By: Tara Jenkins. Photography by Helen Jenkins
Like many of us living in fast-paced Hong Kong, EL Reader Cherie Wong strives to make the most of her time – and the most of the space in her Pokfulam apartment. Read on as Cherie shows us how to design for small space with these clever and efficient storage ideas.
There’s a funky white neon sign in Cherie and Kevin’s understated living room that, at first sight, looks like traditional Chinese characters. Ask Cherie for a translation, however, and you quickly realise all is not as it seems. “It looks like Chinese characters but if you look at it sideways, it actually reads ‘Cherie’ and ‘Kevin’,” laughs the Singaporean-born architect and interior designer, who made Hong Kong her home seven years ago.
Click through the gallery for home decor and storage ideas for your small space
The neon sign has a clever duality, like many things in this carefully considered space in leafy Pokfulam. Pull a couple of cupboard panels open and slide a hidden partition out of a wall, and part of the living room becomes a cosy guest bedroom. “It makes the space a bit more usable because we don’t have guests all the time,” explains Cherie. “This way, my son can play here during the day, and we can close it up when we need to.”
Above the sofa – which naturally doubles as a bed – there are grey recessed ceiling panels that hide cunning roof storage; Cherie stores duvets and eiderdowns in the space. “I had to lower the ceiling by 700mm so I could put in tracks for the sliding doors, so there is a fair amount of storage. You have to be smart with your space in Hong Kong – you haven’t got the luxury of four bedrooms.”
The wooden ladder to access the roof storage is chunky and foldable; by day it’s hidden behind a wall panel, but when guests arrive it becomes a stylish set of shelves for towels and personal items. Elsewhere in the living room, Cherie has created a smart little office area out of a cupboard, and high units in the kitchen conceal Kevin’s university books, and other unsightly clutter. A nook behind the dishwasher has been turned into a stylish magazine rack and bookshelf; in fact, there isn’t a millimetre in this hardworking space that hasn’t been productively used.
When it comes to Cherie’s job, duality is also the order of the day. Trained in Perth, Australia, as an architect, she currently works for the interior design arm of UK firm Benoy, which is responsible for the Elements Mall and Hysan Place, amongst others. However, she’s just set up her own freelance consultancy to design residential interiors. Oh, and she also designs handbags. Her elegant little clutches are made from gorgeous fabric remnants she sources from manufacturers, and make use of leathers, brocades and some delicate Japanese-inspired material with swirls of purple and green. All the covetable clutches are fastened with a cloudy green jade ring, and naturally, they all have detachable chains so they can double up as shoulder bags!
So how does Cherie find time to make handbags? “I just like designing things,” she shrugs. “But it was a lot easier pre-baby – I’d come home from work and design my bags on the computer, and then I went to Sham Shui Po at the weekend to source materials. There isn’t as much time now as I’d like.”
Cherie’s gorgeous eight-month-old son Connor has the face of an angel, and is quite content to simply watch his talented mother move about her home. It’s easy to wonder, though, how the pristine white sofas and objets d’art on low-lying furniture will fare once he starts toddling around the apartment. Cherie laughs, but you know she will find a stylish solution to keep the serene, contemplative air of the living area intact. She’s worked wonders on the tired, poky little unit she first saw a couple of years ago; the 1500-square-foot apartment originally had three bedrooms and an enclosed kitchen, but Cherie demolished walls and rearranged the living spaces to create a large, airy, open-plan room, which now encompasses living, dining and cooking. “My style is very clean, smart and contemporary,” she explains. “I like straight lines and I’m not into fussy details!”
She’s created a peaceful, unfussy space by adopting a neutral palate in whites, taupes and greys, so the sofas (Tequila Kola) and the white travertine-covered coffee table are offset by discretely patterned beige cushions, and the muted browns and beiges of an oriental rug. In the corner by the window, she has cleverly contrasted the quirky white neon sign and the modern ceiling lights – from Modern Lighting in Wan Chai – with an antique Chinese cabinet and an oriental-style lamp from Tequila Kola. Best of all, a semi-balcony has cleverly been created off the living area, where previously there was only planter space. Cherie managed it by lowering the frame and installing sliding windows to open out on a chic little space where people can now sit and relax with a glass of wine!
