is fitted with an orange translucent acrylic sheet, backlit by a series of fluorescent strips. The more toiletries there are on the shelves, the more subtle the light becomes.