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Getting creative in small spaces

It was 2014 when Britta Butler, a Harvard and MIT graduate, decided to set up her own architecture and interior design firm, B Squared Design. Seeing a gap in the Hong Kong market, she seized the opportunity to create a full-service firm. This decision has paid off in spades, with Britta’s unique and bold creativity resulting in her winning the REA Interior Design Award 2018 for the Residential Category. The award recognised the work she had done on a Mid-Levels flat, which involved a multi-level, full-scale redesign of a unique duplex on Kennedy Road, transforming the apartment into a stylish gallery, home, restaurant and office in one.

We sat down with the design dynamo, a mother of two and a Hong Kong resident of 12 years, to find out more.

Britta Butler - B Squared Design
Britta Butler

Congratulations on the award!

Thanks, I’m thrilled to have won it! It’s wonderful to be recognised for the work that I love to do. There’s so much that goes on behind the scenes for a project, and a lot of long hours dealing with issues that come up, so it’s extremely rewarding to receive recognition after completion.

Tell us a bit about the project.

The project had to serve multiple functions for the client. It had to be a “home away from home” when the CEO was in HK, and act as a meeting/hotel space for VIP clients, and an event space for work functions. The client had an extensive art collection that he wanted showcased, as well as a desire to make an oasis in an urban jungle, so I had to think creatively in terms of space usage. I designed bespoke furniture for the living room and bedroom that would be both functional and sculptural. I created spaces that evoked the feeling of a boutique hotel, using visually impactful materials, bold shapes and meticulously sourced one-of-a kind furnishings.

B Squared Design after living room

What were the biggest challenges and the biggest successes of the project for you?

There were many obstacles in terms of logistics, deliveries and construction. The timeframe was tight to get everything done. But, ultimately, I was able to overcome the obstacles by thinking outside of the box for sourcing and materials, and working extremely closely with my amazing project manager, Tina Mak of Beehive & Co., to make sure the schedule and high quality of craftsmanship was maintained. The success of the project was verified when the client walked into the space and said it was exactly what he had envisioned.

What sorts of things are popular or specific to Hong Kong in terms of architecture and design?

Obviously, space is a big consideration in Hong Kong, whereas in other places I’ve worked it hasn’t been a big factor. I used to design buildings from the ground up, and here residential almost always means an internal renovation of a flat. I see it as a challenge, not a problem, however, and many of my designs involve innovative approaches to space planning and storage. I also do a lot of custom furniture that has to do double-duty because of spatial constraints (for example, a bed with storage underneath). My signature B Squared Murphy Bed came about as a result of the need to get creative with small spaces.

BSquared Outdoor patio

What’s a current interiors trend that you’re particularly excited about?

Right now, I’m loving the deep, moody blues I’m seeing everywhere, from furniture, to wallpaper, to rugs. This combined with gold accents evokes a gorgeous, luxurious feel.

How does the city inspire you?

Hong Kong is such a vibrant city; it truly is ever-changing: A restaurant that is there one week is gone the next. A flower shop you’ve frequented for years can become a bar overnight. And people arrive here from all over the world, bringing their own unique cultures and ideas to play. This all necessarily influences and inspires my work. Nothing can be too stodgy or staid. While I might draw from design classics, this is always in combination with new technologies and materials. It makes for some really interesting, unique designs!

What do you love about Hong Kong?

My favourite things about Hong Kong are the food scene, the fact that it’s so safe, the proximity to so many amazing vacation destinations, and, last but not least, the people I’ve met in my decade or more of living here. I truly have made friendships for life, and it is thanks to this great city that we ended up in the same place.

Your chance to win!

Does your home need a fresh new look? Expat Living has teamed up with B Squared Design to offer one lucky reader the chance to win a room makeover by Britta valued at HK$38,888! Head here to enter for your chance to win.

See more in our homes section:

Where to buy carpets and rugs in Hong Kong

Horizon Plaza shopping guide

This article first appeared in the October/November 2018 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.