Small children can wreak havoc on interior design. During the toddler years, even the most style-conscious families are likely to find themselves living with an explosion of primary colours or, worse, shades of candy pink. Either way, most families learn to live with a toy-box aesthetic, even if it clashes horribly with the décor.
In many respects, it’s no different at the Lam home in Tai Tam. Rainbow-coloured toys and baby ephemera belonging to six-month-old Audrey and Natalia, three, are scattered through the 1,485-sq-ft apartment. Here, however, it feels right. Perhaps that’s because interior-design company Bean Buro renovated the entire apartment with small children in mind, using tactile materials, rounded corners and clever space planning.
The result is bright, fresh and calm, with pale walls, oak floors and fittings, and tasteful, neutral furniture. But this is not bland minimalism: witness the pops of yellow and the blue Vitra elephant.
Bean Buro directors Lorène Faure and Kenny Kinugasa-Tsui collaborated with the Lams to come up with a design that is playful, stylish and truly family friendly. There are glass peepholes into the children’s bedrooms (see Tried + tested), hidey-holes for quiet moments, and – the apartment’s ingenious central idea – a disappearing corridor.
“The corridor was dead space; it made the rooms seem much darker and smaller,” Kinugasa-Tsui says.
Bean Buro proposed a flexible kids’ zone next to the living area, with two children’s bedrooms facing each other on eitherside of a central corridor. Each room has an enormous sliding door, so, when they’re both open, the corridor disappears and the bedrooms become one large playroom.
Another sliding door at the entrance from the living room makes the corridor vanish entirely. When mum and dad are entertaining, the children can continue playing, or sleeping, and the adults can keep a discreet eye on them through the peephole windows.
“We have an architectural background and we like to play with layout. We wanted it to be as flexible as possible,” Faure says. “Children respond to space in ways that adults don’t; they like to peek.”
In the living area, two large, sculptural shelving units hang on the wall above round-edged cupboards.
There’s no television (“We prefer books to screens,” Mr Lam says), but there is a projection system and drop-down screen for movie nights. Near the entrance foyer, a full-length mirror reflects light throughout the living areas, offering a chance for a last-minute check before heading out, but is mostly used by a twirling Natalia to practise her ballet moves.
Glass separates the dining area and kitchen, and a wall of cupboards provides a visual connection between the two spaces.
“We wanted to create continuity. The kitchen was originally closed off and quite dark, even though it was relatively new. We wanted something more relaxing,” Faure says. “The design was about maximising openness and the views of the ocean on one side of the apartment and the mountains on the other.”
The kitchen wall tiles are subtly decorated with a variety of graphic patterns and, like the other tiles and fittings, have a matt finish. In both bathrooms, giant 1.2-metre square tiles have a tactile quality with little concave or convex dots in contrasting colours.
“It’s very different from how it was originally – it was very shiny,” Faure says. “This is much more natural, tranquil and relaxing. We kept it simple and unpretentious, but friendly.”
Dots, globes and circles are a theme throughout the space, with pieces often placed in adult- and child-sized pairs. Iconic Dots wooden hooks, by Danish company Muuto, appear in both bathrooms, the foyer and even as little and large door handles for the children’s rooms. There are pairs of globe-shaped pendant lamps, and mismatched circular bathroom mirrors – the small one at the right height for Natalia (when she stands on a step), the large one at adult height. More tiny dots appear on the wallpaper in the bedrooms.
“This is the adults’ zone,” Faure says of the master suite, which has a study and dressing area, an en-suite bathroom and a bed and window seat overlooking lovely Tai Tam Bay. Even this dedicated adults’ area is welcoming to children. A huge shower in the en-suite bathroom is fitted with a (round-cornered) bench seat big enough for a baby bath.
Living area The sofa (HK$47,855, from Ligne Roset) has free-standing cushions with clever geometry that ensures they make comfortable seatbacks. Ligne Roset was also the source for the Dedicato dining table and Sala dining chairs, which were all bought years ago. The rug (HK$7,400), by Hay, and pendant lamps (HK$3,510 each), by Normann Copenhagen, were from Establo. The custom-made shelves (HK$48,000) and cupboards (HK$37,500) were designed by Bean Buro and built by RC Engineering (tel: 2606 3262; email: email@example.com). The Boen engineered-wood floor was from Equal.
Foyer Designed by Bean Buro and built by RC Engineering, the custom-made bench and shelves (HK$33,000) are a handy place for removing shoes. The oak Dots hooks (from HK$240 to HK$330), by Muuto, were from Establo. The 1.2-metre tiles (HK$2,700 each), by Mutina, came from Anta.
Kitchen With a custom colour and matt anti-fingertip finish, the cabinets on the left-hand side were HK$138,000 (including the Corian countertop) from Kitench Kitchen. The wood veneer cabinets (HK$31,200) were designed by Bean Buro and made by RC Engineering. The Dornbracht brushed-stainless-steel mixer tap (HK$15,900) was from Colourliving. The appliances came with the apartment.
Children’s rooms With the sliding doors fully open, the corridor disappears and the two children’s rooms form one large play area. Natalia sits in a built-in hidey-hole in the wall of cupboards; there’s a toy box beneath the niche. The desk can be raised as she grows. The cupboards and niche (HK$46,500 in total), desk (HK$7,200) and shelves (HK$4,200) were all designed by Bean Buro and built by RC Engineering. The Eames elephant by Vitra (HK$2,100) and grey chair (small, HK$1,500; large, HK$4,900), by Hay, were from Establo.
Master suite Bean Buro designed an innovative headboard and integrated bookcase that sits in the centre of the room. The headboard (HK$16,470) and vanity (HK$18,000) were built by RC Engineering. The bed was HK$30,745 from Okooko. The dressing-area mirrors (small, HK$1,800 and large, HK$2,400), by Hay, came from Establo and are arranged at sitting and standing heights.
Study The study is part of the master suite, with a grey curtain to create a soft division of space. The custom-made desk, with built-in storage (HK$30,000), and shelf (HK$6,000) were designed by Bean Buro and made by RC Engineering. The Arte wallpaper (HK$3,390 a roll) was from Tat Ming.
Guest bathroom The Corian sink unit (HK$31,500) was designed by Bean Buro and made by RC Engineering. The Dornbracht brushed-stainless-steel mixer tap (HK$13,800) came from Colourliving. The Mutina tiles were HK$2,700 each from Anta. The mirrors (small, HK$1,800; large, HK$2,400), by Hay, came from Establo.
TRIED + TESTED
Peek-a-boo! At either end of the shelving units are narrow, full-length windows between the children’s rooms and the living and dining areas. For Natalia, the glass partition provides endless peek-a-boo fun; for her parents, it is a handy way of keeping an eye on their children. Each window has a roller blind for privacy and is double-glazed for sound insulation.
“The glass partitions make the design as open and continuous as possible, and extend the views from the living room,” Faure says.
The glass partition (HK$8,000) was designed by Bean Buro and built by contractor RC Engineering. The curtains were HK$688 a metre from Kvadrat.