When bankers Yan and Janice Chia decided to renovate their newly purchased flat in Mid-Levels at the start of last year, they didn’t think twice about hiring designer Andrew Bell. Having worked together on a project in 2011, they knew their styles were compatible.

“Janice was familiar with my style, so she mostly left [the design of her new apartment] up to me,” says Bell.

“Most of our discussions were about the realignment of rooms rather than design features.”

Janice recently hosted her close friend, model Rosemary Vandenbroucke’s, hen night, and she shut Yan and their two sons away for the night in the boys’ quarters. Apparently neither party was bothered by the other
Andrew Bell, designer


The couple’s main request was to reorient the layout of the 2,100 sq ft apartment to take full advantage of the green mountain views at the back. To capitalise on these vistas, Bell demolished every possible internal wall, then moved the living areas to the back of the property and relegated the three bedrooms to the front, which overlooks an urban landscape.

Janice also wanted to split the sleeping quarters – the master suite, the bedrooms of her two sons, three-year-old Ollie and Nattie, one, and her helper’s area – into three almost self-contained units, which could be closed off from the rest of the home for privacy. To retain the illusion of open space, however, Bell introduced rippled glass doors, to allow in more light. Sealing strips and 12mm-thick panes provided soundproofing.

“Janice recently hosted her close friend, model Rosemary Vandenbroucke’s, hen night, and she shut Yan and their two sons away for the night in the boys’ quarters,” says Bell. “Apparently neither party was bothered by the other – and I suspect that one of the parties was fairly loud.”

The iron-framed doors and windows throughout the home are reminiscent of early 20th-century Hong Kong architecture, and have become Bell’s signature features. He fell in love with them after restoring several tong lau – old tenement-style buildings – in Sheung Wan.

Life in the raw: updating a tong lau apartment

“Rather than mouldings and panelling on the walls, I tried to give the apartment a more Hong Kong-relevant, period feel,” he says. “These doors and windows are custom made, as we hope to preserve a disappearing trade. Some of the metalworkers are the old Hong Kong artisans who made the original tong lau windows.”

Bell initially made his frames in black as a nod to industrial chic but over the years he has spotted some painted in bright greens, reds and creams.

“I thought it would be nice to bring back colour to the ironwork but, opting for a more elegant solution, I borrowed the heritage green from window frames and shutters I had seen in old European cities,” he says.

“Janice loved the idea. She also has a penchant for celadon green, which fitted well.”

Designers take from the past for the city's future

Although the Chias are Malaysian, a European flavour pervades the flat. The Scandinavian furniture in the living areas came from the couple’s previous home. And Janice had seen a light oak, chevron-patterned parquet floor in a 19th-century Parisian apartment that she wanted to replicate. Because it had to be precisely laid, it took a month to complete, using laser spirit levels to ensure each block was perfectly straight.

Creating the master bathroom, which exudes Parisian glamour, was a similar labour of love. The marble tiles came in slightly different tones and had to be organised so that the shades and direction of the marbling were continuous. Bell and his assistant took photographs of each floor tile, transferred them to a computer, then rearranged them digitally until they fitted, like a virtual jigsaw puzzle.

“The bathroom floor is one of my favourite aspects of the apartment,” says Bell. “I’d never used such bold contrast in marble before, but I think I was still able to retain an essence of elegance while adding a certain wow factor.”

Bell procured a lot of the furniture from overseas – but not always from places you might expect. For the French chandelier and mirror in the master bathroom, for example, he trawled antiques stores in Paris but couldn’t find what he wanted. He ended up buying the Bohemian crystal chandelier in a shop near his Bangkok apartment and found the French mirror in Australia, after sourcing it online from an antiques store.

The renovations took almost a year to complete but the Chias are one happy family – even if Bell did forget to add a key element to Ollie’s room.

“The boys’ rooms are just meant to be fun and Ollie’s love of the cosmos inspired his starry ceiling,” says Bell. “But his first comment was, ‘Where’s the moon?’ I simply forgot it!”  

Styling: David Roden

Dining area The Hans Wegner dining table (US$5,539) and Wishbone chairs (US$1,282.50 each) came from Danish Design Store (www.danishdesignstore.com), in the United States. The bull statue came from a flea market in Paris, France, and the dog from an antiques shop off Hollywood Road. The sideboard (HK$55,000) and, above it, the Opalum Flow 4810 wall-mounted speakers (HK$36,360 a pair) came from Manks (14/F, Cheung Tak Building, 30 Wong Chuk Hang Road, Wong Chuk Hang, tel: 2522 2115), which was also the source of the Mrs Bill cabinet (by the window; HK$34,700) and Aeros pendant light (HK$21,540). The Chobi rug (HK$17,850) was from Al-Mubeen Carpets (www.almubeencarpets.com), in Bangkok, Thailand. The oak flooring (HK$58 per square foot) was supplied by Tin’s Timber (308 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2341 5300).

