Lifestyle

Small Residential Space for Urban Living

Small Residential Space for Urban LivingAccording to Gary Chang, small is the new black when it comes to luxury. The Hong Kong architect should know. The founder of Edge Design Institute and designer of iconic structure Suitcase House at Commune by the Great Wall Kempinski hotel and the kung fu tea set for Alessi spends more than half of his time on the road. He is an expert when it comes to hotel rooms and writes about them for magazines such as Taiwan’s Business Weekly and Hong Kong’s Ming Pao Weekly.

Shrinking Averages
His home, chronicled in the recently reprinted my 32m2 apartment by publisher mccm creations, illustrates how Chang has lived in the same North Point flat for nearly four decades. When he was a teenager, he shared it with his parents, three younger sisters and a tenant in the second bedroom to help make ends meet. Since taking over the entire apartment, he has grown to believe that Hong Kong’s small spaces are blessings in disguise. And small is a trend that’s fast becoming a global phenomenon.

Speaking in February at the annual Kyunghyang Housing Fair on the topic of the compact home, Chang discovered that he was preaching to a converted audience in the Korean capital. “One third of Seoul’s households are people living alone,” he said. “Either they are single or are elderly. With aging populations, this is the case all over the world. The exception is Italy, where sons still live with their mothers! As a result, every city centre these days contains tiny apartments that are just as expensive as houses in the suburbs. Seoul has entire buildings where every apartment is between 20 to 30 square metres.”

Chang’s frequent travels mean that a big residence is a waste of energy. Though it may sound like a cliche, time is the ultimate luxury for him. “It’s about reduction and being very disciplined,” he says. “I never leave anything on the floor. Hoarding means that your place will quickly turn into a junkyard. I use my wall surfaces for storage, and it helps to make things look more organised if hidden behind cabinets. I do my own cleaning. If I’m home, I’ll take a Sunday and scrub my windows and toilet.”

City Home
The architect is a huge advocate of taking advantage of the city that he resides in, even though it may only be a night. “For city dwellers, the entire metropolis is our home,” he states. “Go out to eat! Go out to drink! Go out and enjoy everything that the city has to offer.” Despite admitting to not being much of a cook himself, Chang’s friends will visit and tinker about in his mini kitchen. “At the very least, you need a kettle. A big fridge is necessary for people who don’t cook. A wine cellar can double as a fridge and that will keep your wine at the optimal temperature. Although I personally don’t like them, a microwave is handy. I prefer investing in a good toaster oven instead.”

Chang advises that residents of small spaces should never skimp on everyday luxuries. “The bathroom is used all the time. You have to shower daily, so why not have a large shower stall? You don’t need to contort yourself tortuously in a tiny cubicle. My shower is compact but it also contains a sauna, steam room and colour therapy. The trend is to go smaller without having to sacrifice function and enjoyment. While you’re at it, install a waterproof music system to enjoy with your shower.”

Getting rid of a dedicated desk can save space. “With technology improving exponentially, you can work anywhere. A desk is no longer important when you can work in bed.” Even a bed is questionable in a small flat; Chang has an easily operable Murphy bed at home that can disappear to maximise floor space.

Paradigm Shift
He also questions the typical American model of on site storage in the attic or basement. “Those who still equate ‘big’ with ‘luxurious’ are dinosaurs,” he sniffs contemptuously. “In cities like Hong Kong, there are storage facilities readily available and just a short drive away. It is stupid to waste expensive residential real estate on storerooms. What do you really need those rooms for? Are you planning to murder your husband and store his dead body in the closet — like that American at Parkview? That’s when you need walk in storage!”

For families, Chang understands that it may be challenging in a small homes with everyone living on top of each other and the obvious lack of privacy. But he also thinks that the spatial layout of Hong Kong apartments may actually be contributing to the city’s social problems. “Haven’t you noticed that in bigger apartments, everyone spends all his time in separate rooms and interaction is poor as a result? It’s the psychology of too much space. The dining table isn’t used if people are no longer eating together — and there’s no reason to talk to each other anymore. In small apartments, they have to get along, even if they argue as a result.”

The itchy-footed Chang would rather spend his money on hotel stays rather than invest in a multi-million dollar home. “If you take the cost of a 1,000-square foot Hong Kong flat you could spend that amount on 10 great hotel rooms per month for the next 20 years. I love having a string of one-night stands — with hotels. It’s very exciting to lay your head in a new place. Everyone wants diversity.” Paradigm Shift He also questions the typical American model of on site storage in the attic or basement. “Those who still equate ‘big’ with ‘luxurious’ are dinosaurs,” he sniffs contemptuously. “In cities like Hong Kong, there are storage facilities readily available and just a short drive away. It is stupid to waste expensive residential real estate on storerooms. What do you really need those rooms for? Are you planning to murder your husband and store his dead body in the closet — like that American at Parkview? That’s when you need walk in storage!” For families, Chang understands that it may be challenging in a small homes with everyone living on top of each other and the obvious lack of privacy. But he also thinks that the spatial layout of Hong Kong apartments may actually be contributing to the city’s social problems. “Haven’t you noticed that in bigger apartments, everyone spends all his time in separate rooms and interaction is poor as a result? It’s the psychology of too much space. The dining table isn’t used if people are no longer eating together — and there’s no reason to talk to each other anymore. In small apartments, they have to get along, even if they argue as a result.” The itchy-footed Chang would rather spend his money on hotel stays rather than invest in a multi-million dollar home. “If you take the cost of a 1,000-square foot Hong Kong flat you could spend that amount on 10 great hotel rooms per month for the next 20 years. I love having a string of one-night stands — with hotels. It’s very exciting to lay your head in a new place. Everyone wants diversity.”