Worlds meet at the Central-Sheung Wan border: contemporary and traditional, East and West, commercial and residential, glamour and grit. And they all shake hands in this 500-sq-ft apartment, situated in a mixed-used building that contains both offices and homes.
The building’s commercial origins show in its high ceilings and prominent sprinkler system, two elements that have been emphasised by a lick of copper-brown paint and inspired an industrial-style renovation.
“We took the apartment because it was so different, and we both like the industrial look,” say the tenants, Malaysian product designer Catherine Wong and Australian photographer Christiaan Hart. One of the sprinkler heads is directly over the bed. “I get a bit worried when I cook and it gets smoky,” Wong jokes.
The shape of the sprinkler nozzles is repeated in the ceiling lights, which sprout at regular intervals from the piping, turning a potential eyesore into a design feature that runs throughout the apartment.
With windows only in the study and bedroom, maximising the light – artificial and natural – informed much of the design.
As well as the ceiling lights, there are glass-panelled double doors between the bedroom and living area (“We usually keep them open,” Wong says), and a single glass-panelled door to the study. The glass increases the lines of sight, helping to make the apartment feel larger, and lets daylight into the open-plan living, dining and kitchen areas. Likewise, a sliding half-wall between the study and bedroom (see Tried + tested) can be opened to increase the amount of light coming into the apartment.
In the living room, two large mirrors – one belonging to Wong and the other an integral part of the design – bounce daylight around the space. The pale concrete floor and raw brick feature wall, which Wong and Hart have painted white (“for continuity”), keep things bright and add to the industrial ambience.
But this is no white box. The open-plan kitchen has Mondrian-like blocks of colour on drawers and cabinets, and industrial dark-grey render on one wall. Giant blow-ups of vintage black-and-white photographs of Hong Kong street scenes form murals in the living room and on each side of the sliding wall. Did they appeal to photographer Hart?
“Not really,” Wong admits. “We find them too pixellated – we’re thinking of asking if we can replace them with some of Christiaan’s sports photography.”
While Hart also shoots travel and event photography, the one-time tennis coach specialises in sports, as witnessed by his vibrant pictures of the recent Formula E race in Hong Kong, one of which is framed and propped up on the floor.
“At least it’s made it to the floor. It used to be on the wall, but Cat decided to replace it with the chimp painting. Sometimes it’s like I don’t live here,” he jokes.
When the couple moved in together late last year they combined their possessions, which meant a lot of things had to go. Mostly Hart’s, it turns out.
“I got to keep my Formula One wheel” – he indicates a metal side table next to the sofa – “although I used to have a top on it, to use as a coffee table.”
These days, it’s been replaced by a white marble coffee table with a gold-metal base, which Wong designed for C’monde Studios. It sits at the heart of the living space, which gives more than a nod to classic, mid-century design, with its cream leather loveseat, and dining set similar to Saarinen’s Pedestal table and Eames’ DSW chairs.
In contrast with the industrial bones of the apartment, Wong’s style is more glamorous (“I like gold”) but the two combine surprisingly well. Touches of bling – the gold-framed mirror, marble coffee table, dazzling jewellery stand and occasional shiny gold accessory – bring luxury and warmth to the space.
Adding a bit of va-va-voom is Wong’s impressive collection of heels, which vamp it up in not one but two sets of shelves.
Serendipitously, Wong’s cowhide rug was a similar shade to the ceiling. But the element that ties the space together most neatly is an iron-and-crystal chandelier that is the epitome of industrial glam.
Living area Rocko the dog might look at home, but he was just visiting for a few days while his owner was away. The chandelier (HK$2,000) came from Creative Co-op Home and the leather sofa (HK$3,500) from Pricerite two years ago. Catherine Wong designed the marble-and-metal table for C’monde Studios. Wong bought the mirror (HK$1,500) from Ikea and painted the frame. The Formula E photograph was taken by Christiaan Hart and costs HK$2,500. The Kartell Bourgie table lamp (HK$1,200) was from Aluminium. The painting was from Stanley Market and the side table was made from a Formula One wheel bought years ago in Britain.
Living area Wong designed the alien-like Philips SoundSphere DesignLine speakers (HK$23,000) with tweeters on stalks. “They’re nicknamed the ‘bug’ and one of my favourite designs,” she says. The barrel was HK$600 through AsiaXpat.com. The stool (HK$800) was from Decor8.com. The television unit (HK$700), black shelves (HK$900) and study rug (HK$1,100) were all from Ikea.
Living room detail The cowhide rug (HK$2,300) was from Ikea. The wireless multicolour lamp was HK$400 from Homeless.
Bedroom “We have Christiaan’s old bed because it fit under the window sill and mine didn’t,” Wong says. The bed (HK$3,000) was bought from Ikea several years ago. The table was HK$300 through AsiaXpat. The knitted throw was HK$500 from H&M Home. The marble-effect cushions were HK$500 for two from Society6.
Bathroom The bathroom clinched the deal for Wong and Christiaan Hart, who cite it as one of the reasons they rented the flat. Tucked behind frosted glass panels, it has rendered walls and a rain shower.
Kitchen Wong spends hours in the small kitchen producing beautiful cakes, like the tall pink cake shown, which she made for a friend’s birthday. The landlord installed the colour-block kitchen cabinets, black worktop and shelving. The Chanel photograph was HK$700 from Society6 and the frame was HK$100 from Ikea.
Dining area The table was HK$3,000 from Decor8. The chairs were HK$2,000 each from Indigo Living.
Tried + Tested
Picture me now Between the bedroom and study is a sliding half-wall clad each side with giant vintage photographs of Central and Sheung Wan. During the day, it can be opened to make both spaces appear larger and brighter. At night, the couple slide it shut to create a cosier bedroom. The study chair (HK$900) and desk (HK$1,100) were from Ikea. The chunky knit cushion (HK$250) was from H&M Home.