Many designers turn their noses up at Hong Kong’s shoebox apartments. Not Clifton Leung.

“I love working in a smaller space because you can use it all,” he says.

A prime example is the 452 sq ft Sai Ying Pun flat he dubs the “city transformer”: its sliding wall allows a modest living area to be transformed into multiple spaces.

Newly married couple Jack Ng and Aries Lee Leung last year asked Clifton Leung Design Workshop to renovate their apartment, which is in the same building as Ng’s parents’ flat. Aside from a mesmerising harbour view, the property didn’t hold much appeal.

Leung decided to open up the flat without turning it into a studio and that meant sacrificing one of the two bedrooms.

“I wanted them to experience different living spaces instead of one big room,” he says. “This way, you have options, whether you’re cooking, sleeping or having friends over.”

A long sliding wall between the living room and bedroom enabled Leung’s vision. When the divider is open, the apartment is bright and airy, but the bedroom can be closed off for privacy.

“Sometimes I will watch TV after my wife has gone to sleep,” says Ng.

Mounted on a pole suspended from the ceiling, the television can be swivelled to face the sofa, dining table or bed.

“We watch TV in bed if there are midnight football games,” says Arsenal fan Ng.

Flexibility is found elsewhere in the flat. Leung moved the kitchen, originally squeezed into the far end of the apartment,  closer to the middle, creating a semi-open space, which flows into the living area but is separated from the entrance corridor by a floor-to-ceiling cabinet that can be opened from both sides – doing away with the frustration of trying to access something deep in a unit. Leung also installed a series of shelves on which to display Ng’s collection of Japanese whisky.

“We reinforced those a little more than usual,” jokes the designer.

In the bedroom, Leung built a raised platform for storage. Ng keeps his underwear in the front section of the platform while suitcases and spare clothes are tucked beneath the bed. The platform stops just shy of the bay window so the couple can use its edge as a bench and the windowsill as a desk – stealing glances of the harbour while working side by side on their iMacs.

In terms of aesthetics, Leung created a “simple gallery feel”, with smooth surfaces, a limited number of natural materials and diffuse lighting. White-stained oak floors mirror the white walls and laminated plywood was used for the custom-built sliding doors, cabinets, bedroom platform and shelves.

“I like the character because you can see the exposed edges – it’s more raw,” he says.

Leung capped the edges of the sliding doors with black metal to provide contrast.

Slightly recessed ceilings filled with LED lights give the flat an ambient glow; the only standalone light fixture is a geometric pendant lamp above the kitchen table. All the lighting is remote controlled, with the devices holstered to the walls next to the front door and the bed.

Ng says he’s happy with the result. The space is comfortable whether he and Lee are cooking, spending time alone or entertaining friends.

“You can do a lot here.”  

Living room and bedroom The sofa (HK$14,864) was from Indigo (various locations; Clifton Leung, of Clifton Leung Design Workshop (3/F, 128 Wellington Street, Central, tel: 3106 8384), custom built the TV mount (HK$1,800) and the storage unit underneath (HK$9,400).

Living room detail To the left of the bedroom door is a shoe cabinet (HK$13,000) with a niche in the middle. It was built by Leung, as were the front door (HK$16,500), the sliding door to the bedroom (HK$39,000) and the shelves above the kitchen sink (HK$18,800). The lampshade, named “Rock” (HK$7,200), came from Diesel Living (various locations; The engineered oak wood floor (HK$36,000) came from Solar Lake (4/F, Ngan House, 210 Des Voeux Road Central, tel: 2838 9986).

Kitchen The cabinets, built by Leung, cost a total of HK$99,700. The sliding door cost HK$22,000.

Bedroom Leung built all of the bedroom furniture, including the shelves (HK$14,400) and the desk (HK$24,400).

Bedroom detail The bed and raised platform, which conceals several storage compartments, cost HK$41,700.

Bathroom The shower (HK$3,190) came from Grohe (23/F, Sino Plaza, 255 Gloucester Road, Causeway Bay, tel: 2806 0611). The basin (HK$2,760) was from Toto (1/F, East Town Building, 41 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2238 2628). Leung built the mirrored cabinet for HK$9,500.

Wardrobe Leung built the drawers (HK$22,560) by the side of the platform. The circular rug (HK$500) came from Ikea (various locations;


Space craft The dining area is narrow but Clifton Leung, of Clifton Leung Design Workshop, wanted his clients to have a full-sized table, so he built an alcove into a cabinet to accommodate one. A portion of the table slides into the alcove, to save space when not in use.

The dining table (HK$8,000) came from Tree (various locations;; dining chairs (HK$2,500 each) from Muji (various locations;; and Osaka dining bench (HK$3,960) from Homeless (various locations;