A library, by definition, is a carefully curated collection of valuables, evoking a sense of wonderment and interest, says Maxime Dautresme, founder and creative director of design studio A Work of Substance. So when a client approached him wanting to create a repository for his vintage cars and automotive memorabilia, Hong Kong’s first car library was born. “This isn’t a car park or a garage but a private place to display and entertain – a showcase of some of the world’s finest automobiles and the historical pedigree that accompanies them,” says Dautresme. Situated in Wan Chai, the combined 6,120 sq ft (570 square metre) space comprises a street-level entrance and The Library (as named by A Work of Substance) several floors above. As well as an abundance of automotive references, the project’s concept was based on a design approach from the 1950s – an era in which function defined form. The use of high-quality materials – leather, teak and oak among them – and customised furniture injects The Library with the comfort and warmth of a luxurious living room but its genius lies in the fact that the entire fit-out can be dismantled with a few tools and moved elsewhere. The award-winning Hong Kong recycling centre that looks like a hotel “The outcome of automotive design is an expression of its functionality. Similarly, every aspect of this project’s design is purposeful and enhanced through modularity, which celebrates mechanics and structure – attributes driven by function rather than form,” says Dautresme. Setting the scene is the entrance, which wouldn’t look out of place in a James Bond film. With no air conditioning system on this level, two enormous, low-speed ceiling fans circulate the air while a pair of gleaming double lifts, surrounded by corrugated concrete, transport the cars to and from the main floor. ‘Nostalgic, but very now’: flat renovation evokes old Hong Kong A security booth, inspired by a 1960s Airstream trailer, sits in one corner while in another a timber-clad reception room allows the owner to relax while waiting for his cars to be brought down. Even the car keys have their own compartmentalised drawer lined in different leathers, in the reception lounge. “We wanted to create a space that is an antechamber of the upstairs,” says Dautresme. A raw concrete shell when he and his team first got their hands on it, the upper floor is now a jaw-droppingly elegant space – the antithesis of a typical car-storage facility. Sandblasted glass bricks to the left of the lifts enclose a gleaming stainless-steel kitchen, bathroom and storage room. Below louvred windows on the right-hand wall are hidden fans that suck out exhaust fumes. (Air conditioning is integrated into the ceiling and other walls.) From there the 4,000 sq ft, wood-panelled Library stretches back to a lounge and bar, a desk area and motor-racing simulator, and a display system along the back wall (see Tried + tested). Naturally, the vintage car collection takes centre stage, with space to fit eight models comfortably but with room for one more if required. With the biggest challenges being a low-beamed ceiling and a long, narrow floor plan, the designers created a ribbed timber framework (enclosing the beams) as the mainstay of the project. They then devised a series of hydraulic reflective panels to compensate for the ceiling structure and add multiple points of view. These wall mirrors move and can be angled to spotlight myriad aspects of the cars and their engines. Japanese minimalism, soft lighting make Hong Kong apartment a sanctuary “A complex but flexible lighting system combines with the reflective panels to control the atmosphere,” said Dautresme. “You can highlight a particular car or feature and its reflection becomes an almost artistic expression of itself.” The designers used reclaimed timber with wide planks for the flooring, allowing the cars to rest easy without maintenance constraints: wear and tear such as leakages and tyre marks simply add to the soul of the already aged material. Allusions to cars are present in almost every detail. Aluminium side tables resemble spark plugs; mesh on the front of cabinets is reminiscent of air grilles; cabinetry handles mimic the Zagato door handle of a Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta SWB. The bespoke seating was inspired by iconic designs in automotive upholstery and also echoes The Library’s 1950s theme. Like seats in the back of a modern vehicle, leather banquettes can be folded down to become additional display spaces while lounge chairs pay homage to the Ferrari Dino, recalling the bucket seats of the vintage racing car. “We also used colours that are an extension of the cars themselves and their history,” says Dautresme. “The display case interiors, for example, match the bodywork of the cars near them. Our client was a great collaborator and an excellent source of inspiration regarding the history of every car model. This project is an extension of his passion.” The Library The design team created a ribbed timber framework (enclosing the beams) and inserted hydraulic reflective panels to add multiple points of view. These movable panels are made of thin-gauged stainless steel so they are light enough to manipulate but strong enough not to warp or bend. The air treatment nozzles in the ceiling were inspired by automotive features. Lounge detail A Work of Substance (aworkofsubstance.com) designed and made the small but functional teak desk, with leather inlay, and the portable lantern, which is inspired by vintage car lighting. Lounge and bar All the furniture and fittings in the lounge area were designed and made by A Work of Substance, including the leather banquette seating; teak and leather lounge chairs (inspired by the Ferrari Dino); glass and teak coffee tables; three vibration-finish (non-directional hairline finish), stainless-steel side tables (reminiscent of spark plugs); the mini bar; shelving system; and all lighting. The car simulator at the far end of the room was the client’s own and he collected the automotive memorabilia over the years. A handcrafted, leather-bound Taschen book, featuring content from the Ferrari archives, is enclosed in a Ferrari-engine-inspired red aluminium case designed by Marc Newson (marc-newson.com/ferrari-art-collectors-edition). Waiting lounge The ground-floor reception lounge mimics the style of the main Library, with oak panelling and reclaimed oak flooring from Uniwood (uniwoodproducts.com). A Work of Substance designed and made the banquette seating out of Verona Aniline leather from the Contemporary Leathers collection by Instyle (instyle.com.au), as well as the vibration-finish, stainless-steel tables, lanterns and table lamps. Kitchen The stainless-steel kitchen, equipped with Sub-Zero and Siemens appliances, was designed and fitted by A Work of Substance. Next Dark stone tiles from the Nextone collection by Lea Ceramiche (leaceramiche.com) pave the floor. Street-level entrance Under one of two huge ceiling fans from Big Ass Fans (bigassfans.com) is a Mercedes 300SL, part of a collection of vintage cars housed in The Library. Vibration-finish stainless steel is used as ceiling panels. The stone floor tiles are the same as those in the kitchen. Fluted timber cladding the exterior of the reception lounge echo the fluted concrete on other walls. Bathroom Above the marble sink, designed by A Work of Substance, is a large mirror that reflects the bathroom. Resembling Japanese shoji screens, the sandblasted glass bricks came from Glass Label (glasslabel.com.hk) and these are mounted on a grid system that can easily be dismantled with an Allen key. Portholes in the door are a signature feature of A Work of Substance. Tried + tested Let there be light Designed and made by A Work of Substance, the display unit along the back wall of The Library consists of a system of vertical columns, incorporating brackets and rails. Magnetic lights, inspired by vintage models, can be repositioned by moving them vertically up and down the rails for the ultimate in versatility. Shelving and display cases can be moved in the same way.