Turning an antiques workshop into a unique loft apartment realised a designer's lifelong dream to own the ultimate open-plan home. Loft apartments are popular in cities around the world for many reasons: they boast high ceilings, large windows and the kind of fluid design that allows you to live and move freely. Devoid of internal walls, they are often converted commercial spaces that encourage eclectic makeovers combining the old and the new. Marc Brulhart's Sheung Wan home, a former antiques workshop and showroom, is a rare Hong Kong equivalent of the lofts that set the trend in New York years ago, when alternative uses were found for decrepit industrial buildings. 'Since I was a kid, I've wanted a loft,' says Brulhart, a founding partner of Marc & Chantal Design (room 401, Arion Commercial Centre, 2 Queen's Road West, Sheung Wan, tel: 2543 7744; www.marc-chantal.com ) who once occupied an attic in Switzerland. Essentially open-plan, his 2,000 sq ft apartment features a sliding panel that closes to create a private bedroom with en suite bathroom. Beside the kitchen, a guest bedroom, with its own bathroom and utilities area, is hidden behind shelving. Elsewhere, spaces segue from the entrance, where Brulhart kept the original red feature wall, now hung, gallery-style, with his collection of art, to the games zone, at the far end. In between are a sitting area, a kitchen with a large island on which food is prepared and eaten, and a lounge, which features two striking self-designed sofas. Another original feature Brulhart was keen to preserve was the concrete floor because it has a history. 'It has stains from the lacquer they used on Chinese cabinets and there's newspaper print in parts,' he says. 'It's like a piece of art.' The industrial look contrasts with the opulent kitchen, in which everyday items are hidden in commodious cupboards. Marble (for countertops), mirrored glass (for cupboards in the base of the island) and Zebrano wood (for shelving that extends from the kitchen to the second bedroom) have been used for a touch of glam. To conceal lights and pipes, among other things, Brulhart installed a false ceiling in this zone. But it wasn't only for aesthetic reasons, he says. 'I wanted to create a mini area around the kitchen that feels a bit more cosy.' Although the kitchen is the hub of activity when there are guests, the sunken bath in the master bathroom is the main attraction when children are around. Brulhart took advantage of a disused staircase directly beneath to build the tub flush with the floor. Frosted glass affords the en suite bathroom a degree of privacy, although it deserves to be on show. The space was converted from a toilet with a hole in the ground to what it is today: a bright, modern bathroom that wouldn't be out of place in a hip hotel. Opposite the sliding door is Brulhart's bed, which sits in the middle of the room; behind is a door leading to an outdoor area, on one side are cupboards and in front is a sliding panel, mirrored on the inside and painted white on the outside. Except for the bathrooms and kitchen, living spaces can change with the seasons in Brulhart's light-filled flat. So, although it seems perfectly positioned in a corner with windows along two sides, the pool table may soon be moving to the entrance. He also plans to place a television in an antique chest fitted with a lifting mechanism. This, too, can be moved at whim. Does he miss having walls? The instant answer is no. 'I love to be free,' says Brulhart. 'It's especially important in Hong Kong, where there's the feeling of always being in a box.' styling Esther van Wijck 1 A pool table stands at one end of the flat, in front of which are two sofas designed by Marc Brulhart for HK$4,000 each. The rug cost HK$600 from Ikea (various locations; www. ikea.com.hk) and the cowhide rocking chair was found on the street and reupholstered. The round floor lamp cost HK$500 from G.O.D. 2 Brulhart's bed (custom made for HK$3,500 by his contractor, Paul Mak of Po Shing Decoration Engineering, tel: 2544 0155) forms an island in his bedroom. The wooden clothes hanger came from G.O.D., the artwork behind the bed is by Warren Leung Chi-wo and the painting by the bathroom is by Filipino Alfredo Esquillo, who is represented by John Batten Gallery (tel: 2854 1018; www.johnbattengallery.com ). 3 Labellebleu erotic figurines ( www.labellebleu.com ) occupy shelves outside the semi-private en suite bathroom and cost from HK$450 to HK$650 each. The basin cost HK$3,700 from DC Caroma (tel: 2421 0383), the tap cost HK$600 from Vincent Sanitary Ware (288 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2511 2687) and the custom-made mirror cost HK$1,200 from Golden Field Glass Works (16 Square Street, Sheung Wan, tel: 2549 0123). The bathroom floor tiles cost HK$7,000 from Wonder (160 Lockhart Road, tel: 2511 8629). 4 The marble-topped kitchen island with mirrored base is the centre of attention in the flat and contrasts with the industrial concrete flooring throughout. It cost HK$38,000 to custom make. The stools came from Ikea. 5 The splashback in the kitchen is an eye-popping green painted glass. It is teamed with marble and Zebrano wood, used for the cabinets and shelves. The tap was a gift. 6 A painting by Andrew Chan (from Amelia Johnston Contemporary, 6 Shin Hing Street, Central, tel: 9134 4054) hangs opposite the front door. To the side is the guest bedroom, partially hidden behind shelving that starts in the kitchen area. The tubular chair cost HK$4,000 from a shop since closed. 7 The original red wall makes a statement at the entrance, which features a white chair with semi-circular arm rests from a shop since closed, a blue armchair and ottoman that cost about HK$7,000 from Louvre Gallery (11 Duddell Street, Central, tel: 2526 8400) and a Chinese chest that cost HK12,000 from Chine Gallery (42A, Hollywood Road, Central, tel: 2543 0023). Spotlights here and elsewhere in the flat cost HK$900 each from Luen Hing Lighting (Flat A, 10/F, Hang Fung Industrial Building, 2G Hok Yuen Street, Hung Hom, tel: 2330 8444). tried & tested separate ways Loft dwellers may love living without walls but sometimes partitions are needed for privacy. To shield the master bedroom from the living areas, Marc Brulhart, of Marc & Chantal Design (room 401, Arion Commercial Centre, 2 Queen's Road West, Sheung Wan, tel: 2543 7744; www.marc-chantal.com ), came up with a sliding panel, which he normally uses to hide kitchen odds and ends. When necessary, it can be moved to conceal the bedroom. Because of its dual function, the side viewed from the living room is painted white to blend with the walls and the side facing the bedroom is mirrored.