Kitchen The marble counter (HK$380 per square foot) came from Kong Shing Marble (221 Kwan Tei North Village, Fanling, tel: 2674 3360) and the special-edition Mater A/S stools in dark-stained oak (HK$8,220 each) came from Manks. The painting, by Nguyen Van Cuong, came from Thanh Mai Gallery (11 Tràng Tien, Hoàn Kiem, Hanoi, Vietnam, tel: 84 4 3938 6304).

Living area The pigeonhole shelving (HK$48,000) was custom made by Winspeed Engineering (6/F, Block B, Tsun Win Factory Building, 60 Tsun Yip Street, Kwun Tong, tel: 9034 9504). The Favn three-seater sofa (HK$71,050), Stingray oak veneer rocking chair (HK$35,360), yellow Ro easy chair (HK$23,600), Large Mill coffee table (HK$14,450) and round Mango Bowl side table (HK$4,090) were all from Manks. The Chobi woollen rug (HK$17,850) was from Al-Mubeen Carpets.

Master bedroom The platform bed with a windmill-patterned headboard (HK$22,500) was from Old Shanghai (15/F, Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 3527 3135). The cushions were made from Oriental Poppy embroidered silk by Colefax & Fowler (HK$2,090 per metre) from Altfield Interiors (11/F, 9 Queen’s Road Central, tel: 2525 2738) with a bright pink silk reverse side (HK$420 per metre) from Jim Thompson (www.jimthompson.com), in Bangkok, Thailand. The cording and sewing (HK$320 for two cushions) was by Wai Kee (37 High Street, Sai Ying Pun, tel: 2522 3605), which also made all the blinds in the flat. The bedside lamps were made from a pair of lidded celadon jars (HK$2,400) from DM Home (www.dmhome.com), in Bangkok; the lamp base conversion and lampshades (HK$4,600) were made by Soong Arts Lampshades (6 Square Street, Sheung Wan, tel: 2549 0615). The Opalum Breeze 1010 wall-mounted speakers with white leather covers (HK$13,880) were from Manks.

Dressing area The custom-made dressing table (HK$10,000) and iron-framed doors (HK$26,000 per set) were built by Winspeed Engineering. The white leather Eva swivel chair (HK$9,999) came from Aluminium (36 Cochrane Street, Central, tel: 2546 5904) and the 19th-century blackwood mirror (HK$6,000) was bought from Art Treasures Gallery (42 Hollywood Road, Central, tel: 2522 1138).

Bathroom The marble wall and floor tiles (HK$153,855 in total) were from BMC Asia (14/F, Hollywood Centre, 77 Queen’s Road West, tel: 2591 0686). The 19th-century French Cartouche mirror (HK$22,000) was from Miguel Meirelles Antiques (1379 Malvern Road, Malvern, Victoria, Australia, tel: 61 3 9822 6886) and the Paris bath (HK$64,250) came from The Water Monopoly (www.thewatermonopoly.com), in London. The Bohemian crystal chandelier (HK$6,700) was from Lighting Art (720/21-22 Soi Sukhumvit 30, Klongton Klongtoey, Bangkok, tel: +662 258 3901).

Child’s bedroom The treehouse bed (HK$23,260) came from Mathy By Bols (www.mathy-by-bols.be), in Belgium. The Sleeping Grizzly Bear cushions (HK$2,450 each) were from Homeless (29 Gough Street, Central, tel: 2581 1880).



Star power Designer Andrew Bell ([email protected]) ordered star decals in three sizes and spray painted them with glow-in-the-dark paint. He calculated the ratio of each size of star for each surface. Starting with the biggest stars, followed by the medium-sized stars and then the smallest, he filled in the spaces by eye - sticking the stars on by hand, up a ladder and eventually with a sore back. The stars (HK$1,000) were made by Dick Hin Production & Designs (56 Jervois Street, Sheung Wan, tel: 2541 9948) and the spray paint (HK$2,000) was bought from Yuen Fat Ho (77 Hollywood Road, Central, tel: 2546 8020).