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Gorgeous home evolves from a plan for simplicity
By Yang Di

THERE are people who like their homes to have a minimal design as it looks clean and light to the eyes. Hong Kong resident Danny Li prefers such a look so he can relax when seeing his well-kept home.

The newly furbished apartment Li shares with his wife and a dog is tucked inside Baguio Villa, a large scale luxury private housing estate in Pok Fu Lam, Hong Kong Island.

"We've always preferred to be in an area that provided some seclusion from the busy life of Hong Kong without sacrificing too much on the convenience. Ideally an open view, be it a mountain or a sea view that was bright and provided a visual escape from the hustle and bustle," Li said.

The couple had looked at several places that either had the space but no view or had a view but not enough space. When they came across this place, it really hit both goals at once.

"What ultimately sold us on it was the fact that it offered two fantastic balcony views, one with an open view of the water and the other a very tranquil mountain greenery view," Li said.

The only real struggle was with the initial layout, which did not work with the way they envisioned their home. The couple had prepared a wish list for their dream home as well as images from various sources that they had liked in terms of design before a meeting with designer Clifton Leung.

"For us, the style should be very clean and the living environment functional with a simple elegance. First and foremost, our home had to serve our needs and way of life rather than purely for looks," Li said.

"We eschew things that don't serve a function or are ostentatious. We had envisioned what we wanted each space to be used for, be it where we entertained, where we worked or relaxed and it was important to us that we found the ideal balance to accommodate it. We tend to entertain a lot so we wanted our home to be warm and inviting and in many ways provide a simple reflection of our personalities," he added.

The overall design brief was minimal, clean, timeless and to maximize storage space with separate "hers" and "his" storage.

Based on the brief, Leung said "the major changes were to create more open spaces and storage areas to satisfy the owner's wish."

Walls have been gutted to create an open space for the living and dining area while a large open kitchen is partitioned by the TV cabinet in the living room. Two tiny rooms and living area have been remodeled to create one large master bedroom, one guest room and huge storage rooms. The master bathroom is now double the original size and includes an en suite bathroom with two sinks, tub and shower.

Simplicity with neutral and warm colors are the keys to the apartment. Beige and wood colors dominate although white in the living room sets a neutral background for the furniture, floor tiles and decor. The natural tone offers a relaxed ambience and avoids over-stimulation of the senses.

"Our furniture choices tend to be modern and functional," Li said. "We prefer furniture that serves a purpose rather than just for its aesthetics. We try to not overly furnish our home so as to avoid too much unnecessary clutter and use key pieces of furniture to highlight the use of each room."

The spacious living room offers a relaxing and cozy ambience. Advanced audio-video equipment and the large TV further enhance the comforting atmosphere. A green plant blends well with the furniture to offset the monochromic tonality and creates a calming and restful effect. The spot lights on the ceiling create a gallery-like setting. A floor-to-ceiling window with blinds maximize natural sunlight and add airiness to the space.

The modern French style dining area is composed of pale white and dark wood as the main colors. Space is maximized with a view that extends to the semi-open kitchen.

The kitchen features an island that is used as a breakfast table. The couple can place pots and pans on the counters yet more space remains. Bar stools and bookshelves at the side reflect the warmth and coziness of a home where owners can enjoy reading while having a cup of coffee.

"Overall, the spacious and modern open kitchen is one of the major highlights. Huge windows bring abundant natural light and fresh air into the house. The ceiling skylight design creates an illusionary extension of the natural lighting, offering an inviting space with positive vibes to chit chat with friends and family members," Leung said.

Behind the "secret" sliding door along the hallway is the gym and study room combined into one. The area is large enough to place fitness equipment, multiple bookshelves and study desks.

The overall minimal design and earth color palette of the apartment is carried through into the master bedroom. With a minimalistic backdrop, the view of greenery outside becomes a focal point and offers a mural-like effect. The bedside table adds a nice touch and spices up the space.

"Another major highlight is the spacious bathroom, which boasts an idyllic view of greenery. Fulfilling the fanciful wish of the owner, this capacious bathroom features two sinks exclusively for his and hers, coupled with additional devoted areas for a tub and a shower," Leung said. Two sizable sliding mirror panels by the window can be opened, allowing warm sunlight to soak in.

The house is also designed with their dog in mind. An innovative doggie door allows the pet pooch to run around the house as though it is a large playground. The doggie door has soft fabric around the frame to prevent it from getting hurt while going through.

