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Flat designed by Damienne Joly. Styling: David Roden. Photography: John Butlin. Photography assistant: Timothy Tsang

From micro home to efficient apartment: how poky Hong Kong flat was transformed by a French architect

An architect has transformed a 300 sq ft dark and cluttered flat in Kennedy Town into a chic, light-filled home

Good things, it is said, come in small packages, and Frenchwoman Noemie Bernard’s 300 sq ft flat in Kennedy Town is a case in point. The space doesn’t feel cramped, but it hasn’t always been this way.

When Bernard first viewed the flat, it was dark and cluttered, with two tiny bedrooms at the front and a pokey living area and kitchen at the back. However, its location and potential appealed to Bernard, who was looking for a buy-to-let property.

She bought the flat last July and was subsequently introduced to French architect Damienne Joly, of Atelierd&l.

Joly gutted the apartmentand came up with a layout that optimised space and light while accommodating all mod cons.

It is one of those apartments where each centimetre counts and what you do in one area has a knock-on effect everywhere else
Damienne Joly, interior designer

“The apartment is situated on a lovely little street – very peaceful and quiet even though it is in the city – and I wanted its interior to echo that,” Joly says. “As it’s in an older walk-up building, it has nice ceiling heights, which help to give it a sense of space and make it feel airy.”


The final plan combined the two bed­rooms into one with an en-suite shower and sink unit. Incorporating a toilet would have made the space too crowded so that remained in its original position, in a room off the kitchen.

Joly positioned the bedroom next to the living area so that both rooms could take advantage of the natural light from the front windows. Instead of a solid wall, she installed a semi-glazed, sliding partition in black stainless steel to capitalise on the light and increase the sense of space.

“It is one of those apartments where each centimetre counts and what you do in one area has a knock-on effect everywhere else,” Joly says. “The glass partition prevents the bedroom from being boxed in and gives extra depth and perspective to the entire place.”

Even the blinds were chosen with a dual purpose in mind. With dark charcoal on the front and white on the reverse, when pulled down to black out the bedroom, the blind’s white backing shows through the glass partition, keeping the living room looking bright.

With a strict budget to meet, Joly had to be financially as well as spatially efficient. Bespoke kitchen cupboards and sanitary­ware would have been too expensive to commission, for example, but, fortunately, Ikea’s standard-sized options fitted perfectly.

There’s no dining area inside the flat so I think this terrace will be used often [...] It extends the indoor space and makes a nice apartment something special
Damienne Joly

Bernard’s brief for the flat was to keep things simple and modern while incorpor­ating character and comfort. Together with Joly, she came up with a palette of white, grey and black, with brass to lift the look. She wanted the flat to have an industrial feel without being cold and stark. So, although she initially leaned towards concrete flooring, she eventually opted for an engineered wood floor, which makes the apartment seem warmer.


A 30 sq ft terrace at the back of the flat adds an extra dimension to the home. When Bernard bought the property, the terrace was little more than a caged-in service area, filled with junk and criss-crossed by the building’s communal drainage pipes. Joly admits it was a challenge but both she and Bernard were keen to transform it into somewhere pleasant to sit, eat and entertain. After clear­ing the rubbish, Joly covered the exposed pipes with decking, which can be easily removed if access is needed, and enclosed the area with bamboo fencing for privacy.

“There’s no dining area inside the flat so I think this terrace will be used often – more so than having a rooftop because it is easily accessible from the kitchen,” Joly says. “It extends the indoor space and makes a nice apartment something special.”


Having snapped up the flat soon after its renovation, the first tenant obviously feels the same way.

Glass partitions allow natural light to flow throughout the apartment.
Living area The sofa (HK$2,990) and television unit (HK$899) were from Ikea. The coffee table (HK$2,499) was from NestNordic and the Arica cotton and natural jute rug was HK$2,400 from Miss Amara. The pendant lamp and cables cost 55.30 (US$68) from Creative Cables.
Sliding doors are ideal in smaller spaces.
Living area and bedroom The three gold wall mirrors (HK$200-HK$300 each) came from H&M Home, which was also the source for the rug (HK$350) in the bedroom. The bed and mattress were HK$5,758 from PriceRite.
The bedside lamps (HK$670 each) were from Stockroom. The steel frame sliding door, including the windows, cost HK$29,000 and was made by Damienne Joly’s contractor.
Blue and grey tones give the apartment a cool, industrial feel, which is softened by the engineered wood floors.

Entrance The lamp was HK$1,500 from a shop on Aberdeen Street, Central, that has since closed.

A galley kitchen works well in a small, narrow space such as this one.

Kitchen The cabinetry (HK$26,300) came from Ikea, not including the frosted acrylic splashback.

Installing a sink with a shallow depth gives the bathroom an additional sense of space.

Bathroom detail The sink unit (including sink and tap) was HK$2,370 from Ikea. The mirror was provided by the contractor.

Natural materials add warmth and texture, even to outdoor spaces.
Outdoor terrace The bamboo fencing cost HK$190 per square metre from GardenPlus. The table (HK$1,850) and chairs (HK$1,350 each) came from Patio Mart.
An wipe-clean acrylic splashback keeps the kitchen looking fresh.

Tried + tested

Clean break Instead of stainless steel or tiles, architect Damienne Joly, of Atelierd&l , proposed a frosted acrylic splashback in the kitchen. It is easy to clean and looks stylish (HK$518 from The Sun International Supplies, 10 Yip Wo Street, On Lok Tsuen, Fanling, tel: 2669 0868).
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Ma x i m u m ex p o s u r e