There’s a saying in Chinese that it’s easy to have fun with friends but much harder to live with them. That does not appear to be the case for James Atkinson, Ross Creel and Bodhi Reynolds, three best friends who share a flat on Old Peak Road.
“It’s been a really rewarding experience,” recalls Atkinson.
The trio had been close for years when all three found themselves in need of an apartment. Creel had just returned from a stint working in China and Atkinson’s boyfriend had recently taken a job overseas, as had Reynolds’ wife.
“We were out for a drink and said, ‘Why don’t we pool resources?’” says Atkinson.
A flat hunt led to a 2,000-sq-ft, three-bedroom space in a low-rise building that overlooked a green courtyard and the Central skyline.
“We didn’t need to do anything structurally,” says Atkinson. The parquet floors were in good condition, the walls were painted a pleasant shade of white and the kitchen had been newly renovated. Most important, all three bedrooms were the same size and the apartment had ample common space. All that was necessary to make the flat home was to furnish and decorate.
“Hong Kong is such a busy city and we lead such busy lives, we wanted to create a space that’s very relaxing and nurturing, where we can come and feel like we’re hiding away from the craziness outside,” says Atkinson. “All three of us brought furniture into the apartment, so it’s an amalgamation of all our stuff. And it just worked. It came together in an eclectic way.”
All three flatmates travel frequently – “There’s usually only two of us here on any given day,” says Atkinson – and they are avid shoppers, as is evident everywhere you look in the flat. Five rugs, for example, are laid across the floor in the open living and dining area. “Some are from India, some are from Morocco,” says Atkinson.
Flanking the entrance to the bedroom hallway are two wooden Buddhist trumpets, which Creel bought at an antique store in Kathmandu. Curios and objets d’art – including a carved tribal mask from Africa and a large Balinese sculpture – are scattered throughout the space.
Creel and Reynolds are part-time DJs, so music paraphernalia fills the house. Two turntables and a mixer sit next to the dining table while vinyl records compete for space on the living room bookshelf, which is flanked by high-end speakers.
“It’s definitely a musical home,” says Atkinson. “All our friends come here and hang out. We’re all in our mid-40s and we’re kind of bored of going out.”
With that in mind, Atkinson and his roommates wanted to keep the apartment’s furniture conducive to social gatherings. In the living room, two halves of a modular sofa face each other to create a space for conversation.
“It took us a while to get the right configuration,” says Atkinson. There aren’t any seats in front of the TV but, he says, that isn’t a problem. “If we want to watch something, we’ll throw cushions onto the rug and sit on the floor.”
The three take advantage of the large kitchen and cook at home more often than they eat out.
“We love dinner parties,” says Atkinson, which is why they splurged on a large, white, oiled-oak dining table designed by Hans Wegner, Denmark’s master of comfortable minimalism. “It’s very simple but that’s the beauty of Danish design – they focus just on the natural material.”
The table is flanked by six steel-framed, wood-backed chairs designed by Wegner in 1955. “They are the best, most comfortable chairs ever,” enthuses Atkinson.
Creel delved into his art collection to decorate the walls. “I lived in Europe, which is where I started collecting posters,” he says.
Among his treasures is a print of Richard Avedon’s 1967 psychedelic portrait of George Harrison (which Creel found at a yard sale in the French Riviera), an original poster for the Munich 1972 Olympics and a French poster for the 1982 film Tron.
“I think my college house looked exactly the same but with much cheaper stuff,” jokes Creel.
All of it comes together to create a space that is more than the sum of its parts – or its inhabitants.
“It turns out it’s really cool to live with your friends,” says Atkinson.
Styling: Esther de Wijck
Living room The modular sofa (HK$40,000) was custom designed by Shelly Hayashi (email: [email protected]). The green Eames fibreglass armchair (HK$8,000) came from Lane Crawford. Ron Arad’s white Tom Vac chair (HK$2,499) is available from Aluminium. The dark rug was bought in Morocco and the tribal mask came from elsewhere in Africa. The painting of the face is by Hong Kong-based artist Michael McGinty. The lamp came from a second-hand furniture market in Taipei.
Balcony The sculpture was bought in Bali years ago and the chairs were found in a street in Sheung Wan. The plant pot (HK$600) came from Happy Valley Nursery.
Dining room The CH327 dining table, designed by Hans Wegner for Carl Hansen, cost HK$80,000 from Manks, which also supplied the CH88T chairs (HK$6,800 each). The bar cabinet (HK$25,000), designed by Lucy Turner, came from Lane Crawford. The 1950s vintage light fixture (C$1,000/HK$700) was purchased at Refind Vancouver. The rug was bought in India years ago. The art on the walls was collected over many years.
Dining room wall The turntables were bought years ago in Vancouver while the artwork, by Krista Berga, came from the Saatchi Gallery.
Television area The bookshelves (HK$25,000) and rug (HK$16,000) were designed by Hayashi. The tables (HK$4,000 each) adjacent to the window and sofa were bought at Tree. The lamp (HK$2,000) next to the window was found at Homeless. The hat stand (HK$2,800) came from Aluminium.
Bodhi Reynolds’ bedroom The bed frame and side tables were designed by Hayashi (HK$35,000 total). The contemporary Australian aboriginal artwork, by Louise Numina, came from the Suzanne O’Connell Gallery, in Brisbane, Australia. The lamp (HK$2,000) was from Homeless.
James Atkinson’s bedroom The bed frame (HK$15,000) was from Muji. The side table (HK$3,000) came from Manks, along with the Arne Jacobsen chair (HK$35,000) and lamp (HK$5,000). The sheepskin rug was bought years ago in Australia.
TRIED + TESTED
Boom boom Instead of buying a coffee table, the three flatmates made use of what they already had: two large speakers and a vintage tray that Ross Creel had bought years ago in Vancouver, Canada.
“I leave my stuff all over the house and one day I came home and they had designed a coffee table out of it,” says Creel.