Architect Wesley Liu Yik-kuen doesn't live life by halves. Last year, as well as managing his interior design firm, PplusP Designers, coming up with ideas for a range of furniture and accessories (to be launched online at the end of this year) and cooking singlehandedly for corporate clients in his private kitchen, he decided to renovate his 1,241 sq ft Mei Foo Sun Chuen apartment - just three months before his wedding day.
"I got the keys to the apartment in April last year, but I had to leave it empty for a few months because I was too busy," he says. "I started work on it the minute I got a chance, and me and my wife, Karen, moved in three months later - when we got home from our wedding."
The three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment had been left in a terrible state by its previous, elderly owners, Liu says. But apart from demolishing the wall between the kitchen and living area to allow for a greater sense of space, he kept the apartment's layout intact.
"Mei Foo is famous for its old apartments with a lot of usable space and there wasn't much point changing the layout for the sake of change," he says. "I also like the area because I grew up here and my family still lives here, too."
He transformed a tiny helper's room into a wine cellar and substituted bricks for glass between the living area and the windowless study, to bring in natural light. He also replaced traditional 12-paned windows with much larger ones to let in more light and make the most of the views over Lai Chi Kok Park.
In contrast to the 50-year-old block, Liu's apartment is contemporary in style - even the front door, with its thin slate panels and stainless-steel signage, stands out from its more traditional neighbours. White is used throughout, with colour and texture added in the form of patterned tiles and feature wallpaper. However, if the Lius get bored with their plain walls, they can pick up coloured pens and create their own murals. The paint, which comes from New Zealand, has a special finish allowing it to be used like a whiteboard so you can draw whatever you want and rub it off. Likewise, a wall in the study is covered in blackboard paint over a magnetic powder coating and can serve as a noticeboard.
Liu says a sense of harmony is one of the main characteristics of his style and there is evidence of this throughout the flat. The shape of a dining counter echoes the drop ceiling above it; the pattern of blue-and-white Delft-style tiles on the kitchen splashback is repeated in an intricate screen. Even skirting boards and door frames, handles and hinges were chosen in the same style.
"I didn't find it difficult to come up with the look I wanted or find the furniture and other items to make it work, but I'm very picky about even the smallest details," Liu says. "Once I have an idea, I like to get it exactly right."
Instead of paintings, Liu uses wallpaper and everyday objects as art features. The clock in the study is almost sculptural and the sink in the en-suite bathroom is shaped like a paint pot. Sharply pleated white wallpaper in the living area provides interesting texture while a feature wall in the dining area adds colour. Fourteen antique Taiwanese light switches are arranged in rows next to a mirror in the entrance. Not only do they work, switching on various lamps and lights in the main room, but they are visually appealing.
"I love things that are functional and also look cool," he says.
Hong Kong homeowners tend to obsess over storage, but not Liu. He avoided built-in wardrobes and cabinets wherever possible to keep the space flexible.
"The apartment is small so it had to be very versatile," he says. "Without fitted furniture, we can easily convert certain rooms, such as our study, for a different purpose. We are expecting our first child at the end of the year so the guest room will be adapted as a nursery. I don't do cute kid's rooms, but hopefully this baby will grow up in style."
Living/dining area (above and below) The sofa was HK$47,200 from Ligne Roset (Leighton Centre, 77 Leighton Road, Happy Valley, tel: 2891 0913). The screen (HK$3,680) and coat stand (HK$1,490) were both bought online from Decor8 (9/F, Fuk Chiu Factory Building, 20 Bute Street, Mong Kok, tel: 5104 8325). The rug (HK$9,549) and dining stools (HK$1,549 each) were from BoConcept (73 Wyndham Street, Central, tel: 2668 0027). The Hi-Macs kitchen/dining counter by LG cost HK$128,000 from Luxx Newhouse (2/F, Kwai Shun Industrial Centre, 51 Container Port Road, Kwai Chung, tel: 3572 0251). The So navy dining chairs (HK$6,400 each) and white Rocher dining chairs (HK$4,400 each) were from Ligne Roset. The Diesel pendant light was HK$9,880 from PLC Lighting (110 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2519 6275). The white pleated wallpaper (above; left of sofa) was HK$320 a yard from Tat Ming Wallpaper (16/F, Kwan Chart Tower, 6 Tonnochy Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2893 2337), which also supplied the striped wallpaper (HK$1,600 a roll). The flooring was HK$125 per square foot from Quick Step (www.quick-step.com.hk).
Study (above and below) The magnetic coating and blackboard paint came from CNT Resene (31/F, CNT Tower, 338 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2387 7338). The desk was HK$9,800 from Nature Evolution (242 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, tel: 2857 3830) and the coat stand was HK$2,080 from Decor8. The clock was NT$9,800 (HK$2,300) from an Eslite store in Taiwan. Seen through the window, the Riva 1920 Tobi-3 cedar coffee table (HK$32,731) came from Chest Apply Asia (2/F Harbour Centre, 25 Harbour Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2575 8286) and the trolley was a gift.
Guest room The wooden clothing rail (HK$5,320), ladder (HK$1,790) and Devon oak bed (HK$6,630) all came from Decor8. The solid oak coffee table beneath the rail was HK$2,880 from Nature Evolution. The Diesel pendant lamp was HK$4,490 from PLC Lighting.
Entrance The mirror (HK$9,500) and was custom made by PplusP Designers (www.ppluspdesigners.com). The antique light switches were picked up in Taiwan. The shoehorn hanging from the shelf was bought at Mushroom (Millennium City 5, APM Mall, 418 Kwun Tong Road, Kwun Tong, tel: 3148 9088).
Master bathroom The Bucket sink (HK$7,800), by Scarabeo, came from Galaxy Bathroom Collection (332 Portland Street, Mong Kok, tel: 2399 0668) and the Hi-Macs yellow sink unit was HK$9,500 by LG from Luxx Newhouse. The yellow mirror was HK$450 from Ikea (www.ikea.com.hk). The master bed (HK$6,390) came from SofaSale (www.sofasale.com.hk) and the pendant lamp (HK$1,800) was picked up in Mong Kok. The chair (HK$6,800) came from Oscar Bath and Kitchen (48/F, China Online Centre, 333 Lockhart Road, tel: 2988 1949).
TRIED + TESTED
Sew far, sew good Wesley Liu likes mixing quirky elements with contemporary style. He recycled an antique wrought-iron sewing treadle by removing the wooden top and screwing it to a Corian dining counter.
"The treadle is very heavy so it makes a great table base. It still moves so anyone who sits near it ends up putting their feet on it and playing with it," he says.
The sewing machine treadle cost HK$3,000 from Shambala, in Ap Lei Chau (now closed).