The Pok Fu Lam neighbourhood is considered one of the best locations to live on Hong Kong Island. When Pok Fu Lam resident Lucy McLennan considered the renovation of her colonial apartment, her priority in interior design was to make the best use of small spaces and create storage within. The result is this perfect aesthetic of home renovation, a sanctuary just minutes outside of the bustling Central neighbourhood.
Storage and style
If there is an art in productively using every inch of a compact living space, then Lucy McLennan is a past master due to the interior design of her Pok Fu Lam home’s storage. And forget those hackneyed old tips involving mirrors or open shelving; the advanced planning approach to the interior design and renovation of small space, Lucy-style, is nothing short of genius. A retractable drawer in a kitchen that immediately doubles countertop storage space is one such hack. Another is a uniquely designed shower screen that folds back to maximise storage space in a tiny bathroom. Both are part of Lucy’s interior design planning to shoehorn three adults and three children into a bijou space of 1,700 square feet.
Today, that modest space feels more like an airy loft. “It’s all about planning,” explains Lucy, “You have to spend a long time working out exactly what you want to do and how you can best live in a place. If you get the plans right, it all works!”
Check out the gallery above for a glimpse into EL reader Lucy McLennan’s renovated Pok Fu Lam home
The McLennan family had been renting their colonial flat in an old Pok Fu Lam walk-up for seven years when the landlord offered them an opportunity to buy. Cue major renovation, with the stripping out of electrics, plumbing and windows, and the repositioning of various walls within the apartment to create space for storage. It is now a light-filled, tranquil space, but it’s the ingenious little interior design details that make the flat work so hard for its owners.
Small kitchen worktop space can become easily waterlogged, so Lucy insisted on having a recess carved into the worktop. This allows tap water to quickly drain away. She had an extra piece of worktop cut exactly to slot over the larger sink and – bingo! – extra space for chopping or dicing. Meanwhile the smaller sink can be simultaneously used for draining vegetables.
Lucy’s interior design planning and quest for more space and storage didn’t stop there. She made sure the sleek entrance hall storage shelving accommodated her husband Justin’s UK size 11.5 shoes by measuring them first, and then tailoring the shelves to fit. “When you’re having something like this made, don’t presume your contractor knows how big your husband’s feet are!” she laughs. The cupboard storage hides dozens of pairs of trainers, shoes, bike helmets and outdoor clothing – all in their neatly allocated spaces. Invisible sliding doors throughout the flat save space, and can be retracted to let light flood into every room in the apartment.
In the funky bedroom six-year old Max shares with nine-year old Yasmine, every last bit of space has been utilised. There’s an invisible trundle bed for three-year-old Mia when guests come to stay and she has to vacate her room. Remove a toy tank from a shelf next to Max’s bed, and there’s an inset ring that, when pulled, reveals a capacious storage cavity beneath the shelf. Children’s books and toys are neatly stacked in different sized canvas holdalls, in custom-built cubbyholes beneath Yasmine’s mezzanine-style bed.
“I measured all the books and put them into groups,” explains Lucy, who cheerfully admits to being a detail freak. “I found the storage holdalls I wanted in Muji in a neutral palette, and then the beds and shelving unit were custom made by my contractors, B&M Design. The stair ladder up to Yasmine’s bed could have been left solid, but I insisted that space had to be used as well. So there are shelves built into the side of the stairs for extra storage”.
Storage is Lucy’s speciality and passion; she has even managed to claw back extra space under her bed. “I didn’t want to miss an opportunity. Drawers under a bed are no great shakes, but when I looked at the plans, I worked out there was an empty cavity in the centre. This became my under mattress storage, where I keep guest duvets and linens. Things like that seem ridiculous, but I’m determined to use every spare inch!”
The ingenious interior design accommodating storage solutions and neutral colour palette have resulted in an open, bright space that is the perfect backdrop for Lucy’s contemporary European furniture and an arresting collection of art. Her company, Arum Consulting, represents British photographer Tim Hall – as well as local firm Bumps to Babes – and his vibrant photographs hang throughout the flat.
Two huge snow scenes – more like dreamy paintings – are positioned above a grey B&B Italia corner sofa, while quirky black-and-white portraits of Hong Kong characters, including a rickshaw puller and sailors from the Star Ferry, are hung on the opposite wall.
In Yasmine and Max’s room, two towers of iconic Battersea Power Station in London are partly obscured by billowing white mist. Typical of Lucy’s style, these contemporary photographs are arranged side by side with more traditional paintings from Vietnam – there’s a Binh above her bed – art deco mirrors, and an eclectic mix of furnishings from different cultures, styles and ages. So a limed oak sideboard from Lane Crawford – adorned with traditional Chinese blue-and-white porcelain ginger jars – sits comfortably opposite a classic English mahogany side table, an antique red Chinese cabinet, and occasional side tables in acrylic. Modern Artemide standing lamps sit alongside elegant glass art deco lights, found in New York.
