July 24, 2024

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How a Hong Kong interior designer helped a couple create a more flowing home



a living room filled with lots of furniture: The Dylan Tan-designed Ma On Shan flat offers a soft approach to the industrial aesthetic. Photography: John Butlin. Photography assistant: Timothy Tsang


The Dylan Tan-designed Ma On Shan flat offers a soft approach to the industrial aesthetic. Photography: John Butlin. Photography assistant: Timothy Tsang

For fitness fanatics Chloe and Andrew Chow, living within walking distance of the Tolo Harbour cycling path and the hiking trails of Ma On Shan Country Park seemed perfect.

The Ma On Shan flat they bought in 2005, which had been completed the year before, was ideally located and even had views over the water. But with two bedrooms and an enclosed kitchen squeezed into less than 500 square feet of usable floor space, and little storage, it felt pokey.

“We’d always planned to renovate, but we were waiting until the flat was ‘old’ so we had a reason to,” says Chloe, who works in counselling; her husband is in engineering.

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When that time finally came, the couple engaged designer Dylan Tan Dar-luen, of WOM Concept, whose style they had admired in a flat featured in Post Magazine.

Design tweak gives Hong Kong home flow – and plenty of storage

Having spent enough time in the home to know what worked – and more importantly, what didn’t – they craved a more cohesive flow. An open kitchen was high on Chloe’s wish list. “I like to invite friends to our home, and don’t want to isolate myself in the kitchen,” she explains.

Storage was also essential. Describing themselves as minimalist, the couple found grating the encroaching stacks of books, paperwork and necessary household detritus piling up around them.

Tan’s idea to remove internal walls could, he told them, achieve their objectives. So they agreed to do away with the second bedroom, allowing an extra 40 square feet of space to be allocated to the couple’s bedroom – now a comfortable 110 square feet, with two new sets of floor-to-ceiling wardrobes and a substantial desk.

The extra space allowed Tan to design a headboard with two built-in bedside tables, and a hydraulic lift-up bed providing storage underneath. Above the bed, he designed a simple yet stylish feature artwork of brightly painted timber blocks stuck onto the wall with Blu Tack in a geometric pattern.

Designer and clients shared a preference for a simple colour palette of grey, black and white, which Tan teamed with industrial-chic cement-look floor tiles and matt-black accents throughout. This works well for a minimalist look, but Tan was careful not to take it too far: the New York-style loft vibe doesn’t work in modern buildings, he says, because things such as the new windows look out of place.

“I toned it down a bit – you get a bit of an industrial look but it’s not over the top,” he explains.



diagram, engineering drawing: Photo: Handout


© Provided by South China Morning Post
Photo: Handout

Removing the kitchen walls has elevated what was once little more than a storeroom into a convivial hub. Chloe has the bench space she desired, crafted from black engineered stone, with cupboards above and below finished in black-and-white nanotechnology laminate, which the manufacturer says shows no fingerprints.

Where the benchtop meets the living area, it morphs into a timber dining table made from warm toned walnut. Above it hangs a matching slimline LED pendant.

The remaining extra space cribbed from the redundant second bedroom allowed the living area to “grow” by 30 square feet, opening up the room’s already expansive sea view. A lowline entertainment cabinet continues the walnut theme, while a sliding door to a balcony allows the sea breeze to permeate the flat.

After gutting the bathroom, Tan replaced a seldom-used bathtub with a large shower and a standard basin with a contemporary vanity and black tapware.

Proof that in a 480 sq ft Hong Kong flat, less is more

By the front door, a full-height mirror disguises a shoe cupboard that can hold up to 40 pairs of footwear, including “a lot of running shoes”. Also in this area are the couple’s bicycles, stored in a space-conscious way, and even more storage.

The couple’s Japanese-style stepped cabinet didn’t really have a place in the new layout, but as it was the first piece of furniture they had bought together, they wanted to keep it for sentimental reasons. Tan used it as the first piece in a jigsaw-like unit that steps incrementally along a wall, the old and new blending harmoniously via a few open “steps” made of walnut.

