Ar­chi­tects Vince Lim and Elaine Lu used their 1,200-square-foot Happy Val­ley apart­ment to de­clare their de­sign in­ten­tions, creat­ing a home in­spired by New York loft liv­ing, but with the rough edges smoothed off.

Crave - - TABLE OF CONTETS - Words Christopher De­wolf

Hus­band-and-wife de­sign­ers recre­ate a New York loft in their Happy Val­ley home

In most coun­tries, young ar­chi­tects make their mark with a sin­gle-fam­ily house, a kind of the­sis state­ment for their de­sign am­bi­tions. In spaces­tarved Hong Kong, how­ever, de­sign­ers need to make do with less. That wasn’t a prob­lem for ar­chi­tects Vince Lim and Elaine Lu, who up­rooted from New York in 2015 to move to Hong Kong, Lim’s home­town.

Since launch­ing their firm, Lim & Lu, they have tran­si­tioned from ar­chi­tec­ture to­wards in­te­rior and prod­uct de­sign. “We want to de­sign the space, the fur­ni­ture in the space, the prod­ucts,” Lim says. “We think of our de­sign prac­tice as a life­style brand. That may seem weird but I think they go hand in hand. De­sign has the abil­ity to im­prove the lives of peo­ple.”

To prove their am­bi­tion, they em­barked on a com­plete over­haul of the 1,206-square-foot apart­ment they owned in Happy Val­ley. “Be­fore we started the ren­o­va­tions it was a typ­i­cal Hong Kong apart­ment where spa­ces were very com­part­men­talised, with long cor­ri­dors lead­ing into them,” Lim says. “All the rooms were sep­a­rate, it was dark, and the kitchen was sep­a­rate from the liv­ing spa­ces.”

So the cou­ple de­cided to gut the place, Lu says.

“We pretty much knocked down all the walls in the apart­ment and re-planned it. It was like start­ing from a blank can­vas.”

They thought back to New York for in­spi­ra­tion. “We liked loft spa­ces and the flow and idea of a New York loft, but we don’t quite like the rugged loft style, the in­dus­trial style,” says Lim. “So we cre­ated a loft in­side a Hong Kong apart­ment.”

That meant wide open spa­ces linked by slid­ing doors and glass walls, which made the flat seem larger and brighter than be­fore. The cou­ple iden­ti­fied core liv­ing ar­eas – the kitchen, liv­ing room and bed­room – and cast them in sooth­ing neu­tral tones, with light wood floors, white walls and sheer white cur­tains. They took a dif­fer­ent ap­proach en­tirely to the bath­room, study and dress­ing room, which are

packed with con­trast­ing colours and tex­tures.

They started by de­sign­ing the bath­room. “I have an ob­ses­sion with bath­rooms,” Lu says. “We were walk­ing along Lock­hart Road look­ing for in­spi­ra­tion and I saw this tile I fell in love with.” The tile’s mar­ble-like stri­a­tions and grey hexag­o­nal pat­tern led to an art deco-in­flu­enced de­sign that plays a black mar­ble con­sole off brass fix­tures and jade-coloured walls, with a cir­cu­lar mir­ror and cylin­dri­cal pen­dant lights to round out the look.

Next to the liv­ing room, the study has pink walls and a Por­tuguese-style tile floor with a pat­tern in navy, teal, or­ange, gold, white and cream. It is sur­rounded by black-framed slid­ing glass doors – the one aes­thetic nod to in­dus­trial New York style – which al­low the space to open seam­lessly into the liv­ing room.

“The pink room is usu­ally a study where we can read and work, but when guests come over it can be­come a din­ing room. Or we can move the ta­ble out and close the cur­tains and doors and it be­comes a pri­vate guest room. That flex­i­bil­ity is im­por­tant in cities like New York and Hong Kong where space is limited,” Lu says.

It’s tempt­ing to see the con­trast­ing spa­ces as two sides of the cou­ple’s cre­ative iden­tity: dis­tinct in form yet com­ple­men­tary in func­tion. The cou­ple started a ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ship be­fore be­com­ing de­sign part­ners. “We agree on a lot of things but we do have small dis­agree­ments and it’s the dis­agree­ments that helps push our de­sign for­ward,” Lu says.

That is par­tic­u­larly ap­par­ently in their fur­ni­ture, which is a fas­ci­nat­ing jux­ta­po­si­tion of colours, tex­tures and forms. Lim’s style is “more black and white and geo­met­ric”, while Lu’s is more colour­ful and or­ganic. They found com­mon ground in the din­ing ta­ble, which has a rounded white mar­ble top on two chunky brass legs, one cylin­dri­cal, the other rec­tan­gu­lar.

Lim and Lu fin­ished ren­o­vat­ing the apart­ment in Au­gust 2016, and they have been grad­u­ally fur­nish­ing it since. “We wanted to keep it very min­i­mal and not clut­ter the space, so we’ve slowly cu­rated the fur­ni­ture based on what we need,” says Lu.

“We call it a slow process of de­sign,” Lim says. “That doesn’t typ­i­cally hap­pen in Hong Kong, clients ex­pect a quick turn­around. It’s nice not to de­sign ev­ery­thing all at once be­cause as you live in the space you start to fig­ure out what you need and what you’d like. You start to fig­ure out what your es­sen­tials are.”

Over the past year, the cou­ple has re­ceived a steady stream of vis­i­tors to check out their ren­o­va­tion. It’s a de­sign state­ment, but also a home. “We fore­see this apart­ment evolv­ing and chang­ing with us for the long term,” Lim says. “What’s spe­cial is that Lim & Lu is our prac­tice and de­sign, but it’s also us, a mar­ried cou­ple.”

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