Fit to be tried

The first thing a brand-conscious couple did when planning their new home was to find like-minded designers, writes Charmaine Chan

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 March, 2016, 5:10pm

In the case of architect Keith Chan, it was a light-blue shirt with patchwork shoulders. For his partner, Will Ng, it was his striped wallet. These two items persuaded Silas Leung and Taz Tong, a young, brand-conscious couple, to have the pair design the first home in which they would live as husband and wife.

'We met at a Starbucks,' says Chan, referring to their meeting last year with Leung and Tong. 'When they saw Will's Paul Smith wallet and my Comme des Garcons shirt, they knew we were the right people [for them] because we had the same interest in fashion and our style was similar.'

First impressions taken care of, Chan and Ng, whose company, Designlooop, would rework the couple's 680 sq ft flat, which is above Kowloon station, waited for their wish list.

'The first e-mail listed their toys and pictures; they told me they needed display cabinets and they liked stainless steel,' says Chan, seated in their living room on a three-legged Hans Wegner Shell Chair upholstered in distinctive Paul Smith stripes. On either side of him are the couple's collections of posters and toys by pop artists Kaws (who is known for his signature crosses for eyes) and Yoshitomo Nara (whose cute yet slightly sinister cartoon depictions of children and pets Tong started amassing 10 years ago).

The couple were firm about the modern style they liked, so, even before their architects had drawn up a floor plan, they insisted on having, among other things, a swirly Paul Smith rug in front of the sofa and a pair of small, gourd-shaped Scandyna speakers.

Designlooop's own preferences, however, share centre stage with the collectors' items. Fans of Japanese architect Tadao Ando, they installed in the living area their version of his trademark concrete wall with evenly spaced holes.

'This is not real concrete, which is heavy and cracks easily,' says Chan. 'We experimented and used plaster and paint, with a plywood base.'

If it seems authentic, it's because, on a recent trip to Tokyo, Chan visited one of Ando's buildings, fished out a ruler and measured the diameter of the cavities, to be able to create a faithful replica.

Because of strict building rules, the architects were limited in the changes they could make to the flat, although they turned two bedrooms into a combined master bedroom and dressing area. The en-suite bathroom was enlarged to accommodate a tub and shower area, in a style borrowed from the Grand Hyatt Tokyo hotel. Favourite brands are also evident in this wet room, which features mostly Philippe Starck fittings.

They also enlarged the entrance to the office, which now sports a wide sliding door that, when open, bathes the corridor in light and makes the space feel less cramped.

Although the couple sought 'approval' from Designlooop on many of the designer items they wished to buy, Chan says they rarely missed the mark, even with the Arflex sofa, which the architects rejected initially because of its colour: bright red.

'Will and I always reject colourful things,' says Chan. 'But I think the whole flat brightened with it.'

The vivid addition is paired with Starck's Mi Ming armchairs, in which are melded the classic Chinese horseshoe back, in red, and clear polycarbonate, recalling his Louis Ghost chairs.

Brands also abound in the kitchen, designed by Chan and Ng, although Tong admits the Miele appliances are mostly 'decoration' because neither she nor her husband cook. Here, too, the pair followed the advice of their designers, who suggested a blackboard door with a difference (see Tried + tested).

Having lived in the flat for a couple of months, Tong and Leung are glad they followed their instincts in choosing the designers. Chan, however, brushes off the compliment, saying, 'They needed a home for their toys and designer furniture; their requests were simple.'

1 Tadao Ando-inspired concrete-look panels are accessorised with Kaws' posters and Yoshitomo Nara artwork. The Arflex sofa, designed by Mario Marenco, cost HK$88,600 from Dentro (Wilson House, 19 Wyndham Street, Central, tel: 2866 8829). Hans Wegner's Shell Chair, updated with Paul Smith fabric, was HK$30,000 from Lane Crawford Home Store (Pacific Place, Admiralty, tel: 2118 3668), which was also the source for Paul Smith's Swirl rug (HK$13,300) and the pipette-like Stadler Form air purifier (HK$3,000). Hsu-li Teo and Stefan Kaiser's Sticks room divider cost HK$5,000 from Design Link (1/F, Ruttonjee Centre, 11 Duddell Street, Central, tel: 2868 0991).

2 The-en suite bathroom was enlarged to accommodate a tub and wood-plank shower area. The Starck 2 toilet, by Philippe Starck for Duravit, cost HK$4,900 from Sky One Decorator (unit C2, 6/F, 3 Wing Ming Street, Cheung Sha Wan, tel: 3591 3021). The Bali toilet-roll holder by Umbra was HK$380 from Homeless (29 Gough Street, Central, tel: 2581 1880).

3 The kitchen, designed by Designlooop and built by contractor Sam Wong (tel: 6287 9177), cost HK$65,000 and features a Corian counter, Formica cabinets and Miele appliances.

4 Flanking the oak veneer and stainless-steel dining table, built by the contractor, are stainless-steel display cabinets accommodating the residents' collections of Nara and Kaws' toys. The Mi Ming armchairs, by Philippe Starck, cost HK$4,880 each from Kitchen Square (The Sun's Group Centre, 200 Gloucester Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2838 6218). The mirror ball pendant lamp by Tom Dixon was HK$6,000 from Lane Crawford Home Store.

5 The couple's love of brands is also evident in the study, the entrance of which was widened to make the room seem spacious. The colourful Fritz Hansen clothes stand (HK$8,840), the Manana floor lamp by Marie-Louise Gustafsson for Design House Stockholm (HK$5,000) and Established & Sons' Buggs pendant lamp (HK$9,500), all came from Lane Crawford Home Store. Kaws' wall clock and mat are part of Silas Leung's collection. The bench, by George Nelson for Herman Miller, cost HK$9,000 from Posh (Hong Kong Trade Centre, 161 Des Voeux Road Central, tel: 2851 0899).

6 Taz Tong's dressing table, at one end of the master bedroom, enjoys an open view and features the Fusilli mirror (HK$5,580) from Sky One Decorator. The Dream Mirror (HK$2,500), whose stand resembles a woman's arm, was from Design Link. The Heidi stool, by Sebastian Wrong for Established & Sons, cost HK$4,900 from Lane Crawford Home Store.

7 Kaws cushions and dolls can also be found in the master bedroom. The Melampo wall lamps were HK$1,800 each from Artemide (1/F, Ruttonjee Centre, tel: 2523 0333).

Tried + tested

Blackboard magic Most people use blackboard paint to make flat surfaces, such as doors, do double-duty. But, Keith Chan of Designlooop (tel: 9727 0696; says, the material often doesn't wipe clean. That's why he and partner Will Ng used Formica plastic laminate, which they stuck on the kitchen door over an iron plate, turning it into a magnetic blackboard.

Styling David Roden