Fit for purpose

A couple who put functionality at the top of their design agenda were rewarded with a modern, inviting home, safe for little hands. Text Catherine Shaw Pictures Dickson Lee Styling David Roden Maximising space and controlling clutter were at the top of Andrew and Christina Lee’s agenda when it came to planning their 2,300 sq ft Mid-Levels home. “We like design but functionality was the most important issue for us,” says Taiwanese-American Christina. “With a 2½-year-old child, we had to think very carefully about how the spaces would work, as well as balance what looks good with safety and practicality.” The couple, who met as law students in the United States, were keen to work with an interior designer who would collaborate in, not dictate, the process of creating a home. They turned to Britishtrained architect Mae Kwan, who had recently relocated to Hong Kong but whose design aesthetic – balancing modern living with warm, inviting interiors – matched their needs. “It was a bit like decorating with a good friend,” says Lee. “We would go back and forth with ideas but Mae was always happy to keep looking until we found exactly what we wanted styleand budget-wise. Mae was also great at sourcing items that we would never have found, such as the huge wooden and aluminium Coco Flip pendant lamp over the dining table.” The apartment, which had not been updated in years, proved a design challenge because of the very dark interior. Removing walls helped open the space. “Mae advised us to reconfigure the maid’s room and kitchen to create the dining and kitchen area,” says Lee. “We didn’t entertain at home very often but now we have the perfect environment to do so.” Illumination was also enhanced. “We made the most of the wonderful balcony with floor-to-ceiling sliding doors alongside the living room so the interiors are bathed in natural light, which is reflected in the kitchen’s mirrored cupboards and semi-glossy white lacquered finishes,” says Kwan. “It’s a modern but light look.” “Our old apartment, in The Belchers in Pok Fu Lam, had stuff everywhere,” says Lee. “It was important to us that we had enough space to clear things away, so we installed full-height cupboards that are finished the same way as the walls or covered in mirrors. The funny thing is, even though we have doubled our storage and haven’t bought anything new, it already seems quite full.” The storage comes in handy now that Lee has established Three Little Tigers, which sells personalised towels for children. “Hong Kong had nowhere to buy affordable, good-quality towels for kids and where you can add the special touch of including their names on the towels,” she says. “So I found a fantastic supplier who could work with my designs and the business has really taken off. At the moment, I need to store a lot of the products here.” Another practical touch is a series of full-height sliding doors that create two separate wings off the open-plan living room. On one side, the doors, when closed, disappear completely, creating a compact but well-equipped study and television room that doubles as a guest room, while on the other side are two spacious bedrooms with a walkin dressing-room. “The doors provide excellent sound insulation, which is great for when [daughter] Chloe is sleeping,” says Lee. “But when we want it open, so I can watch her, it is easy to change the configuration.” Other items that add flexibility and style include a fabric-covered bench seat with hidden storage near the entrance, and open shelving in Chloe’s room, in which boxes of toys can be put away easily. The entire flat features oak flooring that contrasts beautifully with cool white walls to create an inviting look, and uplighting has been used to make the most of the three-metre-high ceilings. “Older buildings in Hong Kong have wonderfully high ceilings,” says Lee. “We took full advantage, with tall bookcases, shelves and cabinets – and with so much natural light the apartment has a lovely spacious feel. Just like we wanted.” Dining area The Eco-Series dining table (HK$7,190) came from in a “raw” finish and was sanded and stained by Chun Lok Engineering. The six dining chairs, bought years ago, were reupholstered for a total of HK$2,115 by Tin Shing Curtain (39 Belcher’s Street, Kennedy Town, tel: 2817 4775). Kwan found the Coco Flip pendant lamp (HK$9,000) at a half-price sale at Lane Crawford (various locations; The small iron statue was found by Kwan at a flea market in London. The kitchen cabinets, complete with stainless-steel drawers, Corian countertop, stainless-steel double sink, mirrored wall panels and cabinet lights, cost a total of HK$209,770 from Kitench Leader (58 Leighton Road, Causeway Bay, tel: 2836 0280). The bar stools (HK$960 each) were from Luen Sun Furniture (371 Queen’s Road West, Sai Ying Pun, tel: 2546 4274).