By Hong Kong standards, 1,350 square feet equals a generously sized apartment. But add a family of six and all their possessions and even that amount of real estate can soon feel cramped.
Enter interior designer Clifton Leung. Through careful planning and clever use of space, he and his team at Clifton Leung Design Workshop not only created an apartment that its owners and their four children love, but also made it feel spacious, bright and uncluttered.
The Hong Kong Chinese couple, who are in the property business, bought the three-bedroom, two-bathroom flat on Robinson Road, Mid-Levels, in 2014.
“The owners wanted it to be classic,” Leung says.
“But I suggested making it modern classic by reducing the level of detail and giving it a modern twist.”
That translated into a simple palette of mainly white walls, pale oak floors and plenty of storage. He started by reconfiguring the diamond-shaped living-dining space, building a brick wall to square off the living room and turning the wedge-shaped area behind the wall into a study nook, creating a useful space from a formerly redundant corner.
“We straightened the living room by adding a wall, which makes it easier to watch TV – the angled wall was not practical. We left bricks exposed and painted white to add texture and break up the ‘classic’,” Leung says.
Built-in furniture in the living and dining area provides plenty of storage, but Leung has kept it discreet, with white cupboards disappearing against the white walls. In keeping with the modern-classic theme, the doors are subtly decorated with simple mouldings and contemporary versions of vintage shell handles. As well as a wall of cupboards in the dining room, there’s a large sideboard and more storage under the window seat and under the dining-room bench.
“The cafe-style bench keeps the dining room relaxed, which is more appropriate for family dining,” he says. “We added a touch of colour to one wall to provide warmth.”
To create a casual eating area, Leung opened up the kitchen wall and replaced it with a countertop, with cupboards on one side and a breakfast bar with stools opposite the study nook. Overhead cupboards further define and separate the kitchen.
“It’s partially open plan,” Leung says. “We designed the kitchen with sliding glass panels [between the overhead cupboards and the countertop] so it could be enclosed, but after a few weeks the family asked for them to be removed. We also used glass for the kitchen door and side panel, which saves space and brings natural light into the study. Putting the breakfast bar in the corridor creates another area from what was dead space.”
The open wall also means anyone in the kitchen can keep an eye on the children in both the study and living areas.
“We deliberately placed the appliances – fridge and cooker – where they can’t be seen from the living room,” Leung says.
“I love that you can look down the corridor and there’s so much going on – the breakfast bar, the study and kitchen.”
Three bedrooms also lead off this corridor, with rooms shared by the family’s two sons and two daughters. Both children’s rooms have built-in wardrobes, desks and bunks with extra large steps (see Tried + tested), and brightly coloured feature walls – fuchsia for the girls and green for the boys.
Like the rest of the apartment, the apparent simplicity of the design disguises some carefully considered details. Electric sockets and cables are hidden in special compartments within the desk, wall lamps for each bunk mean one child can read without disturbing the other, and the bunks have extra slide-out mattresses for sleepovers.
The master suite is an exercise in disguise with calm neutral tones, a large picture window with views of the harbour and panelled walls. Those panels hide a few surprises. At the end of the bed, the panels slide back to reveal a TV while a double wardrobe door opens to a hidden marble bathroom.
In front of the window, the simple desk has a lift-up panel that becomes a dressing table.
“It feels like a hotel room – it’s clean, neat and comfy, but it does everything,” Leung says. “It’s modern classic.”
Living room The sofa, which the family already owned, came from Stockroom (20/F, Hong Kong Industrial Building, 444 Des Voeux Road West, tel: 2817 0999). The rug (HK$5,390), coffee table (HK$8,490) and side table (HK$447) were from Indigo Living (various locations; www.indigo-living.com). The window seat and built-in storage (total HK$22,300) were designed and installed by Clifton Leung Design Workshop (3/F, 128 Wellington Street, Central, tel: 3106 8384). The lamp is from the family’s previous home.
Kitchen The countertop (HK$58,000) and units (HK$42,000) were by Clifton Leung Design Workshop (CLDW). The tap (HK$8,670) was from Galaxy Bathroom (277 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2802 3008).
Dining area The dining table and chairs came from Ikea years ago. The bench (HK$19,200), wall unit (HK$22,700) and sideboard (HK$21,000) were designed and built by CLDW. The ceiling lamp (HK$6,490) was from Indigo Living. The painting was from Creative Co-op Home (Home Square, 138 Sha Tin Rural Committee Road, Sha Tin, tel: 2772 1280).
Breakfast bar The breakfast bar (HK$58,000) and overhead cupboards (HK$32,000) were by CLDW. The chairs (HK$639 each) were from Ikea and the cushions (HK$400 each) from Stockroom.
Study The desk (HK$17,800), overhead cupboards (HK$14,600) and display case (HK$11,900) were by CLDW. The chair (HK$990) and artwork came from Ikea.
Master bedroom The bed and bedhead (HK$26,200), side table (HK$5,000 for two), cupboards (HK$18,700) and hidden doors (HK$9,800) were all by CLDW. The lamp (HK$4,080) was from Flos (44 Wyndham Street, Central, tel: 2801 7608).
Girls’ bedroom The bunk bed (HK$20,200) and desk (HK$15,400) were by CLDW. The wall lamp (HK$200) and chair (HK$369) were from Ikea.
Double the fun The bunkbed stairs are practical and fun. "The kids can display their toys under the steps, walk on the desk and the size of the bunks gives them privacy," says Leung. The stairs (HK$9,400) were designed and built by Clifton Leung Design Workshop.