White becomes the new black in Hong Kong homes

Karina Zabihi's pop-up store demonstrates simple but effective interior designs for Hong Kong homes, all in her favourite hues

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 October, 2014, 4:50am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 October, 2014, 5:36am

Hong Kong's PMQ (formerly the Police Married Quarters) is fast becoming as well known for its creative pop-ups as it is for the cultural enclave's eclectic collection of restaurants and artistic studio-shops.

For Hong Kong-based interior designer Karina Zabihi, the revolving programme of pop-ups presented an opportunity to introduce her innovative modern take on classic pure white interiors, creating a home from home that celebrates a sleek monochromatic aesthetic.

"I have always loved white," says Zabihi, who lived in Hong Kong during the 1990s before setting up home in England, France and Singapore and then returning to the city. "Far from being clinical, white is the most versatile colour for creating a welcoming and calm home. I wanted to show how it can work in a fresh new way, combined with distinctive furniture and decorative pieces from local creatives and international designers."

The Iranian-born, British-educated designer, who moved back to Hong Kong only this year, has been busy building her eponymous studio, kzdesigns, which specialises in residential and hospitality projects.

Her 480 sq ft pop-up, Karo Lifestyle @ PMQ, which is open until November 6, aims to provide alternative ways to create a home in Hong Kong. Zabihi's simple but effective design for the space, which boasts high ceilings and an industrial feel with its exposed pipes, divides the compact unit into a spacious open-plan living and dining area with a separate bedroom. An exposed overhead-shower stands in the centre of the bedroom. "It's a bit more sexy than being tucked away in a corner," says the designer. "To make the most of small spaces the less you box away the better."

Zabihi also transformed the original bare, black concrete floor at minimal cost by painting one-square metre "tiles" using an ethereal tone selected from her new collection of white paints. The range, created in collaboration with PMQ's 513 Paint Shop, was launched during the pop-up. Shimmering textile drapes suspended from the ceiling were hand-painted by 513 Paint Shop's Elsa Jeandedieu.

"I was very much experimenting with different tones and textures of white for this space and the effect she has created is stunning," says Zabihi.

Furnishings and decorative objects throughout have been kept to the barest minimum but nevertheless stand out for their sculptural and material qualities.

For the bed, the designer collaborated with Hong Kong-based Slack.Lifestyle, to create Zleep, a custom-made, ultra contemporary, deconstructed futon-like white bed, while in the living room a Fortuny lamp by Venetia Studium evokes the glamour of an earlier era. Contemporary Sri Lankan artworks throughout the "home" were sourced from Zabihi's private collection.

Elsewhere in the pop-up, the designer experiments with unconventional shapes like the Bodice Rocker, a brilliant-white ultra soft leather lounger created by Miles Hartwell and Matt Withington of British design studio Splinter Works. "Having a sculptural or iconic piece - whether it is an artwork, lighting or an item of furniture in your home - is not only a talking piece but also stamps your personality in the space," she says. "A home, by necessity, needs to be practical but we all need beauty in our lives."

Zabihi also introduces a touch of the unconventional in what is predominantly a modern landscape through a collaboration with fellow PMQ pop-up The World Beyond. The vintage specialists bring the white space to life with unique pieces such as a striking 1920s industrial coat hanger, 1960s round wall mirror, and a steel floor lamp.

"I like juxtaposing the old and the new, contrasting materials, tones and textures," Zabihi says, pointing to the living room, where she added the classic Ogi chair from BoConcept as well as a vintage 1930s metal trunk from The World Beyond. "With an all-white backdrop a few pieces in grey or black really stand out.

"This creates points of interest and a bit of history within the context of a contemporary setting. It also adds individuality and a bit of humour into a design."

Karo Lifestyle @ PMQ aims to transcend an experiment in design by incorporating a series of community-focused events including a series of design talks and modern floral-art lessons, by Felice Flower Design Studio, whose founder, Kuniko Iguchi, created a contemporary arrangement based on the monochromatic interiors to mark the pop-up's opening event.

"It's so exciting to find other creatives who understand the sensuality of a monochromatic setting," says Zabihi.