“It’s so not Hong Kong.” That backhanded compliment, often used, unfairly perhaps, to describe unusual homes in the city, is perfectly apt in the case of Rebekka Kristin’s two-bedroom Sai Kung flat.
The property has the feel of a French cottage, with Scandinavian touches, in a bucolic environment. In addition, the layout is atypical: the main bedroom is part of the open living area, and closed off only with glass bi-fold doors. Then there’s the bathroom, which feels as though it belongs on a boat.
The 700 sq ft scenic ground-floor apartment is special for another reason: upon its purchase, Kristin’s family and friends all pitched in to refurbish the dark, unloved unit into a pretty, welcoming flat that screams “holiday”. It is listed on Airbnb, the website through which Kristin, an Icelander, rents out her home when she and her three-year-old daughter, Briet, are out of town.
However, despite looking as though it was designed to be a holiday home, the flat, she says, was revamped exactly to suit her style. It was also renovated on a tight budget.
Having a builder for a father helped. As did the fact he had already come to Hong Kong, to renovate the homes of Kristin’s brother and sister, also Sai Kung residents.
“It was perfect because I could float all the ideas I had,” says Kristin, LinkedIn’s head of sales for North Asia. “We had all the time in the world to discuss things – we could do it just over Sunday dinner.
“I said I liked white and wood but I didn’t want three different types of wood. I wanted it consistent.”
That’s where her brother, Bjarki Gardarsson, came in handy. He and a neighbour in Kristin’s village flew to Melbourne, Australia, to select Tasmanian oak planks from a warehouse being demolished.
“We got it for free; we just had to pay for the shipping,” Kristin says, explaining that they imported enough timber for three homes – her brother’s, her neighbour’s and her own. “The magic lies in the finishing. [Gardarsson] sanded his right down and varnished it; I wanted mine matt, and looking all different and old.”
Her father, Gardar Eggertsson, used the wood for the flooring in the flat and on the terrace, plus for the kitchen countertop, window sills and doors. It was also used to accommodate a barbecue and clad a tool shed.
Kristin’s sister, Hulda Thorey, helped with the decor.
“She’s good at putting things in place and seeing the bigger picture,” says Kristin. “We gathered ideas on Pinterest and together we created the concept, and then she took me furniture shopping.” Friends also lent a hand. “I used to play rugby and got my rugby girls here,” Kristin says. “I have pictures of them stapling all the insulation into the ceiling and we all took turns knocking the walls down.”
Insulation is another way in which Kristin’s flat distinguishes itself. Lowering the ceiling to accommodate batts and whitewashed battens, however, was not something her father supported.
“He said it was going to make the whole place feel a lot smaller … but this adds character.”
Kristin and her father clashed on one other aspect, now the flat’s biggest feature. He was reluctant to remove the wall to the terrace and replace it with glass doors, so that one end of the flat could be completely open.
“He said it was going to be too hot, too humid and that it would look good but he doubted I’d ever use it,” says Kristin.
There were no hard feelings, however.
“Dad is a reasonable and logical man. He was very easy,” she says.
But was he right?
“I find myself using [the terrace] as an extension of the living room … even in winter,” says Kristin, laughing. “I also like waking up to the view and the sun.”
Terrace To make the most of the view, Rebekka Kristin lowered the balcony fence and placed timber on top to create seating. Her father, Gardar Eggertsson, designed and made the lounges, table and bench.
Living area Kristin decided early in the renovation that blue would be her theme colour and shopped accordingly. The sofa (HK$9,950) came from SofaSale. com.hk (10/F, Lok’s Industrial Building, 204 Tsat Tsz Mui Road, Quarry Bay, tel: 2541 1230) and the cushions (no longer sold) from Ikea (various locations; www.ikea.com.hk). Bought second hand were the coffee table (through www.asiaxpat.com.hk) and, tucked into a corner, the white table and stool. The pair of white pendant lamps (HK$1,000 for both, including delivery) were acquired through www.alibaba.com.hk. The white tray (HK$299) on the coffee table came from Shambala (2/F, Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 2555 2997). The heartshaped wall decoration (7,900 krona/HK$450) came from Icelandic shop Puko & Smart (www.pukoogsmart.is). By the faux-brick wall are two Shambala cabinets; the one accommodating plates cost HK$7,100 and the one below the mirror was HK$6,279.
Reading area The small rocker (HK$399), clocks (HK$399 each) and cushions (HK$199 each) came from Ikea. The large rocker, cabinet by the window and the Ikea chaise longue were picked up second hand through the Sai Kung Marketplace group on Facebook. The floor lamp (HK$3,900) was from Shambala and the table lamp was a gift. Kristin has had the tall mirror for years.
Main bedroom Carved out of the living area with bifold doors, the main bedroom is furnished with a bed bought several years ago from Ikea, from where the curtains (HK$120 a pair) were also sourced. The suspended ceiling lamp (HK$1,375) came from Homeless (various locations; www.homeless.hk).
Daughter’s room Briet sleeps in a room at the back of the flat. The bed (HK$3,490), cushions (from HK$149 to HK$249), rug (HK$699) and curtains (HK$120 a pair) all came from Ikea. The desk lamp was a gift and the rattan box was bought a long time ago.
Bathroom The tub (HK$850) was sourced online from YMS Sanitary Ware (www.yms-bath.com), in mainland China. The light fixtures (no longer sold) came from Ikea. The same wood, which came from a warehouse being torn down in Victoria, Australia, was used to clad the tub walls and floor. The toilet (HK$1,350) came from Foshan Winbo (fswinbo.en.alibaba.com).
Island life Though made of Ikea Hittarp cover panels (HK$335 for 61.5cm by 80cm) and Ikea Metod drawers (HK$3,495 per set), Rebekka Kristin and Gardar Eggertsson created a unique kitchen island by building a countertop with wood (the same as that which features on the floor) and using faux-brick tiles at one end to mimic the apartment walls. The island cost a total of HK$21,000 (excluding the stovetop and oven). The overhead lighting was bought online through Amazon for HK$3,000 (plus HK$150 per bulb). The two pendant lamps (HK$699 each), mirror (HK$1,190) and candleholders (HK$100 each) all came from Ikea. The stools were a gift.
Styling: David Roden