Search Google images for Scandinavian design and you’ll enter a black-and-white world. Pages and pages of pictures pop up of monochrome rooms with snow-white walls, clean-lined furniture and bare floorboards. Scandinavian-style rooms are minimal, airy and functional.

Well-designed Scandinavian-style rooms are also serene and welcoming, layering the monochrome palette with splashes of colour and geometric patterns, quirky furniture and assorted textures, pulling off a design sleight of hand by being both warm and cool at the same time.

But not all Nordic-style interiors stick to the rules.“White can be so boring,” says Yu-Chang Chen, founder and creative director of Hong Kong interiors company hoo. “There are two kinds of Scandinavian style: there’s the Danish, mid-century modern style and a more contemporary style, which we’re more about. This style is younger and more playful, with lots of greens and yellows.”

Making minimalism pop in a Hong Kong apartment

It certainly appealed to IT professional Cheri Wong, a long-time fan of Chen’s work. When she and her partner, Patrick Yip, decided to renovate their newly acquired 690 sq ft Tseung Kwan O apartment, hoo seemed the natural choice.

“They were the perfect clients,” Chen says. “Cheri had been following our work online for a long time and loved the Scandinavian style. So when she came to us at the end of 2014 and asked us to do their apartment, she said, ‘Do whatever you think is right.’”

It took six months of planning and three months of construction to renovate the flat, beginning with ripping out everything apart from the windows. Chen’s first decision was the colour scheme.

“Normally for a small apartment, you would think of painting the walls white. But we started by playing with colours, finally settling on bright teal and pastel green – Scandinavian colours,” he says.

The apartment’s original two bedrooms and bathroom were amalgamated into a master suite, loaded with storage, with a desk at a corner window. Behind the bed, one wall is panelled in American walnut veneer, concealing the en-suite bathroom door. The longest wall is lined with three metres of white floor-to-ceiling wardrobes. The remaining walls are painted teal, the darker, moodier shade chosen by Chen.

Why Scandinavian minimalism is perfect for compact Hong Kong living

The living area walls are painted in the paler colour, a muted turquoise-green long favoured by Nordic furniture makers. Sure enough, the colour turns up again on a dining table from Danish company Hay, and in a brighter tone on one of the mismatched dining chairs. Scandinavian designers are behind most of the pieces in the living space. The large, one-armed sofa and scatter cushions – which provide the requisite geometrics and contrasting pops of colour – are from Hay, too. There’s also a pendant lamp by Louis Poulsen, a Carl Hansen chair and quirky circular coat hooks by Muuto.

The hoo team designed the low-slung television unit and a floor-to-ceiling shoe cupboard in American walnut veneer. The wood laminate floor adds a rustic touch, with a textured finish able to with­stand wear and tear from the couple’s sharp-clawed cats. Nevertheless, it’s a minimal look.

“We got rid of everything we owned,” Yip says. “We had renovated an apartment before, but this time we wanted a new look, something fresh. We’re really enjoying
the colours.”

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In both the kitchen and bathroom (see Tried + tested), Chen stuck to a more conventional Scandinavian monochrome palette. The kitchen has an industrial edge, with an old-school wired-glass window in the steel kitchen door and white subway tiles on the walls, softened by a charming French-inspired flower motif on the floor, picked out in hexagonal mosaic tiles. A black marble worktop adds a touch of luxury.

“We love YC’s less-is-more approach,” Yip says. “We’re really pleased with the way he organised the apartment and provided dedicated spaces for us to use. We may buy a few more pieces, but we’re going to keep it simple.”

Chen, too, is happy with the result, for which he thanks his clients. “Without that mutual trust, this wouldn’t have been possible. We could have added a few more pictures, but [this design] feels complete.”

Living room The Mags sofa by Hay (HK$25,000) and scatter cushions by Wrong for Hay (HK$800 each) came from Establo. The TV unit (HK$28,000) was custom designed by hoo. The artworks were a housewarming gift from hoo.

Living room detail The Dots wall hooks by Muuto (HK$1,200 for a set of five) and Ru Chair by Hay (HK$2,500) were from Establo, in Wong Chuk Hang. The rustic wood laminate flooring was from Quick Step, in Wan Chai. The artwork was a gift from hoo.

Bedroom detail The bed (HK$12,000), American walnut bookcase (HK$30,000) three-metre-wide wardrobe (HK$60,000) and American walnut desk (HK$15,000) were all custom designed by hoo. The Carl Hansen & Søn oak chair (HK$4,000) came from Manks, in Wong Chuk Hang.

Dining area The dining table by Hay (HK$6,500) was from Establo. The mismatched chairs include the Tolix A in steel (HK$2,500; from Homeless) and the Ru and Carl Hansen & Søn chairs as before. The Louis Poulsen pendant lamp (HK$7,600) was from Manks.

Kitchen The subway wall tiles (HK$10 each) and hexagonal mosaic tiles (HK$30 per panel), all came from Hop Hing Lung Material (235 Lockhart Road, tel: 2511 3013). The kitchen units (HK$60,000) were custom designed by hoo.

Bedroom (above and below) The American walnut wall panels and built-in bedside table (HK$20,000 in total) were custom designed by hoo and conceal the bathroom door (HK$10,000). The Bestlite wall lamp by Gubi (HK$4,700) came from Establo.

Square tactics The entire bathroom, including the countertop, is encased in square white tiles with black grouting, which tallies beautifully with the Scandinavian preference for geometrics.

“It’s my favourite part of the design,” says Yu-Chang Chen of hoo . “It was also the most challenging element, getting all the tiles and lines matched up. I’m very pleased with the result. It’s like being in a video game.”

The bathroom sink, taps and hooks were from Colourliving, in Wan Chai. The tiles cost HK$10 each from Tai Yick (213 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2511 3078). The Adnet Circulaire mirror cost 4,495 Danish krone (HK$5,245) from Gubi.