Staying in Pok Fu Lam was the priority for Heather and James Francombe when they decided to downsize from a family home to an apartment. The Scottish couple, who have lived in Hong Kong since the early 1970s and who raised their children in the area, love it for its safety and convenience: Heather teaches health care management at the nearby University of Hong Kong and the new transport links are a bonus.

After viewing more than 15 properties, the couple came across a three-bedroom flat on quiet Mount Davis Road last year. Their first impressions of what is now a bright and open apartment were not great, however. The corridor linking the living area with the bedrooms was narrow, dark and overly long, recalls interior designer Debi Yeung-Salansy, of Debi Yeung Design. “It was like a bowling alley.”

However, the Francombes, with Yeung-Salansy’s advice, went ahead with the purchase.

“We were convinced there were things we could do to open up and improve the space,” Heather says.

Converting the 1,500 sq ft apartment from what had been a family home into a minimalist retirement pad took about five months. As well as the main bedroom, with en-suite bathroom, there is a guest bedroom for visiting children and grandchildren, and a study.

Yeung-Salansy installed a pair of sliding glass doors on two sides of the study, which can be opened as needed into the guest bedroom and the corridor to create more space and allow light to flood into the otherwise dark office.

Although the Francombes offloaded years’ worth of belongings they still needed ample storage. The couple have no live-in helper, so Yeung-Salansy proposed converting the small bedroom and bathroom behind the kitchen into a utility and storage area. This allowed for deep cupboards that could accommodate large items such as suitcases and it also meant Yeung-Salansy could steal some of the space to create an inset bookshelf in the corridor.

Two bathrooms were considered “essential for keeping the marriage happy” but the most important room for James, a keen cook, was the kitchen, which proved to be contentious. Heather and Yeung-Salansy favoured an open set-up that would flow freely into the living areas while James wanted the room to be closed off from the sitting area.

A compromise was reached in the form of an open kitchen with bar area that can be closed off with bi-fold windows to contain cooking odours.

“It’s useful to have when you’re cooking with a wok,” Heather admits.

For Heather, who loves gardening, a balcony where she could keep her collection of plants was crucial. The outside space is relatively small but once the sliding doors are thrown open, it feels like a natural extension of the living room.

Surrounded by green views, the bright and airy retirement pad shows downsizing can, in fact, be downright liberating.

Sitting room Debi Yeung-Salansy, of Debi Yeung Design (, used a classic palette and wood and other natural materials for built-in elements, such as the shelving (HK$18,000). The sofa (HK$11,990), from Indigo (6/F, Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 2555 0540), is complemented by a wing chair (HK$9,270) and ottoman (HK$3,790), both from HC28 (16/F, Horizon Plaza, tel: 2552 8002). The coffee table (HK$3,629) came from BoConcept (73 Wyndham Street, Central, tel: 2668 0027). The television bench (HK$8,950) was from Tree (28/F, Horizon Plaza, tel: 2870 1582) and the Haiku ceiling fan (HK$7,950) from Big Ass Fans (8/F, Tai Yau Building, 181 Johnston Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2836 5808). The globe table lamp came from Flos (44 Wyndham Street, tel: 2801 7007) several years ago.

Dining area The extendable table (HK$16,450) came from Tree and the chairs (HK$3,000 and HK$3,400 with arms) from Ovo Home (16 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai, tel: 2526 7226). The Barnaby pendant copper light (HK$1,490) was from Indigo Living (various locations; The altar table and red hall stand were bought years ago from Altfield Gallery (Prince’s Building, Central, tel: 2537 6370). Also old are the table lamp and floor lamp, which came from Flos. The modern bar stools (HK$1,350 each) were from Dimensions (51Wong Nai Chung Road, Happy Valley, tel: 3162 3721).

Balcony The balcony affords a view across Pok Fu Lam. The deckchair was bought years from a shop that has since closed.

Kitchen The bar area has proved a magnet for socialising so, despite previous qualms about an open kitchen, is rarely closed. The kitchen cabinetry (HK$180,000) was custom made by Debi Yeung Design, as was the bar top (HK$12,000).

Master bedroom The bedside tables (HK$5,450 each) came from Tree and the reading lamps (HK$3,500 each) from Zodiac Lighting (Amber Commercial Building, 70 Morrison Hill Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2882 9082). The antique cabinet, from Altfield Gallery, came from the couple’s previous home. The photograph above the bed is by John Butlin ([email protected]).

Master bathroom The basin (HK$2,000), base cabinet (HK$18,000), mirrored cabinet (HK$4,500) and toilet (HK$3,000) were all sourced from Classic Bathroom Accessories (249 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2802 0328).

Study The study can be used to expand the space of the guest room next door by opening sliding glass doors. The built-in bookshelves (HK$28,000) were designed and built by Debi Yeung Design. The desk (HK$12,450) came from Tree and the chair (HK$3,400) from Ovo Home. The framed poster was from Picture This ( Beneath it is an antique cabinet from the couple’s previous home.



Stick that in your pipe A keen gardener, Helen Francombe wanted to make watering the plants on the balcony easy. To do so, overhead piping was installed from the kitchen to an outside tap, to avoid the mess and inconvenience of carrying watering cans through the apartment. The piping is hidden by a shallow shelf into which spotlights have been installed. The structure and labour cost about HK$15,000.