In small spa­ces, de­sign­ers must think big. This Kowloon mi­cro apart­ment shows that, when it comes imag­i­na­tive so­lu­tions, size doesn’t mat­ter.

Crave - - CONTENTS - Words Michele Koh Morollo Pho­tos Den­nis Lo

In­side a tree house-in­spired apart­ment in Kowloon

In densely pop­u­lated Hong Kong, small apart­ments can leave home­own­ers feel­ing limited when it comes to in­te­rior de­sign op­tions, but not ar­chi­tect Nel­son Chow, who re­mod­elled his mi­cro apart­ment us­ing tree houses as in­spi­ra­tion.

Raised in Canada and trained in New York, Chow’s prac­tice, NC De­sign & Ar­chi­tec­ture, has made waves in Hong Kong with its ex­cit­ing de­signs for F&B es­tab­lish­ments. Projects in­clude the in­te­ri­ors of

Mrs. Pound in She­ung Wan, a covert lair be­hind the façade of a tra­di­tional Chi­nese stamp shop; Cen­tral lounge bar Fox­glove, a speakeasy-style space be­hind an um­brella shop, like some­thing out of Hol­ly­wood block­buster Kings­man; and the exclusive Krug Room at the Man­darin Ori­en­tal.

Chow’s ex­per­i­ments with the themes of se­crecy, seclu­sion and fan­tasy come into play won­der­fully in his own home. His 370-square-foot apart­ment has been imag­i­na­tively trans­formed into a stylish and cosy pad with a tree house-like raised bed­room loft.

In many parts of the world, tree houses are built for chil­dren, where they can es­cape home­work and chores to day­dream and en­gage in make-be­lieve in a pri­vate oa­sis up in the trees. This is pre­cisely what Chow was go­ing for when he de­signed his home, lo­cated on the eighth floor of a Ho Man Tin high-rise. In a res­i­den­tial neigh­bour­hood sur­rounded by trees, his split-level de­sign makes the most of the views.

“The build­ing is lo­cated in a site that’s like a for­est in the midst of the city. This is very rare in Hong Kong, so I wanted to ac­cen­tu­ate this as­pect of the prop­erty,” Chow says.

The orig­i­nal apart­ment had a more con­ven­tional lay­out, with a bed­room, kitchen, din­ing and liv­ing ar­eas on one level. To max­imise the func­tional space, Chow de­cided to make full use of the 10-foot-high ceil­ing by build­ing a 40-square-foot sleep­ing loft and free­ing up pre­cious floor space.

“I grew up in Canada, and I some­times went out to the woods and stayed in tree house cab­ins. When you stay in a tree house, you don’t need a lot of floor space, be­cause you feel fully con­nected with the great out­doors and na­ture when you’re there,” Chow says.

When he down­sized to this mi­croflat, he de­cided he didn’t need a large bed­room. “I knew I wouldn’t feel com­fort­able sleep­ing in a space that was too large. What I wanted was some­thing cosy and in­ti­mate. Re­mem­ber­ing those tree houses I loved, I de­cided on a loft-style bed space.”

So he knocked down the in­ter­nal walls and built a loft-bed­room above the din­ing area, cre­at­ing two very dif­fer­ent moods within the mi­cro apart­ment.

“For the lower level, my pri­or­ity was to cap­ture a panoramic view of the trees out­side. It’s hec­tic in Hong Kong and I wanted the liv­ing and din­ing rooms to be quiet and serene. I cre­ated a more con­tem­pla­tive en­vi­ron­ment here with dark blue walls, sub­dued enough to draw at­ten­tion to the green­ery out­side.”

In con­trast to the rel­a­tively som­bre liv­ing ar­eas, the sleep­ing loft is a light, bright and airy Scan­di­na­vian-in­spired float­ing wooden box. Though the liv­ing and sleep­ing zones evoke dis­tinct am­bi­ences, they are vis­ually uni­fied through warm wood, which is used for both the loft and the floor of the liv­ing ar­eas. On en­ter­ing the flat, there is a gal­ley-style kitchen on the left, with an open-plan liv­ing and din­ing area be­yond. Sus­pended in a wooden box above the din­ing area, the bed isn’t vis­i­ble from the liv­ing spa­ces. In­stead, the loft wall is en­cased in a strik­ing fea­ture wall of ter­ra­cotta lat­tice­work that re­sem­bles the cross­sec­tion of card­board.

It re­duces the ceil­ing level to six feet above the din­ing area and is reached by a lad­der-like stair­case in the din­ing area.

Clad in nat­u­ral pine, with a slot-like lin­ear win­dow that looks over the sur­round­ing woods, this nook-like sleep­ing loft seems to hover above the lower level of the apart­ment.

The win­dow is po­si­tioned to give Chow a bird’s-eye view of the sur­round­ing trees when he wakes. At night, out­door lights from the com­mu­nal gar­dens be­low shine up through the green­ery, il­lu­mi­nat­ing the loft in a soft, dreamy glow.

The loft is fur­nished sim­ply with a mat­tress, a read­ing light and a shelf against the back wall where Chow stores his night­time read­ing. Along one side is a pro­tec­tive rail­ing, to pre­vent him rolling out of bed and fall­ing down the stair­case. Down­stairs, the liv­ing spa­ces are fur­nished with his favourite pieces from de­sign­ers such as Hans Weg­ner, Kon­stantin Gr­cic and Al­var Aalto.

“A home needs to re­flect your unique per­son­al­ity,” Chow says. “It’s worth tak­ing risks and cre­at­ing a one-of-a-kind re­treat.”

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