A playful interior design makeover sees a family home go from bland to bold
- The owners of this 1,600 sq ft flat in Hong Kong’s Sai Kung district were happy to get rid of everything and start afresh
- An exuberant Miami design print is the first feature wall that visitors encounter and makes for an instant talking point
As their young family grew, the owners of this 1,600 sq ft, three-bedroom flat became increasingly bored of staring at their plain white walls. “The client wanted to have something interesting to look at in every area,” says Yu-chang Chen, founder of interior design studio hoo, who was tasked with transforming the washed-out apartment into a colourful and imaginative space.
The Chinese owners, who run their own engineering firm, were happy to get rid of everything and start afresh so Chen’s approach was to begin with the bones of the apartment, set in a low-rise building overlooking the mountains and village houses of Sai Kung.
“The apartment has big windows, almost floor to ceiling, so it’s very bright,” he says. “With so much light, I knew patterns and rich colours weren’t going to be a problem.”
In a slight departure from the sleek mid-century modern style that Chen is known for, he mooted a range of bold wallpapers. “We try to give each project a very individualised and unique look and feel. Here, I wanted to take mid-century modern and make it more playful to suit their personalities,” he says.
When the owners agreed to an eye-popping print from Cole & Son for the open-plan living and dining room, Chen knew it would be plain sailing from there on. It was soon agreed that there would be a different colour palette and feature wall in each room.
The exuberant Miami design is the first feature wall that visitors encounter and it makes for an instant talking point. It graces the wall next to the front door, which opens onto the living and dining room, and features jumbles of tropical plants, colonnaded villas, pergolas, pillars, tiled terraces and repeating staircases, reminiscent of a modern version of M.C. Escher’s optical illusion lithographs. To bring some mid-century brawn – and much needed storage – to the space, Chen had the living room cabinetry custom made in American walnut with gold-lacquer display shelves and a television console. Behind the TV, there’s a second, less obvious feature wall, hand-painted by Moroccan artist Assia Bennani to appear like soft polished concrete. A vivid turquoise sofa responds to both the grey wall and the blue-greens of the wallpaper.
The next step in the four-month refurbishment was to rip up insipid old flooring and replace it with a rich oak, laid in a chevron pattern, adding warmth and texture. It flows from the living room into a corridor leading to a guest bathroom, the children’s rooms (a girl and a boy, aged seven and three, respectively, at the time of the redesign, in 2019) and the main bedroom.
In the boy’s room, a lush palm-print House of Hackney wallpaper mingles with oak floors, a custom-made American walnut desk, built-in white wardrobes and a rattan chair. His big sister’s room is almost a mirror image but features a whimsical flamingo-print wallpaper chosen by the bird-loving girl herself. A shared bathroom flashes greys, blues and denim-effect tiles while the parents’ bedroom is a veritable vision of pinks and purples.
“If you’re going to choose a feature wallpaper the wallpaper has to be bold, otherwise what’s the point?” says Chen of the flowers-in-bloom wall mural in the main bedroom. The only non-repeating wallpaper pattern in the apartment, the mural feels more like an art piece, adding depth without overwhelming the space.
The only change to the overall floor plan was pushing back a wall at the rear of the main bedroom, which allowed Chen to create a more capacious walk-in wardrobe while freeing up space to add a versatile island – storage space, vanity table, workstation, eye-catching feature. But the scene-stealer is the fabulous magenta-pink en suite bathroom. “They really love the bathroom, they love the colour,” says Chen.
It’s an apartment that gives each area its own distinct atmosphere while tying it all together with a mid-century modern thread.
“The materials – the velvets, the brass, the rattan cane; the colour choices – the greens, burgundy, the walnut; and the shapes, they are quite mid-century,” says Chen. “But this is the first time we’ve used so many different wallpapers in one apartment – there’s even a wallpaper in the corridor.”
Living and dining area
The plum-hued wall mural is by New Zealand textile designer Emma Hayes (emmahayes.co.nz). It is teamed with a custom-built, hoo-designed island and bedside tables, in walnut and cane topped with Carrara marble. The brass pendant lamp came from Bert Frank (bertfrank.co.uk). The PH5 Mini suspension lamp, from Louis Poulsen, (louispoulsen.com) and the rich pink velvet H&M bedspread add a mid-century modern flourish.
Sleek white cupboards designed by Binova Milano (binovamilano.com) are jazzed up with geometric-print porcelain stoneware tiles from Atlas Concorde (atlasconcorde.com) and a black-frame glass door custom made by hoo.
“We tried not to repeat any colours,” says hoo founder Yu-chang Chen of the blue-hued guest bathroom. The denim-effect tiles were from the Digitalart collection by Ceramica Sant’Agostino (ceramicasantagostino.it). Hoo custom made the cabinetry and mirror.
The pinks and purples of the main bedroom flow into a dramatic, magenta-coloured en suite bathroom, designed and made-to-measure by hoo. The glossy cabinets are tempered with light-grey floor and wall tiles from Living Ceramics (livingceramics.com). The chair was from Ton.
In the girl’s room, a bespoke desk, in American walnut, was installed beside a wall featuring the Flamboyance flamingo print from House of Hackney (houseofhackney.com), accentuated by Dusty Pink paint from Dulux (dulux.com.hk). The velvet chair was bought by the owners years ago. The natural-cotton bedspread came from H&M.
The navy and palm-print wallpaper is from a discontinued line at House of Hackney. It is complemented by an American walnut desk (custom made by hoo), a rattan chair from Ton and a classic black Anglepoise lamp (anglepoise.com).
Tried & Tested
Yu-chang Chen of hoo designed and produced an island for the bedroom. A versatile piece, it multitasks as a workstation, a vanity table and a focal point while providing additional storage. The natural hues of the walnut and cane, the brass edging, curves and hairpin legs create a mid-century modern effect against the bedroom’s contemporary wall mural.