It is easy to get caught up in the moment and not give much thought to the future but with retirement on the horizon, Susanna Lo decided to plan ahead. She wanted somewhere that would suit her lifestyle – Lo is a keen traveller and enjoys yoga – and her work (in finance). This 1,500 sq ft flat in Pok Fu Lam ticked all the boxes, not least because of its proximity to her son’s home. She enlisted Yu-Chang Chen, interior designer and founder of hoo, and his colleague Yannes Cheng Hoi-Yan to help turn it around.
Lo wanted something cosy but elegant and initially thought European style would be the way to go. However, she also hankered after a deep Japanese tub, so after a few brainstorming sessions with Chen, she decided to compromise.
“Combining Japanese and Scandinavian styles is not as strange as you might think,” Chen says. “They are similar in essence and show many common traits, such as clean lines, the use of natural materials and simplicity.”
The pair gutted the original three-bedroom flat, but kept the communal areas at the front of the flat and the private rooms at the back. The second bedroom was turned into a multipurpose space, and what had been the third bedroom was divided between a spacious walk-in wardrobe and a guest bathroom.
Lo acknowledges having been concerned her home would end up too minimalist – cold rather than cosy. Chen got around this by using Japanese elements in the background – white walls and oak detailing – balanced with Scandinavian furniture and accessories.
“The current trend is to use a different wood in each room but I went for oak throughout to keep everything light and uniform. It has a wonderful warmth and its beautiful natural grain adds texture and interest, although it was tricky trying to control its colour variation,” Chen says.
To prevent the apartment from appearing flat, he created tongue-and-groove wall panelsand slatted-wood cupboards and shelves. Rippled-glass frontage on cabinets and subtle “shadow gaps” around the recessed door frames echo the striped effect.
Such simplicity is not without its challenges. “A minimal interior needs to be perfectly executed because with not much furniture and an absence of clutter, any mistake would be obvious,” he says.
Chen kept Scandinavian design principles in mind when sourcing all the furniture, accessories and lighting. The lamps are the only items that differ in style from room to room. Had they all been the same, the home would have looked boring, Chen says.
Lo was worried about an overload of Japanese influences but she went with Chen’s suggestion for the guest room. The space needed to be versatile, so he created a platform that can be converted into a bed or covered with mats to become a yoga studio. A long, fitted desk-cum-shelf also offers the option of turning the room into an office.
The renovations took place without Lo visiting the site, leaving Chen nervous about showing his client her remodelled home. He needn’t have worried; her reaction was a resounding thumbs up.
So keenly did Lo embrace the minimalist space that she decided to do without a rug or coffee table in the living area.
“It is very important to us to influence our clients’ sense of design and make a difference,” Chen says. “We want to give them a scheme they will love but we also want to push boundaries and come up with something new that they might never have considered.”
Dining area The dining table (HK$10,300/US$1,312) and chairs (HK$3,440 each) came from Muuto. The pendant lamp cost HK$8,000 from Le Klint and the sideboard was HK$17,500 from Hay. The plants were gifts from hoo, which custom designed the shelving unit (in foreground) for HK$40,000.
Living room The sofa cost HK$31,300 from Muuto and the side table was HK$4,800 from Fritz Hansen. The artwork was a gift.
Kitchen The cabinetry, by BonKuchen, cost HK$180,000. The door was custom designed by hoo for HK$12,000
Main bedroom The wall light cost HK$3,500 from Örsjö Belysning and the bedside table was HK$2,190 from Muuto. The bed and headboard panelling (HK$20,000 in total) were custom designed by hoo. The artwork was a gift.
Main en-suite bathroom The Kohler sink (HK$1,650) and Toto Japanese- style toilet (HK$21,500) came from Hop Lung Building Materials (298 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2802 2296). The cabinetry was custom designed by hoo for HK$28,000.
Walk-in wardrobe The cabinetry was custom designed by hoo for HK$88,000.
Study/guest room The desk (HK$12,000) and overhead cabinets (HK$32,000) were custom designed by hoo.
Guest bathroom The Kohler sink (HK$1,650) and Toto toilet (HK$7,600) were bought at Hop Lung Building Materials. The cabinetry (HK$20,000) and Japanese onsen tub (HK$12,000) were custom designed by hoo.
Tried + tested
Raise me up The top of the oak platform in the guest room rises at the touch of a button to reveal storage space for mattresses and bedding. The hydraulic platform cost HK$30,000 and was custom designed by hoo.