If ever Japan wished to broaden its cultural influence in Hong Kong, it need look no further than Ken Poon Yin-kong and his wife, Tina. They could boost the country’s appeal simply by opening a cafe in the comfort of their own home.
The couple’s 1,034 sq ft, three-bedroom apartment in Tung Chung, Lantau, is already something of a “party house” for the neighbourhood, says designer Keith Chan Shing-hin, founder of Hintegro, who explains that friends like to drop by for a chat and a cup of Japan’s finest coffee (something for which aficionados will know the country is fast becoming famous).
Their purpose-built “coffee bar”, which replaced a dining room, is perfect for such occasions. Set by the entrance, it segues into the sitting area and is a natural gathering spot.
“The living room was too long,” says Chan, who made the most of the dimensions by installing a high counter and, beside it, a lower dining table for sit-down meals. But all the action usually takes place at the work bench.
Designed with de rigueur white subway tiles and exposed shelving, this area – used to make drip coffee (see Tried + tested), espressos, matcha (green tea) and more – is special for another reason. To enable Chan’s clients to indulge their liquid interests, he doubled the number of power sockets in this zone and ensured it would accommodate the 100-volt Japanese appliances they collect.
Coffee-making needs taken care of, Chan set about meeting another of their requests, for an all-singing, all-dancing toilet. A priority for Poon, an engineer whose introduction to Japan came via Gundam manga in primary school, it allowed him to stipulate too that toilet be separate from bath, as is common in Japanese culture.
In the guest bathroom Chan installed a Toto Washlet and two-basin counter, and in the main wet room the toilet was replaced with a sit-down shower beside a Japanese-style soaking tub.
“Before designing this we went to an onsen [hot spring] in Takayama [in central Japan],” says Chan, recalling a trip he made with Althea Lee Kit-ying, a designer at Hintegro. “We couldn’t take pictures in there, of course, but I mentally sketched everything and used my foot to measure things like the height of the bench [in the tub]. Then I drew it from memory in the hotel room and designed it back in Hong Kong.”
His clients asked him to ensure the bathroom would accommodate some of their many Muji products, including baskets for toiletries. Their love of the brand is evident throughout the flat, including in the bedroom, where, despite having the space for a larger bed, they chose to buy a queen-sized Muji mattress, the largest they could find at the store in Hong Kong.
As with the coffee zone, where different woods have been employed to pleasing effect, here beech (wardrobe), walnut (bed) and oak (floor) are used together to beautiful effect.
“It was brave to combine the different woods,” says Chan, admitting that not long ago he would have resisted playing with different timbers in case the overall effect looked old-fashioned. “But when we did a 3D rendering, it amazed me.”
Wood is also the dominant material in Poon’s office, which occupies one of the original three bedrooms (the other was turned into a walk-in wardrobe). Although the apartment’s basic layout stayed intact, the wall separating the office from the passageway was replaced with sliding glass doors partially covered with 3M shoji-paper-patterned film.
“I wanted guests to be able to peep inside to see his toys, comics and CDs,” Chan says. “It also introduces more light into the corridor.”
Despite the couple’s various collections (of model cars, teapots, limited-edition Starbucks tumblers; magazines; and Muji goods not sold in Hong Kong, among other things), the flat retains their desired minimalist aesthetic and allows them a Japanese lifestyle of sorts. Which begs the question: why not just move there?
“It’s his dream,” says Tina, who affectionately calls her husband “Ken-san”. But for now Tung Chung is their base. The pair, who moved into the flat barely three months ago, have though already made plans this month for an overseas holiday.
Where are they going? One guess.
Coffee bar/dining The dining table (HK$13,699), Spindle chairs (HK$2,299 each) and Mesterverk bench (HK$3,999) were all from Come In’. Hintegro (20/F, Block B, New Trade Plaza, 6 On Ping Street, Sha Tin, tel: 3689 4604) designed the floor cabinet and hanging cabinet (HK$45,000 in total) on the right. The white Kaiser Idell lamp (HK$2,600), from Fritz Hansen, was bought through amazon.com, which was also the source for the Anglepoise brass wall lights (HK$1,840 each) above the bookcase (designed by Hintegro and built for HK$32,000). Above the bar, the concrete pendant lamps (HK$863 each) came from TriLight Zone. The subway tiles (HK$12 each) were from Hop Hing Lung, and the flooring came with the flat.
Living room The sofa (155,200 yen/HK$11,800) came from www.flannelsofa.com and the coffee table was HK$8,300 from Karimoku, both in Japan. The side table (discontinued) and air purifier (HK$3,580) were from Muji Hong Kong.
Living room detail Come In’ was the source for the Virtu TV cabinet (HK$10,299) and Vetro display cabinet (HK$12,899). The round Riki wall clock (8,640 yen) was from Spiral, in Japan, and the fan (HK$590) from Muji Hong Kong.
Bedroom Tactile wallpaper (HK$470 per linear metre, from Goodrich Global), covers the sliding cupboard doors. Muji Hong Kong supplied the coat stand (HK$650). The armchair is a discontinued Panasonic product. Hintegro designed the bed and bedhead (HK$25,000 for the set). The Anglepoise mini wall lights (£85/HK$880 each) were bought online through amazon.co.uk.
Walk-in wardrobe The wardrobes (HK$60,000) and make-up table (HK$12,000) were designed by Hintegro and built by the contractor. The ottoman (HK$600) came from Francfranc.
Office Hintegrodesigned the office joinery, which cost HK$75,000 in total. The Herman Miller chair (HK$8,800) came from Posh.
Toilet A Toto Washlet is housed in the toilet cubicle, lit with an Anglepoise wall light (£83), bought through amazon.co.uk. The brass toilet-roll holder (7,560 yen), towel rail (3,240 yen) and towel ring (5,725 yen) all came from Toolbox, in Japan. The Toto basins provided by the developer were kept but Hintegro designed a new counter and hanging cabinet, which were built by its contractor for HK$12,000 and HK$6,000, respectively. The hexagonal floor tiles were HK$20 each from Hop Hing Lung.
Japanese bathroom The stool set was part of a New Year’s hamper bought in Japan. The Hansgrohe Raindance hand shower (HK$6,500) was bought on amazon.com. The Davey Lighting Ship’s Well Light (£285) came from John Lewis, in Britain. The tiles (HK$80 each) were from Hop Hing Lung.
TRIED + TESTED
The perfect cuppa Frequent travellers to Japan, Ken Poon and his wife, Tina, have developed a Japanese obsession for detail. Which is why, in their bid to create the perfect cup of pour-over (manual drip) coffee, they have acquired all the necessary equipment (grinder, filters, scales, etc). They’ve also had their kettle equipped with a thermometer.
“For hand-drip coffee, the temperature of the water is very important,” says Tina, adding that the aim is not to take it up to 100 degrees Celsius. “Eighty to 90 is best.”
That’s not all. The spout should be spot on. To achieve a fine, precise stream of water delivered slowly in measured amounts, they had the tip narrowed. “This affects the pressure of the water on the coffee, which affects the flavour,” she says.