No redesign should be taken lightly. Michael Godby learned that the hard way, after having reduced his 700 sq ft Lamma Island flat to rubble. Then came the realisation he had neither the time nor the know-how to reconfigure the apartment he had already been living in for two years. That’s when, on the recommendation of a mutual acquaintance, interior designer Debi Yeung-Salansy stepped in.
Godby, thrilled to have persuaded his landlord to sell him the scenic two-bedroom flat with roof, had already mapped out a new layout with a local contractor who assisted in the demolition. “Then [Yeung-Salansy] came over and completely changed all my plans,” Godby says, smiling.
Not quite. Yeung-Salansy reworked only what she says was untenable. Although the kitchen and bathroom would swap positions as planned, she redesigned the new wet room and crossed her arms about a proposed wall that would have semi-enclosed the kitchen. The television was to be accommodated on that wall, at an oblique angle to the sofa in the living area.
“It took two to three hours to convince him,” Yeung-Salansy recalls, explaining that the design was ergonomically wrong. “I said, ‘If you don’t agree to move the wall I’m not taking the job.’” She won (to the relief of Godby’s neck, one imagines).
Then began the process of outfitting the two-bedroom flat on a tight budget and time frame (he had signed a three-month lease on temporary accommodation nearby).
“She would get very frustrated because I moved [in concept] between a beach house, a Spanish hacienda and an English country cottage,” says Godby, a Londoner who decamped to Hong Kong 10 years ago and now works for a video-game developer.
The 497 images they exchanged to guide the design process revealed only that his style was “all over the place” and a bit “old-fashioned”, says Yeung-Salansy, laughing.
For someone “so young, active and cheerful”, she adds, “it was an odd fit”.
Out of those photos, “countless” text messages and lots of meetings, however, has emerged a happy, zestful apartment. By moving the low partition to the other side of the living room, Yeung-Salansy made the layout less awkward while still optimising the sea views. Her teaming of light, neutral hues and natural materials – teak and reclaimed elm among them – contribute to the flat’s joie de vivre.
But Godby stood firm on some of his heart’s desires, including decorative Mediterranean tiles, which make a feature of the narrow balcony running alongside the living areas. And he personalised his rooms with several “pet” possessions: a polar bear holds up a small table; a parrot hangs by the breakfast window; and a cuckoo calls on the hour to tell the time.
Importantly, he also gave himself a shower with a view, something that caused his original contractor to scratch his head.
“He was saying, ‘You gweilo are so strange,’” remembers Godby. “And then he saw the [blue feature] tiles and he said, ‘Why so colourful?’ Which is why I needed a designer – if it had been just him and me, it would have been a mess.”
The small bathroom would also have been less user-friendly. The current configuration allows an open shower and makes better use of space with the installation of a sliding barn door.
However, Godby was talked out of one feature he had envisaged for his kitchen: a ceramic farmhouse sink.
“They are not super practical,” says Yeung-Salansy, explaining that moulded sinks are generally easier to clean and do not stick out beyond the counter.
So, will there be a next time?”
“100 per cent! Now I’ve done it once I’d like to do it again,” Godby shoots back.
But things would be different, he says. “I work 12 hours a day, six days a week. What I didn’t realise is this was a full-time job.”
Yeung politely nods and smiles.
Living area The television unit (HK$25,000), designed by Debi Yeung-Salansy, of Debi Yeung Design. Michael Godby’s old sofa was made to fit by removing an arm. Beneath the old glass coffee table and ottoman is a new rug (HK$4,000) bought through Taobao. The stepping stool came from a shop that has since closed. The fan (US$1,200) came from Big Ass Fans.
Living area detail A wall enclosing the stairs to the roof was removed, opening it to the living area, which now feel more spacious. The shoe bench (HK$10,000) was designed by Debi Yeung Design and features recycled elm from mainland China. The polar-bear table (HK$2,999) was from a shop that has since closed.
Dining area Godby acquired the dining table and chairs from a friend.
Kitchen The L-shaped kitchen (HK$82,000), with a Technistone countertop and reclaimed elm shelving, was designed by Debi Yeung Design. The white subway tiles (HK$6.3 a piece) came from Home Art (154 Lockhart Road, tel: 2806 1333).
Rooftop Breakfast is taken on the roof, which is furnished with a table Godby found on Lamma Island Marketplace.
Balcony Extending the length of the living and dining areas, the balcony was given a lift with floral tiles (HK$52 a piece) from Hop Hing Lung Material (235 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2511 3013).
Main bedroom Enjoying its own balcony, the bedroom is fitted with a cupboard (HK$14,000) sourced through Taobao. The fan (US$595) came from Big Ass Fans. The bedside table and lamp are years old.
Bathroom The bathroom, which enjoys a sea view, features a mirror cabinet (HK$6,000) by Chinese brand Shi Er Shi Man (tel: 86 400 182 9799). The solid teak shelves (HK$8,000 for two) were designed by Debi Yeung Design. The blue subway tiles (HK$9 a piece) came from Hop Hing Lung Material.
Tried + Tested
Cuckoo calling Part of the charm of Michael Godby’s flat on Lamma Island is the Swiss cuckoo clock (HK$3,500, from Enjoy, 1 Des Voeux Road West, Sheung Wan, tel: 9379 1333) that hangs in the living area. The wooden mechanical timepiece chimes every 30 minutes and cuckoos on the full hour (six calls if it’s six o’clock), although it can be switched to quiet mode when necessary.
A chalet-style clock, it also features a chimney sweep who pops out of the chimney, whack-a-mole style. “I think Debi [Yeung-Salansy] got sick of hearing me talk about it,” Godby says, explaining its central position and why it was an important part of his flat’s redesign. “My dad’s got one at home, so he was very happy.”