Lunar New Year has inspired many a home spring clean but journalist Kate Whitehead decided to take it a step further. Having spent Christmas in Britain, she returned to Hong Kong at the beginning of January with an overwhelming urge to redecorate her Mid-Levels apartment.

“I’ve lived in this flat for seven years so I don’t know whether it was the seven-year itch or a New Year thing but I really wanted to give it a different look and feel,” she says.

READ MORE - Minimalist chic: a Hong Kong apartment shows how it's done

Whitehead, who has lived in Hong Kong since she was eight, had gutted and renovated her 550 sq ft, onebedroom apartment when she bought it so there wasn’t much to do on that front. The all-white walls were her first target.

“I’d gone for the logic that says a small flat needs light colours to increase its sense of space,” she says. “But when I got back from the UK, I knew I wanted something that looked a bit more European.”

Her sister, who lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, had got her hooked on grey but although Whitehead trawled through paint shops in Wan Chai, she couldn’t find the shade she had in mind. Fortunately, a friend introduced her to Eico Paints and Whitehead discovered that the eco-friendly paint company would make the shade she envisaged if it didn’t already exist. She spent a couple of hours at its studio in Wong Chuk Hang, mixing colours on a computer, until she created two tones that hit the spot.

“Creating the colours was such fun and I even got to name them,” she says. “I called one ‘Gecko Grey’ and the other ‘Morning Trail’, after the hike up to The Peak, which I love doing. Morning Trail, with which I’ve decorated my bedroom, seems to change colour with the light – more greeny by day and greyish at night – a bit like the scenery when you hike.”

Testimony to Whitehead’s eye for colour is the fact that Eico co-founder Joakim Cimmerbeck added her shades to his catalogue for general purchase.

Whitehead kept most of her furniture but swapped the sofa between the study and dining area for two armchairs: one, vintage-style, in brown leather and the other an eye-catching yellow.

“I wanted to replace the sofa as I was sick of constantly walking round it but I never thought I would have gone for a yellow chair,” she says. “I think it works well with the grey and adds a splash of colour to the space.”

Lighting was also key to creating the mood and style of home Whitehead had in mind. Rather than bright spotlights she prefers to use lamps – such as a small, wall-mounted reading light next to the leather armchair and a pendant lamp over the dining table – to delineate different areas.

Space-saving devices abound in Whitehead’s flat, particularly in the bedroom. The bed has storage space beneath it and she blocked up one of three windows and a window seat in the room with a neat, built-in linen cupboard and shelf. A voracious reader, Whitehead had amassed a huge collection of books and says she had to throw out more than 800 when she renovated because they took up too much room. In remembrance, she covered one of the bedroom walls with bookshelf printed wallpaper.

“A home isn’t a home without books,” she says. “The wallpaper makes the bedroom feel warmer, cosier and more interesting without taking up any space at all.”

Wanting to begin the Year of the Monkey with a fresh, new look, Whitehead managed to finish her apartment’s makeover in a month and is delighted with the result.

“It is exactly what I wanted,” she says. “My existing pieces of furniture and the flooring stand out more against the

grey and I don’t think it looks cold or dark at all. It’s proof you can definitely get away with grey in a small flat.”

Styling: David Roden

Dining area The Mountview copper ceiling light (£125/HK$1,350) was from Rockett St George (, in Britain. The dining table (HK$12,000) and chairs (HK$800 each) all came from Di-mension (2/F, Eastern Centre, 1065 King’s Road, Quarry Bay, tel: 2246 8382). The large mirror (HK$6,500), by the dining table, and the smaller one (HK$4,500), on the opposite wall, were both custom made by a shop in Wan Chai that has since closed. The World of Suzie Wong movie poster was bought many years ago from Picture This (tel: 2525 2820; The lamp by the window was HK$400 from a market in Cambodia.

Study The desk (HK$12,500) came from Indigo Living (6/F, Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 2555 0540) and the white wooden blinds were HK$4,800 from Yingho Curtain (Loyong Court, 212 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2706 1338). The green lamp was HK$600 from a Shanghai flea market and the green ceramic pot was about HK$300 from a market in Laos. The Native Union Moshi Moshi retro green phone extension was bought at G.O.D. (various locations; years ago.

Living and dining area (above and below) The Penywern copper ceiling light (£99) was from Rockett St George. The filing cabinet (HK$2,500) came from Homeless (29 Gough Street, Central, tel: 2581 1880) and the yellow chair (HK$5,680) from Home Essentials (33 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central, tel: 2870 1400). The Markus office chair (HK$1,990), recommended by Kate Whitehead’s physiotherapist, was from Ikea. The brown leather chair (HK$12,900) came from Shambala (1/F, Horizon Plaza, tel: 2877 3295) and the wall light (£65) was from Rockett St George. The cowhide rug (HK$2,900) was from HKHideRugs (2/F, Tin On Sing Commercial Building, 41 Graham Street, Central, tel: 2790 3801). The walls and floor-to-ceiling cupboards are painted in Gecko Grey (HK$2,500) from Eico Paints (2B Evergreen Industrial Mansion, 12 Yip Fat Street, Wong Chuk Hang, tel: 5367 6716).

Bedroom The Morning Trail paint cost HK$1,500 from Eico Paints and the Grandeco Library Book Shelf wallpaper cost £8 a roll from Go Wallpaper ( The Chiswick wall lamps in clay (£30 each) and the white vintage metal star (£39) were all from Rockett St George. The teddy bear was a gift from Whitehead’s grandparents when she was born. The oak flooring used throughout the apartment was HK$20,000 from Wonderfloor International (271 Lockhart Road, tel: 2728 9373).

Kitchen The blinds were HK$1,800 from Yingho Curtain Company. The tiles and cabinets all came from shops in Wan Chai years ago .

Bathroom The bathroom was renovated seven years ago, at which time the basin, from Lockhart Road, was installed.



Mirror, mirror on the wall To maximise the light in the apartment and create an illusion of space and depth, Kate Whitehead hung two large mirrors on opposite walls outside the kitchen and across the dining area. The mirror in the dining area reflects the rest of the living space, which in turn is reflected in the mirror outside the kitchen.