Li and his wife also requested a variety of lighting effects. According to Leung, accent lighting is applied to create a homier feel. A pendent lamp over the dining table is like an art-piece. A sky light over the kitchen bar table makes the space feel airy and inviting. Spot lights also evoke a sense of warmth within the living room.

Leung smartly designed several storage spaces in different rooms as per the couple's request. A full-height wooden cabinet acts as a partition to separate the kitchen and the living room.

Maximum storage is offered on the kitchen side while it serves as a TV cabinet on the living room side.

The curved wall that partitions the storage area in the bedroom is another detail that spices up the room design.

The storage area provides ample space with practical compartments for the owners to store their favorite outfits neatly and orderly. Another storage area for clothing is beside the washroom.

Q: What's the best thing about living in HK?

A: Hong Kong is the best of both offering every convenience of a truly world city, yet a sense of coziness that is very unique to this city.

Q: Describe your home in three words.

A: Warm, functional and inviting.

Q: What's the first thing you do when you get home?

A: Our first priority when we get home is to spend time with our enthusiastic little dog.

Q: How do you unwind?

A: We unwind by listening to music, watching a movie or simply enjoying a home cooked meal.

Q: Where do you spend most of the time at home?

A: We spend most of our time in the kitchen/dining area, as food and wine are an essential part of our lives.

Q: What's the best view outside your window?

A: The sunset offers a different spectacle everyday, one that you can never get bored of.

Q: How do you scent your home?

A: Our choice of scent always emanates from the kitchen. Be it the preparation of a meal or the aroma of a fresh cup of coffee.

Q: What's your favorite object at home?

A: The island in the kitchen will be our favorite as it's always the area where family and friends have enjoyed and shared many happy moments.

Q: Where do you source furniture in HK?

A: We've mainly purchased furniture from South Horizons or along Queens Road E. in Wan Chai, where we can have pieces made specifically for our needs.

Who is he?

Chris Hardie is associate partner of Danish architectural studio schmidt hammer lassen, and partner in charge of their Shanghai studio. Schmidt hammer lassen architects are very well known in Scandinavia and they recently opened a permanent office in Shanghai.

Tell us about some of your works, and name the one you are most proud of.

We are perhaps best known for our cultural projects such as The Royal Library, known as the Black Diamond, in Copenhagen, Denmark and Halmstad Library in Sweden, which is built out into the river. We also did ARoS Art Museum in Aarhus, Denmark, which is the largest modern art museum in Northern Europe, and Kataq Cultural Centre in Greenland.

We also have a number of exciting projects under construction at the moment. These include a project called Urban Media Space, which will become the single largest library in Scandinavia when it is completed in 2014. We are also working on the design of the new International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, and a new Central Library for the port city of Halifax in Nova Scotia, Canada.

In China, our best known project is a series of high-end residential towers in Beijing known as Andersen Garden after the Danish poet Hans Christian Andersen. In 2008 the project was nominated as the best new residential project at the World Architecture Festival in Barcelona. It showed that we could build projects in China that matched the high quality we expect in Denmark. So, we are very proud of that project as it shows Danish architecture can be successful in China.

What projects are you currently involved in?

Our Shanghai studio is going through a particularly busy and exciting period at the moment, and we have been very lucky to be commissioned on some wonderful projects.

Perhaps the most interesting is a new contemporary art gallery for private art dealer, Halcyon Gallery, that sits immediately on the Huangpu River. We are converting an old disused coal storage building into a world class gallery for contemporary art, plus we are master planning the entire area into a new cultural district. It is an extremely interesting project both for us, our ambitious client, and for the city of Shanghai. It is due to be completed in 2014.

Describe your design style.

Schmidt hammer lassen architects is a Danish architectural studio founded in Denmark, so our design style is deeply rooted in a Scandinavian heritage based on modern aesthetics, light, using innovative quality materials, integrating sustainability (both environmentally and socially), and we are particularly interested in the potential democratic nature of our projects.

Is there a specific place where you get most of your inspiration from?

I think this really depends on the project. Of course, we are influenced by our particular Scandinavian values - but when the project is in a new place, a new province, a new city with a new brief, and a new client we always spend as much time there as we can, and as much time with the client in the early stages as possible.

We believe that really understanding the site and the client is key in designing world class architecture, and dialogue is a strong tool in understanding the needs and wants of a client and the project.

What do you collect?

I have a habit of collecting images of materials, shapes, objects, cities, anything really as we may refer to it in our future work at the studio.

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