Siam came home one day and, out of the blue, told me she’d sold our flat,” laughs Englishman James Forbes-May, who has been living in Hong Kong for eight years and runs an IT sales team. “We had two months to find somewhere else to live.”
And so began the journey that led the couple to the 2,300-sq-ft apartment in Olympic, Kowloon, they now call home. They had lived in the neighbourhood years previously so they knew and liked the area. Forbes-May was also keen to find a place that didn’t have empty land next to it.
“You might not think to buy near a highway but it means nobody is going to build another block right in front of you,” he says. “We looked at developments that seemed nice and shiny on the outside but were quite cramped inside, with low ceilings. This place, which is about 10 years old, has loads of space and light, and surprisingly high ceilings. And I think our view, with Hong Kong Island in the distance, is one of the best in the world.”There was no question about renovating the apartment. Its décor was old-fashioned and the original four-bedroom layout didn’t suit the couple’s needs, featuring among other things a disproportionately large guest bathroom. In addition, Siam Fung, a native Hongkonger who runs her own Italian fashion import business, knew exactly what she wanted for her new place.
“I love reading home magazines and watching property shows,” she says. “I had lots of ideas – almost too many; for example, we didn’t need so many bedrooms so one of them became my walk-in wardrobe.”
Choosing an interior designer was also a no-brainer. Fung had been Tik Chan’s first client when he started his company, Studio 93, in 2010 and they had worked together on several projects. For Fung’s latest venture, they ripped everything out, reducing the property to a basic shell.
Fung and Forbes-May are fans of the industrial look, which influenced their choice of materials, such as concrete (see Tried + tested), black metal and wood. Even the dining table, made of recycled wood, is reminiscent of brickwork, a common feature in industrial design.
“Siam had so many great ideas and it was my challenge to find interesting ways of incorporating them,” Chan says. “She loves the warmth of natural wood so I came up with the slatted panelling. It runs through the flat, giving consistency of design, and balances the cooler look and feel of the concrete and marble.
“We were initially worried that the walnut wood would be too dark but, fortunately, that’s not the case. You can feel the design flow from the living room all the way through to the bedroom.”
The odd splash of red adds warmth to the living room, too. For a feature wall in the master bedroom, Fung chose lime-green panels, a contemporary contrast to the concrete wall opposite and the black door frames and detailing.
“Our previous house was all white, which got dirty after two years,” Fung says. “I wanted colour as well as something that would be simple and longer lasting. Concrete is applied by hand and can be quite difficult to get right but when it is done well, it looks amazing.”
Clever touches abound. Corner shelves in the guest-room-cum-study make use of what might have otherwise been wasted space; kitchen cupboards have been covered with a laminate that resembles concrete. There is concealed storage in the base of the master bed and by eschewing obvious handles, doors blend in with panelling. On the balcony, Fung mixed and matched Spanish-style tiles to create a quirky, colourful space.
But it is the master bathroom that is the couple’s favourite part of the flat. As well as a shower with large and small heads that can be flipped up and down, there is a capacious marble tub with picture windows on two sides.
“Some bathrooms we looked at [while flat hunting] were boxy and didn’t have any windows,” Forbes-May says. “They were really depressing and you almost couldn’t wait to get out of them. This one you don’t want to leave.”
The renovations took eight months and the couple moved into their new home just over a year ago. Delighted though they are with the result, Forbes-May isn’t entirely convinced their current dream home will be theirs forever.
“It’s not all that easy to find a good apartment in Hong Kong but I think we’ve ticked all the boxes with this one,” he says. “However, Siam has a habit of wanting to move every three years so, when I catch her looking at property magazines 18 months from now, I’ll know it’s time to get nervous.”
Living room The walnut slatted wall covering (HK$42,000) was from Studio 93. The sofa (HK$20,000) came from Poltrone Sofa, in Italy. The rug (HK$20,000) and coffee table (HK$15,000) were from Ovo. The red Fusion chair (HK$13,390) was from BoConcept. The audiovisual cabinet (HK$18,000) and fibre cement boards on the wall (HK$55,000, including installation) were designed and made by Studio 93.
Dining area The white floor-to-ceiling cabinets (HK$40,000) were designed and made by Studio 93. The wooden sideboard (HK$15,000) came from Indigo Living. The laminate flooring, by BerryAlloc, was HK$70,000 from Wing On Engineering Flooring (TCL Tower, 8 Tai Chung Road, Tsuen Wan, tel: 2406 9696). The reconditioned wood dining table (HK$15,000) and matching bench (HK$8,000) came from Tree. The dining chairs were HK$900 each from Unica Interior. The Vessel P pendant lights (HK$25,000 for four) came from Archetypal.
Kitchen The kitchen, including all cabinets and appliances, cost HK$430,000, supplied by Famous Kitchen (Tsuen Wan Plaza, 4 Tai Pa Street, Tsuen Wan, tel: 3106 8286). The mixer (HK$3,100) was from Nobili (Ga Hing Building Material Centre, 318 Portland Street, Mong Kok, tel: 2142 7183). The bar table (about HK$4,000) was by Studio 93 and the bar stools (HK$900 each) were from Indigo Living.
Main bedroom The bed (HK$20,000) was made by Studio 93 and the lime-green panelling behind it (HK$5,000) came from Luen Hing Hong Building Materials (682 Shanghai Street, Mong Kok, tel: 2398 9299). The mirrored bedside table cost HK$3,000 from Indigo Living. The pendant lamps were HK$900 each from I-Style Lighting (655 Shanghai Street, tel: 2868 2970).
Bathroom The marble for the bathroom cost HK$100,000 and was provided by Studio 93. The Hansgrohe shower unit (HK$32,000) and sink unit (HK$50,000) came from Galaxy Bathroom Collection.
Guest-room-cum-study The painting was bought in mainland China. The desk unit (HK$13,000), the corner bookshelf (HK$6,000) and the wall-mounted cupboards (HK$26,000) were all designed and made by Studio 93. The bed was HK$10,000 from Indigo Living.
TRIED + TESTED
Concrete idea Fibre cement boards have been fixed to the wall behind the television in the living room. Comprising a thin layer of cement composite mixed with reinforcing fibres, it looks like real concrete but is lighter in weight, easier to install and improves sound-proofing. However, according to interior designer Tik Chan, not all fibre cement boards are created equal; good-quality boards that look authentic are hard to come by in Hong Kong. The concrete-like wall, which cost HK$55,000, including installation, was created by Studio 93.