The Chows say their reimagined flat works perfectly for them, especially the kitchen, which Chloe loves. They haven’t filled all the new cabinets and they don’t intend to. In the past decade, they have “just bought less”, and now they like it that way.



a living room filled with furniture and a tv: Photo: John Butlin


© Provided by South China Morning Post
Photo: John Butlin

Living area The sofa, which the couple have had for years (along with the artwork behind it), is scattered with “Stone” cushions from Etsy (HK$1,215/US$157 each). The metal coffee table (HK$1,900) and the round Bookniture folding table/bench (HK$610) beside it both came from Homeless. The wall lamps are from Taobao and each cost 230 yuan (US$35).

Storing the couple’s bicycles was a challenge overcome with a height-adjustable metal pole placed securely between the floor and ceiling, with black metal racks to hold both bikes. The Chows bought this set-up years ago for about HK$900 from a local bike shop. Happily, its industrial aesthetic was a perfect fit with the new design.



a dining room table in front of a window: Photo: John Butlin


© Provided by South China Morning Post
Photo: John Butlin

Dining table The solid walnut table (HK$11,000) was custom made by Hoi Tsun Decoration Design Engineering (20/F, Superluck Industrial Centre, 57 Sha Tsui Road, Tsuen Wan, tel: 9655 7465). The dining chairs (HK$990 each) and ceiling fan (HK$2,680) came from SofaSale and the pendant light (580 yuan) was bought through Taobao.



a living room filled with furniture and a large window: Photo: John Butlin


© Provided by South China Morning Post
Photo: John Butlin

Living area The cement-look floor tiles from LS3 (183 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2827 0388) cost HK$35 per square foot. The cow hide (HK$2,290) was from Ikea. The entertainment unit (HK$13,200) was custom made by Hoi Tsun Decoration Design Engineering.



a stove top oven sitting inside of a kitchen: Photo


© Provided by South China Morning Post
Photo

Kitchen The benchtops in TechniStone (HK$1,600 per linear foot) and German X-series cabinetry (HK$1,800 per linear foot) were supplied by Royal Kitchen Design (171 Gloucester Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2573 3993), along with the Paffoni tap (HK$3,980) and water filter tap (HK$3,280). The splashback tiles (HK$6,000) came from LS3. The pendant light (180 yuan) was bought on Taobao.



a large bed sitting in a room: Photo: John Butlin


© Provided by South China Morning Post
Photo: John Butlin

Bedroom The hydraulic bed with bedside tables and headboard were custom made by Hoi Tsun Decoration Design Engineering for HK$16,900. The wall lamps (190 yuan each) came from Taobao. The artwork, by designer Dylan Tan, of WOM Concept, was inspired by the work of British artist Sophie Smallhorn and cost about HK$400.



a room with a sink and a window: Photo: John Butlin


© Provided by South China Morning Post
Photo: John Butlin

Bedroom detail The desk (HK$11,900) was custom made by Hoi Tsun Decoration Design Engineering. The vintage trunk was a gift. The DCW Lampe Gras wall lamp (HK$3,450) came from Homeless and the chair (HK$990) from SofaSale.



a glass shower door: Photo: John Butlin


© Provided by South China Morning Post
Photo: John Butlin

Bathroom The ceramic tiles from LS3 cost HK$33 per square foot, while the basin (HK$1,200) and matt-black toilet fixtures (HK$23,000 in total) came from Happy Face Discount Depot (287 Lockhart Road, tel: 2923 5090).

Tried + tested



a room filled with furniture and a tv: Photo: John Butlin


© Provided by South China Morning Post
Photo: John Butlin

One step ahead Designer Dylan Tan came up with a clever solution for a Japanese-style stepped tansu storage unit that his clients wanted to keep for sentimental reasons. He simply blended the piece of furniture into a modern “jigsaw” storage unit. Hoi Tsun Decoration Design Engineering custom made the unit for HK$22,100.

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

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