“There are actually no rules,” says Lucy. “Anything can look good as long as you can combine creativity with practicality and make the space personal. You can get too focused on a particular theme, and I didn’t want a theme in this house. First and foremost it’s a warm family home.”
There’s much to remind Lucy of her own family in this beautifully curated apartment home. Precious family photographs rub shoulders with exquisite green porcelain teacups by Hammersley & Co, inherited heirlooms from Lucy’s grandmother. The cupboards reveal elegant silver toast racks and sea green glass Biot bottles given to her by her parents. “Whoever would have thought these bottles are original Biot from the 1970s?” says Lucy.
Her creative design aesthetic likely derives from her father, who designed bookshelves and libraries and – like his daughter – was very particular about craftsmanship, detail and practical functionality. The stone-effect tiles that cover the floor, for example, went through a rigorous testing process before Lucy agreed to lay them throughout the apartment: “I took a tile and loaded it with ketchup, soy sauce, felt-tip pens and ink, then left it overnight to see if I could clean it afterwards. It has a porous quality to it, so I needed to make sure everything would come off!”
Lucy is also a master at playing with size and proportion when it comes to storage and space in her interior design. Large alphabet letters spell out the children’s initials in their bedrooms, and a bowl of huge ostrich eggs (lovingly hand-carried back from Africa to Hong Kong via London) sit in the living room. The stunning alligator-effect wall tiles in the master bathroom are huge – putting paid to the theory that small spaces demand small tiles – and are also sumptuously, decadently black.
“The bathroom was going to be limestone, and I woke up in the middle of the night and thought, ‘The whole place should be black instead!’” says Lucy. “I really liked the idea of a minimalist bathroom with a wow factor, which also provided a sense of sanctuary. It also had to be functional.”
With her usual meticulous attention to detail, Lucy put the shaving socket and a plug for a hairdryer inside the wall cabinet above the twin sinks, and made sure they were on opposite sides. “The shaver is on my side so Justin’s mirror is flush when he’s shaving, and the plug is on his, so when I’m drying my hair, my mirror is flush”.
With its black colour scheme, pleasingly rounded glass shelving, artfully placed Gentlemen’s Tonic shaving creams and a mix of beautiful Katharine Pooley and Jo Malone scent bottles, the bathroom smacks of luxury boutique hotel. With a final flourish, Lucy arranged for Bose speakers to be inset into the bathroom ceiling, so it’s possible to listen to music while showering or getting ready to go out.
The McLennans are often out and about. They are a sporty and active family who like to hike, bike and swim. When the family is nestled in their perfect Pok Fu Lam home they open up the seamless glass patio doors and sit on their tranquil balcony for Saturday lunch. Or, in Lucy and Justin’s case, perhaps a bottle or two of fine wine. Two large lychee trees surround the apartment block and with the greenery, birdsong and peaceful atmosphere, it’s hard to believe you’re a mere 15 minutes from the bustling Central neighbourhood.
Lucy found the metal- and wood-effect balcony table at Everything Under the Sun, combining it with director-style chairs and two bench seats which double as service tables when only four are dining. “Everything has to have a dual functionality,” explains Lucy. “I recently bought two Philippe Starck Ghost chairs for my office, but they also work as additional seating outside or at the dining table, and also as guest bedroom chairs. If I had too much of a statement piece, I couldn’t fit it in elsewhere in the apartment. I always try and make sure that I am being quite versatile with my decisions. If I see something I love, but it isn’t practical for our house, we can’t have it!”
It’s an approach that definitely works, but for a passionate and dedicated interiors shopper, won’t frustration eventually get the better of her? “I’ve got my eye on that extra house in the south of France,” admits Lucy laughingly. Chances are, it will also be practical perfection, just like her Pok Fu Lam home.
Lucy’s guide to Pok Fu Lam
Tim Hall Photography
160 Walton Street, London SW2 2JL
Podium Level 3, IFC Mall
8 Finance Street, Central
Podium Level 3, IFC Mall
8 Finance Street, Central
Unit 1502, 15/F The Sun’s Group Centre
200 Gloucester Road, Wan Chai
C/o The Essentials
G/F 81 Wong Nai Chung Road, Happy Valley
Everything Under The Sun
Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing Street
Shop 111, Ruttonjee Centre
11 Duddell Street, Central
LG/F 3-11 Wing Fung Street, Wan Chai
K-Town Bar & Grill
G/F Sincere Western House
44 Forbes Street, Sai Wan
The Brick House
G/F 20 D’Aguilar Street, Central
L/F Shop 1 Welley Building
97 Wellington Street near Graham Street, Central
If you want to learn more about Pok Fu Lam, head to our neighbourhood guide to learn more.
And read on for more features in our Living in Hong Kong section