Cover Adapa Architects transformed a bay window in a downtown Hong Kong apartment into a reading nook and desk. Photo: Almond Chu

Curious about those oversized bay windows in your Hong Kong home and can’t figure out what to do with them? Tatler asked experts why, and how you can make the most out of them

They’re everywhere in Hong Kong homes. We frequently see the presence of oversized bay windows preventing larger pieces of furniture fitting in a living room, creating an awkward corner in a bedroom, or taking up valuable real estate in bathrooms.

Oversized bay windows are common in high-rise residential properties that were built in Hong Kong between the 1980s and the 1990s, according to Hoyin Lee, Director of Architectural Conservation Programmes at the University of Hong Kong. 

But why? To provide a short answer, says Lee, “more bay windows means more money for the developers.”

Read more: 5 Clever Bay Window Designs That Maximise the Use of Space

Bay windows don’t count as part of a development’s gross floor area (GFA), which is what is used to calculate the price of a unit per square foot. The exemption was granted because bay windows are thought to be an energy-efficient way of lighting a space, so their construction was encouraged. 

This has created a loophole that those who are familiar with Hong Kong’s cutthroat real estate market won’t be surprised by. The exemption means it costs property developers nothing to own the space a bay window sits on. They can, however, sell the bay window space to a buyer for a considerable sum per square foot—and that’s exactly what’s happened.

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“Property developers will try to build the maximum areas of such features [bay windows] that are still within the exemption limits, so that they can make full use of the potential of the land to earn the greatest amount of profit,” writes Eddy WT Lau, of the Hong Kong Green Building Council and a lecturer at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, in a 2012 report exploring Hong Kong housing trends. 

So what can we do with these often underused spaces in a home? 

Bay windows can become useful when transformed into a desk or a reading nook, says Ada Leung, founder of Hong Kong-based design firm Adapa Architects. In a downtown Hong Kong apartment, Leung created a custom-built unit on a window sill that encompassed both. 

“Some people even extend the bay window by putting a bed on it,” she notes. 

Peggy Bels, founder of her eponymous Hong Kong interior design company who’s known for small apartment transformations, also makes efficient use out of oversized bay windows in her clients’ homes.

“We’ve [converted] them mostly into a bathroom sink or a desk, but also as a sideboard as a part of a closet.”

Even without custom furnishings, there are still benefits to bay windows. Some frame a scenic view and allow more natural light to enter a space. They also make for interesting architectural features that add a charming sense of character to the room. 

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