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April 21, 2019

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Home » Sunday » Home and Design

City apartment that’s a holiday home from home

WHEN Sophie and John Chan conceptualized their newly bought property in Hong Kong two years ago, they were adamant it should feel not like another city apartment but a holiday home.

“We’d like to have a weekend holiday home — the home-away-from-home. It should have a very relaxed vibe … something that’s different from city life and unusual in Hong Kong,” Sophie said.

Sophie was a regular visitor to the property in Yuen Long since a friend of her parents moved in more than 30 years ago. She appreciated that all 5,024 of the properties in the large, low-density estate are family houses with front and rear gardens, which is also unusual for Hong Kong. “I also liked the ‘very relaxed’ vibe. So last year, when we heard that the house immediately behind that of my auntie was for sale, we snapped it up and set to work transforming it into a weekend retreat. We wanted outdoor living, so we could cook and eat outdoors — a very non-Hong Kong kind of thing,” Sophie said.

The 84-square-meter two-story house was a warren of small rooms, including a tiny kitchen closed off from the rest of the space. Everything was like it would have been 30 years ago.

“I needed a total change to my house. I like plenty of outdoor space — front yard and backyard, although not for gardening, provides a ‘retreat’ kind of feeling,” she said.

Despite the unsatisfactory existing condition of the space, the banker couple saw the potential — it is not required to adhere to a standard facade in the property. “It’s good and potential for a totally new image that’s fit for my use. For the interior, I did not worry about it as I saw from designer Clifton Leung’s portfolio that he is very experienced in doing a total makeover with an improved layout.”

She said Leung’s minimal and timeless design is what she liked. “There are many designers doing such kind of design but Leung’s work is not only timeless, it exudes a sense of character that you can feel that ‘every home has a story behind,’ like you can feel the owner’s character from his/her home — bespoke and tailored,” she said.

The couple gave him pretty much freedom to design the house. His team was very professional in getting a brief from the couple — what hues they liked, their collections, their hobbies, and even their storage items — they check and design everything for them and make sure it fits their needs.

Leung said: “When I took this project, I knew it would be a total change. The goal was to create a weekend holiday home for the homeowners, so they’d like me to create the home-away-from-home. The design inspiration is a modern rustic French cottage where outdoor living is the key. We want the homeowners to enjoy outdoor living — cooking and eating outdoors — to experience a very non-Hong Kong kind of thing and something they are longing for since living in the city for years.”

The designer gutted everything except the four walls for a house which hadn’t been renovated for 30 years and rebuilt and upgraded it, for example upgrading the electricity for the modern use, redoing all the wiring. It was an extensive renovation from the garden to the interior. He started by ripping out the kitchen and turning it into a small study with bi-fold windows. A basic open kitchen was installed in the living area, but the real cooking takes place on the rear terrace, which is connected to the living room by glass bi-fold doors.

Upstairs, the design team ripped out the original three-bedroom space and turned it into an open large space that fits for the couple. The open space includes four components — a walk-in wardrobe, a bathroom, a bedroom and a lounge — which are distinguished by various materials. Leung also removed a false ceiling to expose the pitched roof, creating a loft-like ambience which also serves as an additional storage area.

The original concrete staircase was changed as well, to allow for air movement through the treads. In its place are thin metal steps covered in leather to cushion the feet. To add a visual punch, the bottom step consists of stacked panes of opaque green glass.

Leung kept the materials simple, with white walls, black aluminum window frames and off-white ceramic floor tiles inside and out. The minimalist palette serves as a natural base for the owner’s distinctive furniture, including a set of aeroplane galley carts used for storage in the study. In the living room, Michel Ducaroy’s classic Togo sofa is perfect for its setting. Upstairs, the sleeping area has oak parquet floor while the bathroom is a feast of black and imitation marble. Instead of walling off the wardrobe, he surrounded it with curtains to keep the contents out of sight but within easy reach.

“I made the home a ‘social place,’ It flows seamlessly from the living room into the back garden — with the French doors, when swung open, it turns the outdoor and indoor into one for large parties. The garage and the backyard is also a connected space for entertainment. Apart from catering for parties, it also gives the couple varieties of options for different dining occasions from Sunday breakfast to romantic dinners,” Leung said.

Other highlights include the coffee-bar-inspired study room with bi-fold windows — it encourages interaction for the homeowners from inside out, and embodies holiday vibes. The counter in the bathroom extends into the area before the bedroom, and, equipped with a filtered-water tap and a coffee maker, serves as a morning “drink station.”

Glass walls and a retractable awning protect the terrace kitchen from the elements. Along one side, a large stainless-steel gas barbecue sits next to an industrial sink and metal countertop.

On the other is a large dining table. In between is a waist-height glass-and-galvanized-steel table that functions as a kitchen island. It sits on castors so it can be moved around depending on the needs of the space.

The lounge sits atop an elevated storage platform, one of two on the top level. The other, accessible by stepladder, is situated above the bathroom and wardrobe.

Also, having a desk on the top level, by the bed, allows the couple to use this floor as a refuge when the ground floor is a hub of activity.


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