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Minimal approach to maximizing
By Patsy Yang

UNDERSTATED chic'' best describes Jim O'Callaghan's apartment in Central, Hong Kong.

Neutral colors and warm lighting lend a natural, modern look and create a warm, tranquil atmosphere.

"We wanted space first and foremost close to our daily routines - from work to shopping," O'Callaghan said.

"The location of the flat was perfect and the view of Kowloon is stunning. However, the space utilization before the rebuild didn't meet our requirements as we wanted more social space and a place to cook."

O'Callaghan approached designer Clifton Leung for his creative ideas of creating an extension of space and maximizing the visual impact.

"We came to them with a blank sheet of paper and said that we wanted space that could be versatile, open plan and importantly we wanted a lot of natural light in the apartment," O'Callaghan said.

Designer Leung provided several smart solutions: the living room and open kitchen are blended together by removing the dividing wall; the glass-partitioned study room brings forth a visual extension of the living room all the way to the back; the once narrow living area is now transformed into an airy L-shaped open layout; one of the rooms is transformed into a huge walk-in closet to create a more spacious and uncluttered master bedroom for relaxation.

One of the challenges during the renovation was the need to re-align the study room and kitchen area in order to make the glass partition and sliding door work.

"This is key to creating the flexibility of the open space between the kitchen and the study and also keeping privacy in the study room when needed," said Leung.

"To create more space for storage in a relatively small apartment and yet not sacrificing the visual openness, we added in storage, under the master bed frame in a raised platform and a walk-in closet.

According to Leung, the major highlight of the interior design was the functional and aesthetic layout which has achieved a maximum space utilization, and the 93-square-meter apartment looks more spacious that it is.

With minimum framing structure, the design delivered a seamless extension from one functional space to another, creating an airy, free-flowing space.

Knocking down the wall between the kitchen and living rooms makes the size of the living area appears to be double the original size. Coupled with the extended balcony, light wooden flooring, open kitchen and study room, the design creates a seamless visual layout which harmoniously combined various functional spaces.

In addition, the glass partition between the study and the kitchen adds a contemporary flair while creating zones of privacy.

Viewed from the main entrance, is the extended open kitchen and a large counter top. Simplicity is the key for the petite open kitchen design: built-in appliances to maximize visual and functional space; muted color, neat and clean work surfaces and simple furnishing to create an uncluttered space.

To make room for an easy-to-navigate social spot, a kitchen island was created. By simply adding a few bar stools, the area is transformed into a bar corner for a relaxing Sunday brunch or a place for serving drinks and food during parties.

"Another major highlight is the space design to take advantage of and to maximize the enjoyment of the magnificent exterior view from every angle inside the flat, including the kitchen, living room and master bedroom," Leung said.

Given the stunning view of the skyline on the 36th floor in the heart of Central, the balcony, the kitchen and the study room are built with extended windows to bring the view as well as abundant sunlight and fresh air in. The owners can immerse in nature's greatest wonders while cooking or browsing online.

Leung is famous for his minimal design concept which is also reflected in his choice of palette. He chose white and earth tones in beige and wood colors as the fundamental colors. "The natural tone offers a relaxed ambience and avoids over-stimulation of the senses, creating a harmonious and naturally inspired interior."

Rustic retreat

The white keeps things fresh and light while the wood accents offer a rustic retreat and haven from the hectic world. The combination of furniture in walnut color adds a little drama to the overall lighter color backdrop, creating a space of subtle and sophisticated vibes.

"I also applied different floor treatments to define the boundary of various functional areas: grey toned stone flooring for the kitchen and the study; wood flooring for the living room and the master bedroom. The mahogany brown furniture blends well with background to offset the monochromic tonality," Leung said.

Though the apartment's tone is light, Leung use a variety of lighting effects to work magic to create mood and ambience that offer a mesmerizing experience. The ceiling trough lights above the cabinet enhance the sense of space, and echo the warm wooden design elements.

The homeowner keeps the furniture simple and practical. "We have lots of storage. Again we don't want lots of pieces, a few cabinets that complemented the design was all we needed. Most of the furniture we custom-built as part of the flat design though," O'Callaghan said.

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

A: The convenience, the vibrancy and the shopping!

Q: Describe your home in three words.

A: Light, practical and homely.

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

A: Look at the view over the water of Kowloon ... and then put my shoes away.

Q: How do you unwind?

A: I like to read the news and books.

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

A: In the open plan lounge/ kitchen/ study. We can surf the net and cook together, which is really nice.

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

A: We can see the Kowloon vista and have a sea view. It's pretty cool.

Q: How do you scent your home?

A: We like to use Shanghai Tang candles.

Q: What's your favorite object at home?

A: The hidden drawer dishwasher.

Q: Where do you source furniture in HK?

A: Our furniture came from indigo and Ikea ... and it all kind of works.

Who is Rolf Sachs?

Rolf Sachs was born in 1955 in Lausanne, Switzerland. The son of a German industrialist father and French mother, he studied in Europe and the US before joining the family business. Creative from an early age and deeply fascinated by the art that surrounded him as a child, Sachs developed a keen interest in painting, photography, and sculpting in his early school days.

In 1994, he moved to London to set up his studio, Rolf Sachs Fun c'tion, which has now become a creative laboratory. Here, together with his team, he conceives limited edition and prototype lighting and furniture pieces, installations, set designs, photography and sculptures.

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

As my studio is multi-disciplinary, there are different works I am content with. I like the set I designed for the opera Faust in 2007, the photographic project "The Wild Emperor" which I did with my wife Maryam, my latest sculpture Bodenstaendig, a bronze casted pine tree branch, and my latest set of stacked furniture pieces.

Are you currently involved with any project?

We recently revealed a new body of work - a reflection on the local culture, customs and materials - at our Herzschuss exhibition in the Engadin valley of Switzerland.

At London Design Festival in September, we unveiled our first collaboration with LINLEY exploring the essence of cabinetmaking with our conceptual thoughts designed to intrigue and amuse. We also launched The Journey of a Drop, an evocative installation at the V&A's Henry Cole Wing Grand Staircase, which was open to the public for the very first time during the Festival.

And again we presented a number of pieces at PAD London during Frieze Art Fair in October with Priveekollektie and Gabrielle Amman // Gallery.

Describe your design style.

As a conceptual artist and designer, my work takes inspiration from everyday objects which I believe to have soul and character. My passion for experiments and inventions drives me to challenge the standard applications of materials; I thrive on the unconventional and the unexpected. My work moves across art and design, objects, spaces and visual medium, all of which are approached with a playful sense of humor. The essence of the work encourages human interaction, and emotional and sensory reactions. I am curious and revel in surprising audiences and questioning preconceptions.

Where are you most creative?

I need an urban environment. One needs contrast and diversity; too-pretty surroundings are difficult for the creative purpose.

What does your home mean to you?

It is the place to be with my family, to meet friends, relax, laugh and recharge.

What do you collect?

Furniture, especially chairs, contemporary art, objects with aesthetics that strike me through their simplicity.

Where would you like to go most in Shanghai?

I have had the luck to visit Shanghai a number of times in the last 20 years. The first time was when the development of Pudong had just started. I loved the old classic Jazz Bar on the Bund, with its musicians who seemed to be 120!

What will be the next big design trend?

The ongoing development is the crossover between design and art resulting in objects with sensual and emotional values.

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