Text Christopher DeWolf / Styling David Roden / Photography John Butlin

 

There's a reason people in Hong Kong eat out so often: in this city, it's a pain to cook at home. Kitchens are usually small and designed to be used by one person. For Paul and Morgaine McGee, it was a situation that didn't mesh with their lifestyle.

"We love to cook," says Morgaine. "We do it four or five times a week and it's always a massive spread."

The couple grew up in Connecticut, in the United States, but didn't meet until both were living in Hong Kong (Morgaine works in fashion and Paul in transport). Eight years ago, they had been dating for only a month when Paul decided to buy a flat in a 1960s building. He was living in a high-rise housing estate and was looking for something a little more intimate.

"I couldn't stomach the idea of a big, flashy lobby, and I wanted to live in a real neighbourhood," he says.

With the help of Morgaine, he found what he was looking for in a low-key corner of Mid-Levels.

The 1,137 sq ft apartment needed work, but when the dust finally settled on their first renovation, the McGees weren't entirely satisfied with the result. The kitchen had been squeezed into a narrow slither at the rear of the apartment, which made for some cosy evenings with guests. Two years ago, however, the couple decided to redo the flat and enlisted the help of a friend, architect Cameron Hestler.

This time it was a success.

"It's all about the kitchen," says Morgaine. A year before the second renovation, she had bought a Viking eight-burner gas range and oven. "I was keeping it in storage," she says. "I gave it to Cameron and said, 'Design an apartment around it.'" The result is a one-bedroom apartment oriented towards the living areas, with a large open kitchen, dining room and salon that are always ready to host friends for either casual drinks and tapas, or a big blowout, like the McGee's Christmas party, which drew 100 people. There's even a restaurant-style chalkboard the couple use to announce the evening's menu.

Key to this flexibility is the kitchen's central island, which functions as a casual dining bar and a workspace for serious cooking. Morgaine wanted a textural space, so Hestler contrasted rough granite countertops and granite-like floor tiles with black glass cabinets and stainless steel. A wood table in the dining area helps warm up the space, as do the oatmeal-coloured privacy screens on the floor-to-ceiling windows. In the adjacent living room, a lilac sofa and mottled brown rug add punches of colour, as does the McGees' art collection.

By contrast, the private areas of the apartment are softer in tone, with walnut doors and floors in the bedroom and faux sandstone tiles in the master bathroom. (There's also an adjacent loo for guests.) Just as the kitchen was built around the oven and range, the focus of the bathroom is a luxurious elliptical tub.

"Paul sat in it in the showroom and said, 'Yep, this is the one,'" says Hestler.

Walnut finishes and a moon-shaped frosted window give the bathroom a spa feel.

Paul wanted to keep the apartment free of clutter, so storage was vital.

All told, the apartment counts nine discreet storage spaces, including in the wall next to the bed, above kitchen cabinets and, most surprising of all, a huge space above the bathroom mirror, where the McGees keep their suitcases and an 18-piece dinner set that was a wedding present.

Naturally, it gets plenty of use.

Living room The coffee table (HK$5,000) came from Indigo Living (www.indigo-living.com), as did the sofa (HK$18,230), rug (HK$7,000) and throw pillows (HK$1,150 each). The bar trolley (HK$8,558) came from Restoration Hardware (www.restoration hardware.com), in the United States. The Egg Chair (HK$50,000) was found at Manks (3/F, The Factory, 1 Yip Fat Street, Wong Chuk Hang, tel: 2522 2115). The petrified wood table (HK$4,000) came from Tequila Kola (www.tequilakola.com).

Dining room Morgaine McGee found the dining table (HK$6,500) at Tree (www.tree.com.hk). The dining chairs (HK$2,500 each) were bought from Sofa Sale (sofasale.com.hk). The pendant light (HK$3,500) came from Indigo Living. The sterling-silver fish on the wall was made by California-based artist Ruth Wright ([email protected]). The Trust floor tiles, by Atlas Concorde, were sourced through Pacific Gallery (159 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2827 9918) years ago.

Kitchen Morgaine bought the Viking gas range and oven (HK$186,500 in total) from the Madison Group (3/F, 8 Queen's Road East, Admiralty, tel: 2868 9323) and had the hood custom made by Viking in Germany for HK$75,000. The wine fridge (HK$15,000) was from Vintec (14/F, New East Ocean Centre, 9 Science Museum Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 2733 3888). Cameron Hestler, who worked with contractor Denny Ng of Denny Engineering (tel: 9488 3403), sourced the China Black flamed-finish granite countertop from JES Stone (211 Lockhart Road, tel: 2156 9980) years ago.

Bathroom The Victoria & Albert Napoli bathtub (HK$56,650) came from Colourliving (333 Lockhart Road, tel: 2510 2666), as did the matching sink (HK$10,700). The Atrio tap (HK$8,468), by Grohe, came from Hop Lung Building Materials (298 Lockhart Road, tel: 2802 2296).

Hallway To make room for the new master bathroom, the McGees moved the study into the hallway. The blown glass sculpture was purchased in the US from artist Marcus Thesing (www.marcusthesing.com) and the ceramic fish was found on a trip to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Afghan goatskin kuchi bag was a gift from Morgaine’s sister. The work chair is the same as those by the kitchen island. A shallow shoe cabinet was built between the computer alcove and the door.

Bedroom The decorative pillows (HK$599 to HK$999) and throw (HK$2,000) came from Indigo Living. The rugs were HK$15,000 each from Mir Oriental Carpets (52 Wyndham Street, Central, tel: 2521 5641). The bed was made by Beauty Floor Engineering (272A Lockhart Road, tel: 2556 6286) years ago. The Cirrus Hugger ceiling fan came from Elar (9/F, Phase 2, Vigor Industrial Building, 49 Ta Chuen Ping Street, Kwai Chung, tel: 2164 7228). The bedside LED reading lights were from Metropolis (32 Morrison Hill Road, Causeway Bay, tel: 2893 8686). The walnut bedside shelves were designed by Hestler.

 

Top pot Paul and Morgaine McGee needed a place to store their ample collection of cast-iron pots and pans but they didn't want them dangling from the ceiling. Architect Cameron Hestler created a false stainless-steel ceiling to mask the range-hood exhaust fan, which made for an ideal place to store cooking equipment. A steel bar was installed to prevent the pots and pans from toppling over.