Certain interior designers might encounter a diminutive, 300-square-foot one-bedroom flat and see no further potential beyond a plain white box. Not so for local multidisciplinary design agency Studio Adjective. When faced with this modest apartment in the new Alto Residences estate along the waterfront promenade of southern Tseung Kwan O, founder and design director Wilson Lee envisioned a minimalist yet artful design concept that places quality of life at the forefront in a project that was completed this July after six months of work. 

The clients are a couple who are both employed in creative fields where working from home is commonplace. They also enjoy entertaining friends at home. Therefore, opening up the apartment was out of the question, as a distinction between public and private areas had to be maintained to accommodate the clients’ lifestyle. Instead, Lee kept the original one-bedroom, open kitchen layout with a key difference—introducing a transparent, L-shaped wood and glass screen between the bedroom and living area in place of a solid wall.

This granted a sense of airiness to the apartment without sacrificing privacy. Other renovations to the apartment included redoing the floor of the rooftop and adding a long counter space and L-shaped wooden partition.

The open kitchen, which is to the immediate left upon entering the apartment, was left much the same as before. The staircase next to it, however, was rejuvenated so it would serve as a hangout area for guests and a place for the clients to showcase their ceramics collection and other items, in addition, of course, to its primary function of connecting the apartment to the roof.

In fact, the staircase and open kitchen is the couple’s favourite area in the home. “They love to chat and drink with friends around the corner [from the kitchen],” says Lee, adding that the dining table and staircase are also areas where the couple often get work done. “They find the combination of objects [displayed in the areas] very visually appealing, too.”

When it came to colour schemes and materials, Lee decided on a calming vibe that would grant character to the compact space without overwhelming it, employing a style he dubbed “minimalist, with a mix of Scandinavian and Japanese aesthetics”. Light grey marble and walnut woods dominate, with the former featuring in the kitchen and bathroom counters and the latter in the dining room table, bedroom screen, cabinetry and other storage. Much of the built-in furniture was tailor made. Lee also took great care with the lighting, making sure they would contribute to the tranquility of the space, rather than being too strong and distracting. A handsome black pendant light, which the couple had from their previous home, takes pride of place above the dining table. “We wanted to create a space that projects a sense of calmness, enhances the contrast of light and shadow, and provides good, rich texture,” Lee says.

While Lee recognised that many smaller apartments in the city might incorporate transformable furniture, he preferred to take a different approach with this project, instead choosing to focus on the overall feeling of the space itself rather than on nifty storage solutions. “In Hong Kong, many compact apartment designs focus on functionality, using transforming furniture to maximise space,” explains Lee. “But we feel that enriching the living experience also needs to be a focus, not just introducing more and more storage, especially when the space is very small and compact.” Given the cosy, relaxing quality of this home, we’re quite inclined to agree with him.