It was love at first sight for Agnes Chan when, in 2012, she visited The Orchards, in Quarry Bay, to view a two-bedroom apartment with high ceilings and knockout views of Mount Butler. Despite buying the place four years ago, it was only last year - after the expiration of a tenancy agreement - that she could start renovations and move in.
"I like a clean, white look. It fits with my lifestyle. I like the simple life," says Chan.
No surprise then that she is drawn to a minimalist aesthetic under which design elements are pared right back and clutter is forbidden. She had sought to achieve a similar decor in her previous home, a few minutes walk away, but the higher ceilings of her new place, which also boasts plenty of natural light, allowed her to fully exploit this approach.
"The flat is south-facing, which means it gets lots of light and is never cold in winter," says Chan, who works in property development.
She had a strong idea about the look and feel she wanted, but was open to ideas about how to achieve it. On the recommendation of an architect friend she persuaded Anthony Lei Chi-son, design director at EMCS, to take on the project.
"It's not often that a Hong Kong client requests a minimalist look. They usually want something busier, with more decoration, so this was a good opportunity to do something different," says Lei.
Chan also wanted to open up the flat, take down the non-structural walls, create an open-plan kitchen and turn the second bedroom into a walk-in wardrobe.
Lei discussed the project with Chan last year, just before he travelled to Spain, where he chanced upon something that gave him the idea for one of the flat's most striking design elements.
"I took inspiration for the bathroom from the hotel [Silken Puerta America] I stayed at in Madrid - it had an oval-shaped glass wall and a membrane ceiling," says Lei.
The plan to knock down the bathroom wall and replace it with a glass one featuring clear and frosted stripes was greeted with surprise by some of Chan's friends, but she liked the way the curved glass made the bedroom and dressing area seem lighter and more spacious. The striped pattern is continued on the bedroom wall. A sliding door with a minimalist handle (see Tried + tested), between the bedroom and the living area, allows for privacy when guests want to use the washroom.
Opening up the kitchen means Chan, who finds cooking relaxing, can enjoy the view of green hills from the space and chat to friends when catering for dinner gatherings. Lei worked with a kitchen specialist to design the layout and cabinets and helped choose the materials, which included quartz stone for the counters.
"The most challenging aspect of doing a minimalist design is that you have to pay special attention to the design details," says Lei. "The dimensions of the room, the proportions, are critical with a minimalist look as you are more aware of spacial qualities - any flaw would be magnified."
His careful attention to detail is seen in the shallow recess that enhances the area above the doorway leading to the bedroom, and recessed skirting boards that are flush with the wall and appear seamless, with only a shadow gap delineating them.
A minimalist look isn't possible without ample storage, which is why space was devoted to discreet wardrobes, cupboards and drawers throughout the apartment. An oversized shoe cupboard near the front door houses all of Chan's footwear; the walk-in wardrobe accommodates her clothes; and there is storage beside and under the bed.
"I work hard from Monday to Friday and the weekends are my quiet time to be at home, cook and, perhaps, have some friends over," says Chan. "This is my retreat."
Styling: David Roden
Bedroom The curved cabinet beside the bed (HK$10,200) and curved light trough (HK$6,750) over it were built by EMCS’ inhouse contractor EMCS Design (12/F, King Yip Factory Building, 59 King Yip Street, Kwun Tong, tel: 3993 2615).
Living area Enjoying mountain views and a small balcony, the lounge is furnished simply with a white leather sofa (HK$55,000) from Decor Collection (51A Wong Nai Chung Road, Happy Valley, tel: 2881 7283) and a footstool (HK$400) from FrancFranc (various outlets; www.francfranc.com.hk). The television console was made by EMCS Design for HK$4,000.
Dining area The dining table (HK$7,000) and chairs (HK$2,000 each) came from Ovo Home (1Wan Chai Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2527 6011). The timber flooring (HK$52 per square foot) used throughout most of the flat came from Wan Fong Flooring (15/F, Block A, Phase 1, Kwai Shing Industrial Building, 36 Tai Lin Pai Road, Kwai Chung, tel: 2425 0009).
Walk-in dressing area The wardrobe (HK$17,600) and cabinet (HK$6,800) were built by EMCS Design. The footstool was HK$200 from G.O.D. (various outlets; www.god.com.hk).
Kitchen The cabinetry (HK$75,000) was made by Chevalier (3/F, Chevalier Engineering Service Centre, 21 Sheung Yuet Road, Kowloon Bay, tel: 2111 4725) and the quartz-stone countertop (HK$16,000) by Cosentino (22/F, CC Wu Building, 302 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2111 5858).
Bedroom detail The custom-made sliding door, built by EMCS Design for HK$5,700, separates the living area from the bedroom. The laundry basket was HK$150 from Muji (various outlets; www.muji.com.hk).
Bathroom The bathroom cabinet (HK$4,500), with quartz-stone counter (HK$2,500), were built by EMCS Design, as was the stainless-steel cabinet beside the mirror (HK$4,000, including mirror). The tiles were HK$65 per square foot from G.E.T. (173 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2866 7618). The rain shower was HK$5,033 from Galaxy Bathroom Collection (12/F, Siu On Centre, 188 Lockhart Road, tel: 2519 8188). The basin (HK$2,020) came from SL Gallery (361 Lockhart Road, tel: 2598 0298) and the mixer (HK$10,710) was from Colourliving (333 Lockhart Road, tel: 2295 6263).
TRIED + TESTED
Hide and chic The 3.15-metre-high ceiling allowed for a 30cm false ceiling that not only hides a structural beam but also houses the air-conditioning system. The main unit is stored above the bathroom and means that unsightly air-conditioners do not spoil the clean, minimalist look. In the bedroom, the additional ceiling depth allowed for a curved light trough that makes for mood lighting.