Being able to buy and renovate their first home together was the icing on the wedding cake for Chelsa Wong Cheuk-nga and Aaron Ko Tze-hin. Last year, the Hong Kong newlyweds bought a 900 sq ft apartment in Mid-Levels because of its proximity to their workplaces (Wong is a lawyer and Ko an investment banker) as well as to other family members, then turned to architect Norman Ung Wai-lun, of Deft, to help with the design.
Ung gutted the place, moved the living room wall to enlarge the master bedroom and opened up the tiny, walled-in kitchen to create an open-plan living area.
“It was a good move to open up the kitchen because it gave the apartment a brighter and larger feel, and you get to see the beautiful green views as soon as you come in the front door,” he says.
The couple had gleaned design ideas from Pinterest but eventually opted for a minimalist style. The look was easy enough to recreate as Ko and Wong had hitherto been living with their parents and hadn’t accumulated any furniture or objets that would need to be accommodated in their new pad.
“We wanted Aaron and Chelsa to have creative input so we gave them direction as to style, size and colour palette and let them go shopping [for the furnishings],” says Ung. “This was the first time they were able to go for exactly what they wanted.”
The designer believed his clients would choose bright colours to offset the white walls, blond wood and pale tiled flooring. Instead, their selection echoes the flat’s neutral theme. Even Susie the poodle, Wong’s long-time pet, matches the decor.
“The neutral theme works well because if we had added more colour indoors, it would have detracted from the green views outside,” says Ung.
Wong and Ko expressed a desire to incorporate metallics into the decor, which explains the trio of Tom Dixon silver pendant lights in the dining area.
To fulfil the couple’s other main requests – a vanity table for Wong and a DJ booth for Ko – Ung utilised the bay windows in both bedrooms, making the most of space that otherwise might have been wasted. The dimensions of the master bedroom and bathroom meant it would have been difficult to fit a freestanding unit in there. So Ung built a three-drawer unit into the deep windowsill in the master bedroom, with a hinged mirror that can be flipped up or down as required. In the guest room, which doubles as a study, Ung incorporated a DJ booth in the bay window.
“Even though the apartment isn’t particularly big, we managed to fit a professional DJ booth into a domestic setting,” Ung says. “The elevated speaker platforms give more space for the decks and other equipment, and installing it into the bay window means it’s accessible but not in the way.”
Wardrobes – with shelving, drawers and space for a flat-screen television – were built into the master bedroom wall and glass panels with frosted stripes inserted into the cupboard doors to add interest.
Rather than expensive European brands, marble wall tiles sourced through local suppliers were chosen for the living area and kitchen. Ung says he hand-picked each tile used on the feature wall in the living area so the patterns and shades match.
“Opting for less expensive local products meant Chelsa and Aaron could spend more on details that would give the apartment a sense of luxury, such as the matt-black bathroom taps and rain shower,” Ung says.
The couple’s home took about 14 weeks to design and construct, and several months in, it is still as pristine as when Ko carried Wong over the threshold.
Dining area The Mirror Ball pendant lights cost HK$12,000 in total from Tom Dixon. The dining table (HK$12,000) came from Ovo and the chairs (HK$1,000 each) from Decor8. The bench seat (HK$12,000), with two cabinets on either side, was custom designed by Deft. The ceramics came from A Minute Studio.
Living area The sofa cost HK$16,000 from Indigo Living. The rug (HK$1,000) came from Lugx. The curtains were HK$10,000 from Mak Kee Curtain (33 Larch Street, Tai Kok Tsui, tel: 2393 7097) and the side table cost HK$2,500 from Ovo. The audiovisual unit beneath the television was HK$4,500 from Ikea. The marble tiles on the feature wall cost HK$300 per tile from a Chinese supplier.
Kitchen The kitchen cabinets (HK$100,000) were custom designed by Deft. The clock (HK$1,200) came from Decor8.
Master bedroom The bed (HK$12,000), bay window vanity unit (HK$5,000) and cupboards (HK$30,000) were all custom designed by Deft. The bedside light was HK$1,500 from e Lighting. The chair, from Decor8, is the same as before.
Bathroom The cabinetry was designed by Deft for HK$16,000. The matt-black tap and rain shower (HK$20,000 in total), by Zucchetti, came from Arnhold.
Tried + tested
Side effects Norman Ung, of Deft, designed a bench seat to fit into a recessed wall space and in lieu of conventional fabric arms, he came up with the clever idea for a nifty cabinet at either end (HK$6,000 for the pair).