Douglas Wu Tian-wei works in real estate but he studied as an architect, so, when he and his wife, Janet Hung Yi-kui, moved into a three-bedroom apartment in Mid-Levels last year, he was eager to flex his creative muscles.

“We really ripped up the entire place,” Wu says.

The 1,064-sq-ft flat is spacious by Hong Kong standards, but Wu and Hung thought it could be opened further. They began by demolishing a wall by the front entrance, reducing the size of the kitchen in order to create a long bar.

“We call it the landing strip,” Wu says.

A boxy Hong Kong apartment gets a warm, colonial-style makeover

It’s a useful area for depositing bags, mail and groceries when they arrive home, but it serves other purposes, too.

“This becomes a natural social space when friends come over,” Wu says.

Two wine fridges are built into the bar and a whisky collection sits on top of its black marble surface.

“My wife is big on wine and I’m big on whisky, so it’s good for us both,” Wu says.

There’s even a shoe cabinet built into left­over space next to the refrigerators.

“We really used every inch.”

We’re lucky to have a large space, so we had the opportunity to play around with materials
Douglas Wu

The kitchen is still roomy despite having been scaled back.

“We don’t have a maid and we don’t cook every day, so we didn’t need a big kitchen,” says Wu.

They did need a functional space, though, especially for the dinner parties the couple hosts every other week. Cabinets and shelves were installed to create extra surfaces and additional storage space.

Hung says the main goal of the reno­vation was to create a sense of openness.

“As a couple we care more about the size of the living space than the size of the bed­rooms,” she says.

A British textile designer’s eclectic Mid-Levels home

While in most Hong Kong apartments this would mean adopting a neutral colour scheme to make a small space seem bigger, this flat’s ample floor space gave Wu and Hung the opportunity to be more adventurous.

“We’re lucky to have a large space, so we had the opportunity to play around with materials,” says Wu.

That is most obvious in the living room’s colour scheme and textures.

“We wanted to create some contrast,” says Wu.

Warm wooden floors play off the cool grey of an imitation slate wall (see Tried + tested). The dramatically striated black marble surface of the bar faces off against a white marble shoe cabinet.

European-style Hong Kong apartment has a view to die for and a local flavour

Adding playful splashes of colour is furniture, inclu­ding a powder-blue sofa, lime-coloured rug and amorphous mahogany-toned coffee table.

Much of the furniture was custom made. That was partly to accommodate the odd proportions of the elbow-shaped living room, which curves towards a window with a panoramic view of Central. The sofa was designed to follow the bend in the wall.

In contrast to the living room, the bath­rooms are more sedate, with a mixture of champagne-hued marble, wood veneer and imitation stone tiles.

“I wanted a natural stone feeling, matte instead of polished,” says Wu. “If it’s polished it feels like a shopping mall.”

Architect makes small flat a tranquil haven in heart of Hong Kong

The couple took a similar approach to the master bedroom, which has a floor-to-ceiling custom-made wardrobe on one side and blue-grey horizontally ribbed wallpaper on the other.

“It’s soothing and calm,” says Wu.

The one challenge has been finding room for Wu’s growing art collection. He began buying Hong Kong art three years ago and the flat’s walls now boast photo­graphs by Peter Steinhauer, whose Cocoon series documents Hong Kong’s sky­scrapers as they are sheathed in fabric for renova­tion, and spatially themed work by South Ho Siu-nam and Lam Tung-pang.

“It kind of reflects my interest in archi­tecture,” says Wu.

It also mirrors the couple’s approach to renovating their flat.

“We had the big ideas and then we work­ed with a contractor who had some sugges­tions,” says Wu. “It was a labour of love.”

Living room The flooring (HK$38,000) was by Wonderfloor (271 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2728 9373). The lamp (HK$460) came from PLC Locks & Illumination. The rug (HK$1,700) was bought in Shenzhen, at Hoba Home Furnishings, as was the sofa (HK$7,800; The coffee table was bought on from Leader Furniture for HK$2,300. The television console was custom made for HK$12,000 by Vivid Design. Below the TV is a Philippe Starck-designed Juicy Salif citrus squeezer, which is available from Alessi for HK$995.

Entrance The black marble bar was made for HK$4,500 by Kwong Tai Marble (29 Mong Kok Road, Mong Kok, tel: 3428 2118). The cabinet (HK$12,000) behind the bar and the shoe cabinet (HK$11,000) were made by Vivid Design. The ottoman cost HK$800 from Homeless. The mirror (HK$300) came from Mirror World on The artworks, from left to right, are by Lam Tung-pang (purchased directly from the artist), Alfonso Wong (through and Cui Jie (via Leo Xu Projects, Shanghai).

Bedroom The lamp (HK$300), bedframe (HK$4,700) and dresser (HK$1,700) are part of Ikea’s Mandal series. The wardrobe was built by Vivid Design for HK$18,000. The rug (HK$2,500) came from Hoba Home Furnishings. The vanity and matching stool (HK$400 for both) were from TianMao Furnishings on

Dining area The cabinet (HK$3,300) and dining table (HK$3,100) were from Element Furniture. The dining chairs (HK$400 each) were from Shenzhen’s Desheng Furniture. The bookshelf (HK$10,000) was made by Vivid Design and the light fixture (HK$250) was from LD Lighting World on The artwork, by Cui Xinming, was purchased at Edouard Malingue Gallery.

Office The wardrobe and cabinet were built by Vivid Design for a total of HK$20,000. The rug (HK$4,000) was found in Bangkok, Thailand. The chair came from a shop that has since closed. The desk (HK$1,600) and bookshelf (HK$2,200) were from Shenzhen’s Red Apple Furnishings. The A. Eugene Kohn artwork came from London’s Belgravia Gallery.

Kitchen Kwong Tai Marble made the countertops (HK$3,000) and Vivid Design built the cabinets (HK$18,000). The rack above the counter (HK$300) and Paffoni mixer (HK$1,800) were from SL Gallery.

Bathroom The Toto toilet (HK$5,800), Toto sink (HK$1,700), Paffoni mixer tap (HK$1,300) and Paffoni shower (HK$1,100) were all from SL Gallery. The imitation stone used for the flooring and walls (HK$13,000 in total) were from Hop Hing Lung Material (235 Lockhart Road, tel: 2511 3013), while the cabinets were made by Vivid Design for HK$10,000. The countertop (HK$2,200) was made by Kwong Tai Marble

Fashionably slate Douglas Wu liked the idea of a slate wall in the living room, to provide a point of visual interest, but using actual slate would have been prohibitively expensive, and on the heavy side. That’s when he discovered he could buy ceramic tiles printed with a slate pattern (HK$148 per 23 x 23-inch tile; Hop Hing Lung Material (235 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2511 3013).

“It’s a lot cheaper and lighter, but it still adds a different texture to the room,” says Wu.