Local Interiors And Loft Conversions

Squarefoot catches up with Artwill creative director Regina Kwok in a chat about space, what constitutes Hong Kong design and what really needs to happen to get a loft in Aberdeen.

How did Hong Kong interior design fare in 2013 when compared to other cities? Is there such a thing as Hong Kong style?
Hong Kong continues to see great diversity in styles for interior design. Since we are such an international city, designers and clients continuously bring trends and preferences from their previous [homes]. To give you examples from our residential work, we received briefs that ask for a tatami room to be created in the apartment or a Thai resort hotel design theme, as well as an open plan, loft design to emanate their last home in Soho.

What got you excited this past year? Did one project stand out for being challenging?
Yes, the most challenging yet exciting project I had this year was one where we basically got complete control over the design. The client had just purchased a brand new apartment and wanted to create their ideal home there. Because they had vetted a number of designers before picking us, they were able to trust and respect our decisions completely throughout the project. This meant that we could play around with some very creative ideas and at the same time have them be totally off the mark from what the client wanted. In the end, we created a loft-inspired space by knocking down all the walls in the apartment — a rare design in Hong Kong, but one that the owner was delighted with.

You’ve done large spaces but most people have an average of 500 square feet. Is there an advantage to small spaces and can they be just as creative?
Actually, we do projects at this size as well. In fact, I think smaller spaces require more creativity but perhaps in ways less obvious and glamorous. When designing, we may need to think of ways to combine storage space and an air ventilation outlet, behind a dining table. During construction, we need to manage flexibly the pace of construction and delivery of building materials, against costs and working space. As the owner, you need to have more imagination in how you would use the space during different times of the day, with different sets of occupants, and in different moods — all the while having the colours of your walls and locations of your windows stay the same.

There’s talk of rezoning industrial districts and buildings and you do commercial space as well. How do you think industrial conversions would work from a residential design perspective?
Hong Kong has seen some industrial conversions, in Kwai Chung, San Po Kong, and a few in Chai Wan. The spaces themselves are great as lofts in, say, Soho: open, well lit, large clear span, and tall ceilings. Costs are usually a bit higher than an average apartment, for changing pipes and plumbing needed for a full bath and kitchen. But the key for conversions lies with the local authorities. Unlike New York or London, they have not taken such an active role in rezoning. Most converted apartments are in buildings that still have offices or even light factories. Furthermore, their locations are still industrial, with no facilities, shops, or even neighbours that you would expect to find in a residential area. Until the regulations change more thoroughly I don’t expect to see too many conversion projects.

What kind of interior design trends do you see emerging in 2014?
Rather than trends, we prefer to think about enhancements that continuously happen in design approach and technology. We aim to create homes that last, so we don’t want to rely heavily on the season’s colours or upholstery.

In 2014, we see a further emphasis on technologies to gain control and optimise for comfort in our homes. Ever quieter and smaller air-purifiers and pre-installed water cleaning systems should become more widespread. Smart home systems that allow control of room temperature, lighting, and water heater from one’s smartphone should also become more affordable than ever.