American financer John Dickson had a contradictory set of requirements for the design of his 376 sq ft flat in Central. He wanted it to be modern but traditional, clean but colourful, and when he was in, he wanted to see out. “The apartment has an open view of Central and, because it overlooks PMQ, that won’t change. I wanted to make the most of the view,” he says. “I wanted to be able to see out all the way through the flat. I didn’t want to feel claustrophobic. I wanted it to be modern but not ultra-modern. I can’t bear stark, all-white designs.” After 18 years in Hong Kong, he had plenty of possessions to accommodate and not a lot of space. So interior designer Max Lam Tsz-hong, of Max Lam Designs, had something of a puzzle on his hands. Making all the pieces fit came down to planning. “We talked through the way [John] lives and what he wanted: plenty of storage, a lot of books and to display his art,” Lam says. “He was happy to make compromises, like having a countertop instead of a table. As a client, he was open-minded. He trusted us.” We positioned the sofa in the centre of the living space, with the television between the windows instead of against the end wall [...] It improves the flow of the space Max Lam, interior designer When the building was originally built, in 1994, the flat had three tiny bedrooms. Over the years, three had become one, but Lam opened up the space even further, knocking out almost all the walls to let in more light and the view. The only window overlooking the harbour (the rest look out at Central’s high-rises) is a small corner pane that was originally in the bathroom. By moving the bathroom wall, Lam was able to amalgamate it into the open-plan kitchen. “It was such a waste having the only harbour view in the bathroom,” Dickson says. “This way I can see the harbour as I walk in.” The bedroom area was raised on a pale-wood platform, which provides underfloor storage, accessed through hatches and a lift-up bed. The large windowsill also lifts up to reveal another cupboard used as a bedside table. To accommodate Dickson’s books, Lam constructed low-slung shelves under the living-room windows and at the end of the bed, maintaining the sense of airy openness. “We positioned the sofa in the centre of the living space, with the television between the windows instead of against the end wall, after John said he spends more time reading than watching TV. It improves the flow of the space,” Lam says. Dickson’s favourite artworks formed part of the design. In the living area, a framed Diego Rivera poster dictated the dimensions of a wall-sized storage cabinet. Instead of two doors opening centrally (like a wardrobe), one became a display panel for the poster and the door was moved to open from the side. A signed poster of a Picasso pen-and-ink bullfighter, a prized gift from Dickson’s father, has pride of place in the kitchen. “I got rid of a lot of things, but I didn’t want to get rid of everything,” Dickson says. “And I was a bit worried about having my bed permanently on show.” Designing for small spaces is not easy, but the result can be interesting Max Lam Lam’s solution was to install blue wood sliding doors between the bedroom and living space that provide privacy when closed and hide the wardrobe when open. Round-cornered, ribbed-glass panels let light permeate the space even when the doors are closed. They are among a series of art deco-inspired details that bring character to the flat. Others include beading on the kitchen cabinets, curved details in the desk drawers and wardrobe doors, and thin blue grooves in the ceiling light troughs. A feature wall of glossy, 3D Moroccan tiles in the kitchen adds colour and texture while a Jeeves bowler-hat wall lamp next to the bed is a fun retro touch. Bringing warmth and interest to the space are a wooden wall panel that acts as a headboard and elements in various shades of blue, including the sliding doors, bathroom door and an “arch” of denim-blue paint surrounding the windows. Crystal light-bulb pendants – an effortless blend of contemporary and classic design – are like jewellery for the kitchen. Clean-lined, bright and open, with lovely views, plenty of storage and a contemporary art-deco twist, Lam’s design nails the brief. “Designing for small spaces is not easy,” he says, “but the result can be interesting.” Living area The sofa came from Decor8 but is no longer sold. The bookcases (HK$18,000/US$2,300) and desk (HK$9,900) were designed by Max Lam Designs . The chair cost HK$16,940 from Archetypal and the rug was HK$6,469 from BoConcept . Flat owner John Dickson bought the artwork above the television years ago. Living area detail The desk, one of two study areas in the flat, has curved details on the drawers that are echoed in the adjacent vertical cabinet. Kitchen It may be compact but the kitchen is fully equipped for cooking. “This is the first time in Hong Kong that I’ve had a full-sized oven,” Dickson says. The cabinetry (HK$15,000) and peninsula counter (HK$1,200 per linear foot) were custom made by Max Lam Designs. The wall tiles (HK$29 each) were from Anta Building Material Supplier . The bar stools cost HK$1,680 each from Decor8. The Crystal Bulb pendants (HK$3,120 each), by Lee Broom, were from Archetypal. The signed Picasso poster of a bullfighter was a gift from Dickson’s father. Bedroom Materials and colours are repeated throughout the flat: the same warm wood veneer was used for the kitchen cabinets and the wall panel/headboard in the bedroom, while the deep blue of the bathroom door is repeated in the sofa and the indented handles on the wardrobe. The ribbed-glass doors (HK$34,000) and bed (HK$16,800) were custom made by Max Lam Designs. Bedroom detail Hidden away between the wardrobe, which was custom made by Max Lam Designs for HK$11,000, and the bedroom wall is a second study area. “The hidden desk lets me work even if I have visitors,” Dickson says. The wall lamp (HK$3,120) and chair (HK$3,820) came from Archetypal. Bedroom detail The Jeeves wall lamp by Jake Phipps cost HK$1,820 from Archetypal. The large windowsill lifts up to reveal bedside storage (HK$13,000) and was custom made by Max Lam Designs. Bathroom Tucked behind the wardrobe is the bathroom. The two-tone vanity unit (HK$2,350) and mirrored wall cabinet (HK$4,400) were custom made by Max Lam Designs. Tried + tested Nice curves The simple, gracefully curved handles of the cabinet in the study are both elegant and practical. The indented design prevents any accidental snagging in a restricted space, and the shape nods to the art-deco elements employed elsewhere in the flat. The cabinets were custom made by Max Lam Designs.