First there was wallpaper. Not just any wallpaper, but an attention grabbing mural of an artfully distressed wall, peeled back layer by layer to reveal graffiti-sprayed and ornate tiles, crumbling plaster and raw brick. Pasted onto one wall of this Causeway Bay apartment, it is the statement piece on which the design hangs.
The flat’s Dutch owners, Wijnand van Hoeven and Pierre de Rooij, wanted a loft-style treatment for the neglected, 580 sq ft, three-bedroom apartment in a 47-year-old building on one of the busiest roads in Hong Kong. It was the wallpaper that clinched the commission for interior designer Louis Lau Chin-ki, of Ample Design.
“We loved it immediately,” van Hoeven says, pulling out Lau’s artist’s impressions. “[The finished apartment] looks almost exactly like his drawings. We’d worked with Louis before and he said, ‘Trust me,’ so we did. We barely changed a thing.”
Lau effectively used the wallpaper as a mood board, specifying distressed and industrial materials, including concrete, black metal door frames, wired safety glass and brick- and retro-look wall tiles for the bathroom and kitchen. Adding chic to the shabby, he created a sleek timber box running the width of the apartment, forming a continuous loop around the walls, floor and ceiling, in warm contrast to the hard materials.
Inset from the walls and ceiling, the box provides plenty of hidden storage. Suitcases are tucked into the cupboards above the timber ceiling and there are more concealed cupboards behind one timber-strip wall. On one wall of the bright living area, a grid of concrete boards hides yet more storage.
“We ripped everything out and started again, installing storage everywhere we could,” Lau says.
The only thing that couldn’t be changed was the size of the apartment’s only windows, which run the width of the living area.
“We wanted to lower the windows but [building rules] wouldn’t allow this,” van Hoeven says. “We looked at lots of places and picked this one for its location, right at the heart of the action, and for its high ceilings and open view over Wan Chai. The new layout gives us a huge amount of light.”
Making the most of the light was a key part of the design. Glass walls allow daylight into the kitchen and dining area, and into the only bedroom. Lau also played with angles to allow more light into the kitchen and entrance. He placed the kitchen wall at a subtle angle, to draw the eye towards the windows, an effect highlighted by the timber box.
“The front wall is at an angle, along the line of the street, so we aligned the dividing glass wall between the living area and the bedroom with it. The angle of the kitchen wall makes the space feel larger,” Lau says.
Softening the loft look in the bedroom is an upholstered wall behind the bed in the same dark turquoise as the sofa. Other materials in the room reflect those in the rest of the apartment: the wired-glass and black metal wardrobe doors are the same as the bathroom door, and timber-strip panels echo the box in the living area, extending across the ceiling and down one wall, where they hide more storage. The ceiling panel partially hides a structural beam that bisects the room. “It’s bad feng shui to sleep with your head below a ceiling beam,” Lau explains.
That level of detail is evident elsewhere. For example, the double desk in the living room has angled drawers to fit neatly against the angled front wall and a pull-out shelf that allows the printer to be tucked out of sight. Lau used the small walls created by insetting the timber box to carve out display niches for the couple’s favourite artworks: a tulip painting – a reminder of the Netherlands – in the dining area and a glass-fronted cabinet for ceramic pieces in the living room. A beloved red ginger jar has its own shelf above the front door.
“This apartment is only 70 square feet larger than our previous place,” van Hoeven says. “But here we have two desks not one, are able to walk around the bed and have space for a dining table that can seat four. Louis used every square inch. We even have storage space left in some cupboards.”
Entrance A keepsake red ginger jar sits above the front door, which continues Louis Lau’s playful approach to angles throughout the flat. Mirrored cabinet doors help to bounce light into the entrance hall and segue into the wired-glass bathroom door and timber-door shoe cabinet, all custom made by Lau’s Ample Design.
Dining areaLau sourced the Jeu de Mur-Mur wallpaper by Casamance (HK$23,312) from Wallpaper Plus. The concrete-topped dining table cost HK$12,080 from Euro Sofa Mondo. The felt and oak London chairs were HK$3,692 each from BoConcept.
The white-lacquered Chinese-style side table was from The Red Cabinet and the pair of red fleur-de-lis jars on it were from Tequila Kola. The Fold wall lamp by Foscarini cost HK$4,280 from The PLC Group.
Ample designed the kitchen cabinetry, which Kitchen Square (200 Gloucester Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2838 6218) supplied and installed for a total of HK$145,000 (excluding appliances). The patterned tiles (HK$2,000) were supplied by Nam Kee Building Materials (86 Hop Yick Road, Yuen Long, tel: 2475 5061).
Living room Concealed behind the timber panels and grid of concrete boards are cupboards, made by Ample Design, which also built the double desk (HK$11,200). The office chairs (HK$2,500 each) were from Organic Modernism.
Timber box Dividing and defining the living space is a warm wooden box, custom made by Ample Design for HK$32,000. The Boen timber floor came from Equal. Ample also constructed the glass-fronted display cabinet for HK$6,000.
The glass wall (behind the television) allows natural light into the bedroom, which has a retractable blind for privacy. The Eric Lafforgue photograph of a North Korean traffic policewoman was bought through yellowkorner.com after a trip to the country in 2014.
Bedroom The bedroom is all about storage, with wardrobes behind the wired-glass doors and timber-strip panels, and beneath the hydraulic lift-up king-size bed (HK$12,800), all by Ample Design. The bed base is mirrored to give the impression it is floating.
Bathroom Lau kept the bathroom bright white to maximise the light from a tiny window into an air well. The bevelled brick and patterned tiles are a nod to the wallpaper in the kitchen-diner. All the tiles, including the hexagonal floor tiles, were from Nam Kee Building Materials. The wall lamps (HK$2,560 each) were from Manhattan Lighting (20 Morrison Hill Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2572 5111).
Tried + tested
Clean lines The bedroom door is lined with timber strips, so that when open it doubles as the second wall of the timber box, mimicking the opposite wall and aligning precisely with the edge of the timber floor. Louis Lau, of Ample Design, designed the concealed door (HK$9,500) and television cabinet and metal-and-glass wall (HK$12,000 in total). The ceramic koi fish, by American artist Mark MacKay, came from Maui Hands, in Hawaii.