“We’re not architects or interiors designers; this is something just for us that we can do together creatively,” says brand communications director Anne Gabor of the 2,500 sq ft (232 square metre) work studio she shares with her videographer husband, Alex Gabor. Looking around the cavernous one-bedroom space, with its oil-black floors, custom furnishings and eye-catching art, it’s hard to believe this is the work of amateurs. “We’ve been here for almost 10 years,” says Anne. “I used to have an art advisory firm, specialising in Filipino art, and we were one of the first galleries to take advantages of the great spaces available in Ap Lei Chau.” The high ceilings and white walls provided the perfect tableau but the 1960s industrial unit, on a small island to the south of Hong Kong, wasn’t without its challenges: “It was absolutely empty. There were no electrics, no plumbing for the kitchen and the floors were covered in a horrible, fungus-green-coloured linoleum,” recalls Alex. A contractor was brought in to fit the black Ikea kitchen (allowing Anne to host events), but it was Alex, a perfectionist and DIY enthusiast, who came up with a novel money-saving solution for the floor; coating the entire surface in a black, high-gloss epoxy paint often used in car parks. A Hong Kong flat is transformed by ripping out disastrous additions At that time, the gallery’s only other must-have, for Anne, was a modular black velvet sofa, which could be positioned according to the art on display. But, as the years progressed, both the couple and the space evolved. Anne stepped back from a career in art, moved into brand communications and took up writing. Alex reignited a passion for working with his hands. Both wanted a more comfortable place to work and were tired of leaving their darling rescue dogs – Humphrey and Ella – at home during the day. “We wanted a way to fuse all of the things we love,” says Anne. The resulting amalgamation is as homely as it is sophisticated. Stepping through the front door you find yourself in a vast rectangular space that forms the kitchen, entrance hall and sitting room, with an office separated by a stack of 45 wooden storage boxes, which Alex built using Indonesian blockboard. As well as dividing the area, the boxes allow for the couple’s collection of art, sculpture, books, crystals and even a Lego yellow submarine to be harmoniously displayed. “We don’t take ourselves too seriously, a lot of what we put in here is because it makes us smile,” says Anne. Other decorative elements reflect the couple’s personal approach and global point of view: in the living area a colourful Tibetan bench mingles with an Eames chair and a gold-trimmed coffee table made by Alex, while Filipino art, a litter of gold lucky cats and a Victorian-style portrait of one of the dogs sit above an Ikea cabinet. The workspace has a desk, designed and built by Alex, accompanied by a vintage Pollock chair, as well as a breakout space with a thick black rug and a collection of acoustic and electric guitars. Inside a Hong Kong designer’s ‘chamber of art and curiosities’ The bedroom is not immediately apparent. “We tried to work with the weird angles and slanting arches,” says Alex, who teamed up with a contractor to install plasterboard walls that followed the unusual layout of the beams to section off a space for sleeping. Almost an optical illusion, the barely noticeable bedroom is actually large enough to host a king-size four-poster bed, ample storage and numerous artworks. More inventiveness can be found in the bathroom, where two of the four original toilets stalls have been converted into a shower and a row of utilitarian sinks has been replaced with dark grey his-and-hers sink cabinets. Evident throughout is the couple’s clever way with lighting. “I’m a big fan of smart lighting,” says Alex, who fitted track lighting and converted lamps to accommodate smart bulbs. “It gives you a whole spectrum to play with – from warm whites to orange to wild strawberry – and for a little effort you get a lot out if it in terms of highlighting artworks, colour and wall space.” Initially envisaged as a gallery, the studio now operates on a number of levels: office, event space, music studio, home from home, doggy day care centre – a brief that any professional designer would be hard-pressed to meet but which the Gabors have managed with ease. Living area In the foreground is a custom-made Tibetan bench from Oriental Home (facebook.com/orientalhomehk) in Horizon Plaza, a mohair Eames lounge chair from Design Within Reach (dwr.com) and a vintage-style bar cart passed down from a friend. Anchoring the sitting room is a cream rug, a wedding gift bought from Tequila Kola (tequilakola.com), and a black velvet modular sofa made to order from a store since closed. It is draped with a Tibetan tiger rug from Raw Emotions (raw--emotions.com). The circular multiple-level coffee table was made by Alex Gabor and the square coffee table came from Tree (tree.com.hk). The Norma Lantern floor lamp is by French designer François Champsaur (champsaur.com). The ceiling fan came from Hunter Pacific (hunterpacificinternational.com). Artworks include pink and black ceramic gun sculptures by Horacio Rodriguez, purchased from Gallery Mar (gallerymar.com). Two down from the handguns is an Ed Ruscha lithograph, purchased from a private collector, and at the bottom of the row is a work by Peter Yuill (peteryuill.com), bought directly from the artist in Hong Kong. To the right of the Rodriguez work is a gift from artist Marc Standing (marcstanding.com). Below that, the large work is by John Frank Sabado and came from The Drawing Room Gallery (drawingroomgallery.com). Entrance Anne took her old desk – the first piece she had custom made in Hong Kong – and updated it with a coat of Eicó sustainable paint (eico.co.uk). The side tables were designed and made by the couple, using salvaged Eames chair legs. “I find them slightly Frankenstein-ish but a good example of how we don’t take design and aesthetics too seriously,” she says. “We just like to have fun and see what happens when we put things together.” Dining area Much of the Gabors’ furniture was custom made by shops in Horizon Plaza (horizonplazahk.com): the teak dining table was bought from a shop that has since closed, while the chairs, floating shelves, dark-wood cabinet and track lighting were all from Ikea (ikea.com.hk). The crystal on the dining table was from Moon Convos (instagram.com/moon.convos). The plants and plant pots came from Keren’s Garden (kerensgarden.com). The “Sorry” light box is one of two the couple created from the existing light fixtures. Bathroom Remodelling the bathroom gave Alex the chance to display masks that he has been collecting since childhood. The Gabors designed the room themselves, updating the original stalls, adding sinks and other units from Ikea and commissioning arched mirrors from a glass specialist in Wan Chai, on Hong Kong Island, years ago. Kitchen The black kitchen cabinets and particle marble worktop came from Ikea and were fitted years ago. Above is a Marian Drew photograph bought from a gallery since closed. Blue Flower, JFK was gifted to the couple by American artist Michael De Feo (mdefeo.com). It is set in a gold frame that Anne picked up at a junk sale in Sheung Wan. The metallic-glass vase came from Mong Kong Flower Market (flower-market.hk) in Kowloon. Work space/office The large black rug and small circular one were bought from another now-defunct store in Horizon Plaza. The rattan lamp from Ikea has been customised with a smart light bulb. The desk and white storage boxes were designed and made by Alex. Both are modular with discreet compartments to hide cords. The vintage Pollock desk chair was an anniversary gift from Anne to Alex. The Louis Ghost chair is from Kartell (kartell.com) and was a gift from Alex to Anne. Bedroom A custom-made four-poster bed from Oriental Home, bedside tables from 1st Dibs (1stdibs.com) and a rug from Miss Amara (missamara.hk) add distinctive touches to the bedroom. The crystals on the bedside tables were from Moon Convos. The upper artwork is by Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan and was purchased from Art Fair Philippines (artfairphilippines.com). The lower piece is by James Gordon and came from the Cat Street Gallery, now closed. Tried + tested Way out Anne and Alex created two light installations from the existing Exit sign fixtures by swapping the bulb fittings for smart bulbs and printing the words “Sorry” and “I love you” onto acetate film, which was then affixed to acrylic panels taking the place of an ordinary light cover. “We wanted to highlight the most important words that we say to each other,” says Anne.