Moving from Mid-Levels on Hong Kong Island to Tuen Mun in the New Territories was more than a geographical relocation for Paul Gardner and his partner in work and life, Nick Cheng Ho-sing. It was a whole new lifestyle for the co-founders of Fresh Accounting, which has offices in Hong Kong and Singapore. “It is so different to city living,” says Gardner. “We overlook a park, where there are always older people doing tai chi , walking tortoises, and families playing. It has changed the dynamics of our relationship, because we previously lived separately. We go out less and have a better quality of life.” In February 2021, the couple bought a 589 sq ft (55 square metre) flat in a 1980s building near Butterfly Beach, just around the corner from Cheng’s family home. While it was smaller than Gardner had hoped for, it had a lovely view of the sea, park, palm-fringed beach, and in the distance, Hong Kong International Airport and the bridge to Zhuhai . The clincher was the attractive price, which meant there was money left in the budget to make it the home they wanted. “The deal was that if Nick got the flat he wanted, I could renovate it how I wanted,” Gardner says, only half joking. Renaissance design meets minimalism in Hong Kong flat makeover Enter Vicky Chan, of Avoid Obvious Architects, a friend who usually works on commercial and institutional projects. He was happy to be persuaded to design the couple’s home, applying many of the same green principles he brings to larger projects. “Paul really wanted to celebrate Hong Kong, bringing together small local businesses and working as sustainably as possible,” Chan says. “When so many people are leaving, it’s good to see someone who is passionate about the city – I admire that.” Penthouse fuses Japanese design with Scandinavian furniture And so the two-bedroom, one-bathroom flat, which Gardner suspects had not been renovated since being built, was gutted and, in under four months, refurbished to accommodate a large, open-plan kitchen and a fluted-glass sliding door between the two bedrooms, one of which serves as a study. “I wasn’t sure about the sliding door at first,” Gardner admits, “but when it’s closed it helps make the bedroom feel like a cosy Hong Kong room, for Nick; and when it’s open, it feels like a larger South London bedroom, for me.” In line with the couple’s desire to be as sustainable as possible, the walls, doors and built-in furniture were constructed from FSC-certified plywood, with minimal screws, nails or glue. “The idea is, once its life here is over, the wood can be easily reused,” Gardner says. Rooftop jacuzzi, bold yellow sofa improve on penthouse’s hotel-style decor Other walls are concrete in a nod to Gardner’s architect father, who worked on the brutalist South Bank studios of British television company ITV, in London, in the 1970s. Chan, however, suggested polishing the concrete so it would be easier to clean. “It’s important that it is easy to sanitise because of Covid,” he says. In contrast to the pale plywood and industrial concrete of the rest of the flat, the kitchen features sleek dark-wood cabinetry and a stainless-steel splashback with a shiny brass coating. More polished metal brightens the living room, in the form of an aeronautical-inspired Timothy Oulton chest that references the distant view of the airport. Photographs of vintage planes in the dining area, an illustration above the bed, by Hong Kong artist Rickubic, of a low-flying Cathay Pacific aircraft over Kowloon City, and a set of Tintin toy planes continue the theme. Better than Marie Kondo: stylist’s touches transform a family flat “The Timothy Oulton chest is the only piece of ‘named’ furniture we have,” Gardner says. “Instead of copies of designer furniture, we found small local makers, like EMOH, which designs its own pieces and has them constructed in solid wood in China.” Ceiling lamps made from upcycled bicycle wheels epitomise the couple’s ethos. Called Lumi-Rim, they are made by local designer Kevin Cheung Wai-chun, who experiments with waste materials and works with NGOs to produce the pieces. A favourite item is the map of Hong Kong in different woods that hangs above the dining table. It was a housewarming gift from Chan, who handmade it from leftover materials, and includes tiny wooden models of the couple’s office in Central and home in Tuen Mun. Like the flat itself, it is a celebration of sustainability, Hong Kong craftsmanship and creativity, and above all, friendship. Living and dining area The SEN extendable ash dining table, Elbow No 2 dining chairs, stool (beside the coffee table) and Nadine walnut sofa were all made by EMOH (emohdesign.com). The stool at the head of the dining table was bought years ago in Hollywood Road, in Central. The map of Hong Kong was handmade by Vicky Chan, of Avoid Obvious Architects (AOA; aoarchitect.us), using materials donated by Anteric Group (antericgroup.com). AOA also designed the sideboard (below the television), which was custom made by the main contractor, Style House Interior Design (mystylehouse.com.hk). In the corner of the sideboard is an Iittala lamp (iittala.com) and to the left of the television is a light handmade to order by Freeze Lifestyle (freezelifestyle.com). The pendant lamps above the dining table are by Frama (framacph.com) and the flooring is from Tarkett (tarkett.com). The metal Aviator Blackhawk coffee table/chest is by Timothy Oulton (timothyoulton.com). The blue, locker-style cabinet (just seen) came from Ikea (ikea.com.hk). Living area detail The shelving and storage were designed by AOA and custom made by Style House Interior Design. Old candleholders are given a new lease of life as plant pots, which sit alongside an assortment of artwork from London and Penang, including some made from vintage Scrabble tiles (from Old Spitalfields Market, oldspitalfieldsmarket.com). The bathroom vanity unit is from Tung Tat Decoration Materials (20 Hong Lok Street, Mong Kok, tel: 2397 8722). Kitchen The choice of materials helps to define the open-plan kitchen, with Formica laminate cabinetry and gleaming brass-coated stainless-steel splashbacks contrasting with the more industrial living spaces. The worktop is Formica solid surfacing Surell acrylic. The kitchen was designed by AOA and custom made by Style House Interior Design. The ceiling light came from PLC Lighting (plclighting.com). Study Louvred doors cap the plywood living room walls, hiding the air conditioner. Like the built-in desk, they were designed by AOA and custom made by Style House Interior Design. The Lumi-Rim upcycled bicycle wheel ceiling lamp was made by local designer Kevin Cheung Wai-chun (kevin-cheung.com), who is based in Wan Chai’s Blue House. Study and bedroom A fluted-glass sliding door connects the study and bedroom, affording a brighter and more open space. At the end of the bed is a shallow set of steps, each containing a drawer for storage. The built-in bed base is raised to accommodate a suitcase cupboard. The bed, steps, door and floor-to-ceiling wardrobe were designed by AOA and built by Style House Interior Design. The poster came from G. O. D (god.com.hk). Bedroom The louvred headboard folds down to reveal hidden storage and was designed by AOA and constructed by Style House Interior Design. The illustrations are by local artist Rick Lo Ka-wai, aka Rickubic (rickubic.com), whom Cheng and Gardner first met “hustling pictures” on Shanghai Street. On the headboard are Torch soy candles, hand-poured by Michell Lie (michelllie.com) in ceramic vessels by A Minute Studio (aminutestudio.com), a joint initiative that donates part of the purchase price to charities for the elderly. Tried + Tested As for so many other people in Hong Kong, the pandemic has seen Gardner and Cheng working from home regularly. While the study is big enough for both of them, there are plenty of other areas where they can open a laptop, including this lift-up desk, which forms part of the wardrobe in the bedroom. “I like working here – it has a great view,” Cheng says. The desk, which lifts up on a hinge and locks into place, was designed by Chan and custom made by Style House Interior Design.