It would be impossible to do anything other than relax in the sumptuous master bedroom, reminiscent of a luxury hotel with its creamy furnishings, glossy wall of cupboards and two-tone trimmed curtains. The entire wall behind the bed is fabulously padded with slubby cream linen, giving the impression of a huge, pillowy headboard. “It’s quite easy – just wall panels wrapped in fabric” explains Cherie. “We bought extra fabric and asked Area Home – who custom-made the bed for us – to use the material to also cover the divan.”
In Cherie’s opinion, one of the best things about living in Hong Kong is the opportunity to customise and specify your own furniture, and she has taken full advantage of it. One of the most stunning features in the apartment are the marble “fish scale” tiles in the bathrooms; they’ve been used in the shower cubicle in the guest bathroom, and as a feature wall behind the bath in the master en-suite. Cherie knew which design she wanted – she’d seen it on international websites – but couldn’t find anyone who sold this particular tile in Hong Kong. So, in true Cherie-style, she drew it up on a computer, and went down to Wanchai to see who could help her! “Each piece or ‘fish scale’ had to be cut out of a big slab of marble, then laid on mesh and grouted over,” she explains. “Eventually I found someone to do it, and I love the finished effect. I like to lie in the bath and look at it.” The wall has been so beautifully fitted, the variously coloured pieces of marble look exactly like a piece of modern art.
The rest of the bathroom is coolly clad in dark grey slate tiles, with ultra-flattering light strips either side of the mirror – less shadows on your face when you’re applying make-up, explains Cherie – “his” and “hers” sinks, and lots of luxurious little touches such as heated towel rails and a Bose sound system to provide music while you enjoy a bath.
Back in the master bedroom, rich stained rosewood bedside tables and an end-of-bed ottoman were all custom-made at Old Shanghai in Horizon Plaza, and Cherie has mixed the bedroom décor up by adding a retro white Eames rocking chair in the corner. Two long, sleek, grey pendant lights hang on either side of the bed, chosen by Cherie’s husband. “Kevin has a considered eye, and he chose the width, height and colour of the lamps, and they were then custom-made,” says Cherie. “It’s a good thing our styles are so similar.”
The couple also shares a passion for climbing, and regularly makes the trip to Tung Lung island at the weekend to scale rock faces. In fact, there’s a large fingerboard – an exercise aid for climbers designed to strengthen finger strength – fastened over the door in Connor’s room. “Kevin is a serious climber but I do it for fun; I like the satisfaction of getting to the top,” says Cherie. “When you’re climbing you’re really focused, you can’t think of anything else.”
Both are also keen travellers, and scattered around the apartment are travel mementos from a host of different countries, providing character and colour. There’s a bright parchment painting from Mexico, imposing Buddha heads, an image of a reclining leopard taken on a South African safari honeymoon, and vintage illustrations of birds and flowers that Cherie found in a bookstore in England and had framed.
There’s also a quirky photograph of two oxen statues – traditionally placed on Peruvian rooftops as a house blessing – that Cherie snapped on her trip to Macchu Picchu. “It involves four days, three nights, camping, and horrible toilets, but the feeling you get when you see Machu Picchu in front of you, just as the dawn is breaking, is incredible!” she says. The most arduous hikes she manages now involve trekking up Pokfulam reservoir up to The Peak, with little Connor strapped to her back, but – given her capable juggling of the day job at Benoy, her burgeoning interior design consultancy, her handbag business and a full time role as a mother – you know Cherie will undoubtedly find the time to see and do everything she wants.
Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau:
1/F, Tequila Kola
15/F, Old Shanghai
11/F, Area Home
Modern (HK) Lighting, Sam Yuen Mans, Wanchai, 2511 7796
Panevino, 30-32 Robinson Road, G/FL Peace Tower, Mid-Levels