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An urban retreat in the heart of Hong Kong

What do you do when you buy a flat with a 1,500-sq-ft backyard just a few minutes walk from Caine Road? You redesign it to take advantage of that ample outdoor space, naturally.

That’s exactly what a couple of real-estate executives had in mind when they hired Marcus Foley, of PDM International, to overhaul their 41-year-old, 2,000-sq-ft, three-bedroom Mid-Levels flat.

Situated on a slope, it had a view of the Central skyline on one side and a spacious yard on the other. But that was the extent of its charm.

“It was awful,” Foley says. “There was a low ceiling and lots of beams everywhere.”

And the backyard was barren concrete.

Happy Valley flat with enough outdoor space to make you green with envy

Keeping in mind the clients wanted an open, airy space, Foley got to work.

“The main element we worked on was the open kitchen area, where the clients could entertain – not a formal dining area like you’d normally find in an apartment,” he says.

Foley relocated the living room to near the front windows and installed a large marble bar towards the back. This func­tions both as a dining table and an exten­sion of the galley kitchen, which the clients use for food preparation when they have guests. (Everyday meals are cooked in another kitchen, which is closed to prevent fumes from permeating the rest of the flat.)

The backyard has been transformed into another dining and entertainment space, with timber cladding to disguise pipes that run along the building’s exterior. The space includes a large wooden dining table, a lounge area on artificial turf, a dog house and even a trampoline for the clients’ two sons.

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Foley planted bamboo around the perimeter to mask an unsightly barbed-wire fence and installed a large awning to shelter the dining table on rainy days. It also catches any falling debris from the flats above.

The newly verdant backyard serves as a backdrop to the flat’s other major trans­formation, in the master bedroom.

“We didn’t want a bedroom full of cupboards or a poky bathroom,” says Foley. So he combined the two to create a large walk-in wardrobe and en-suite bathroom. “It’s a hotel experience,” he says, referring to the two-sink marble vanity, shower and bathtub. The tub sits next to what is now a large, single-pane window that looks onto greenery. “The idea of a big bath is great but you’d never use it unless you had a view.”

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Foley says he wanted to keep the flat as bright as possible, which meant white walls in most areas, although he installed polished grey tiles in the kitchen and a striated stone wall behind the bar to provide contrast. A “deep green-purple-black” feature wall in the living area achieves a similar effect.

“During the day it has one feeling and at night it has quite another – it’s a very inter­est­ing pigment,” Foley says. “And when you put something like a painting on it, it pops.”

Something else pops, too – the views. Foley enlarged the windows to the maxi­mum allowed by the building code. The front ones slide open and a narrow door to the backyard was replaced by a floor-to-ceiling folding glass wall that creates a seamless transition between interior and exterior.

“They really do take advantage of the indoor/outdoor lifestyle,” he says.

And even when the weather is too hot and muggy, it’s not a problem. “Wherever you are, you get a glimpse of the outside.”

Living area The blue sofa (HK$63,000) is from Brand Equity. The green and blue painting is by Spanish artist Ginés Serrán-Pagán. The CH24 Wishbone chair is available from Manks.

Dining area and galley kitchen PDM International custom built the stone feature wall and the polished-tile wall in the rear. The kitchen cabinets (HK$267,000) were from Patata Kitchen.

Dining area The bar with marble countertop (HK$60,000) was custom built by PDM. The vintage Italian light fixtures (HK$1,800 each) were from Casa Capriz. The client bought the black and white Franck Berthuot photo in Hawaii. When the bifold doors to the backyard are open, they create an indoor/outdoor space perfect for dinner parties.

Living area The Busnelli L-shaped sofa came from Brand Equity. The cushions were purchased by the client in Bali, Indonesia, a long time ago, as was everything else in the living area, including the coffee table and Ligne Roset side tables, rug and artwork.

Master bedroom The bedroom affords a “hotel experience”. All the items were bought years ago.

En-suite bathroom The marble vanity was custom built by PDM for HK$40,000. The vintage Italian light fixture (HK$2,700) was from Casa Capriz.

TRIED + TESTED
Grass act
What’s a garden without grass? Installing real turf would have been complicated and expensive, so Marcus Foley’s client opted for artificial grass. Among the nurseries that sell substitute grass is Wah King Garden Centre, in Sai Kung, which charges HK$410 per square metre for Royal Grass from the Netherlands, plus HK$292 per square metre to install it on concrete, which involves building a drainage cell so the turf does not remain soggy after rain. (Installing it on earth costs HK$150 per square metre). The grass has an eight-year warranty in Hong Kong.