Interior designer Peggy Bels revamped a bijou Island West home, creating an airy, spacious haven

This 650 sq ft apartment on Des Voeux Road West in the Western District of Hong Kong Island comes with a 370 sq ft private rooftop—a coveted feature in real estate in the city.

Its interiors, however, were desperately in need of an upgrade. 

“The apartment had three bedrooms in its original layout—[it was] very dark and in bad condition,” says Peggy Bels, of Hong Kong- and Spain-based studio Peggy Bels Interior Design, who was commissioned by Venus Cheung and Anthony Stewart, a couple who was relocating to Hong Kong, to renovate the home.

There was a “disconnect between the living spaces” and a “lack of openness and flow”, says Cheung. The living room, in particular, felt closed-in. 

Cheung and Stewart had lived in New York, Melbourne and Copenhagen prior to acquiring this property, which they had bought sight unseen. “We wanted the apartment to be a reminder of the cities we had lived in and to reflect elements of them,” Stewart says.

In case you missed it: Home Tour: How a Revamp Took an Oceanfront Hong Kong House to the Next Level

Bels and her team changed the layout of the apartment entirely, demolishing everything to open up the space. The renovation process took six months, resulting in a one-bedroom, one-bathroom home. 

Prior to the renovation, the kitchen was located in a corridor space. The couple had envisioned a multi-purpose kitchen island that is “inviting and the heart of the home—a place where we start our mornings with a coffee, take our work-from-home meetings, share meals and connect over a glass of wine at the end of the day”, says Cheung. 

Don’t miss: Home Tour: A Sleek Hong Kong Penthouse Made For Working From Home

It has now been positioned in a central part of the living area, described by Bels as “an inviting place to hang around and have dinner or drinks with friends”. 

The use of natural elements was a request from the owners. Walnut wood is seen throughout the kitchen, bringing a “rich, inviting tone”, while the slats cladding is a stylish, modern accent, explains Bels. A grey marble countertop and backsplash, as well as brass cabinet handles, complete the look. 

In the bathroom, a surprising discovery was made during demolition: a brick wall was revealed. Cheung and Stewart asked Bels to retain it and work on a design that would keep it visible.

The space, which Bels doubled in size, proved to be a challenging part of the revamp. Cheung had wanted a freestanding bathtub—it was difficult to find one that fits the tight space. A bathtub with a matte synthetic stone finish, as opposed to shiny acrylic, was also preferred. Bels and her team searched far and wide: “We considered shipping from Australia, or custom making the bathtub from scratch,” she remembers. In the end, she was able to source one from a factory in Shenzhen. 

This was one of the most memorable parts of the projects for the designer, and for the couple, it is their favourite room in the apartment. “We were initially nervous that we had overused different materials in the bathroom, but the brick, tiles, wooden floors, concrete finish and marble all came together and enhanced each other,” says Stewart. 

Back in the living room, a concrete wall was installed. This creates depth in relatively small environments, says Bels. When warm grey tones are juxtaposed against surrounding materials—such as sofa fabric and marble—it offers a warm and elegant feel. “The concrete finish, when mixed with a bit of water, gets a milky colour, becoming cosy and textured,” she adds. 

Sliding doors made of glass and metal separate the bedroom from the living spaces, “letting the light flow in as much as possible”, says Bels. She favours the colour black for metal cladding in doors: “These dark backgrounds allow light colours to pop, and create more contrast.” The rough texture of the material also gives character to a space. 

In the rest of the home, wooden oak flooring was added, new windows were installed, and structural repairs were carried out.

“While we love the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong, we wanted our home to feel open, and like a haven from the hecticness outside,” Stewart says. “It took a lot of imagination to look past the cluttered and outdated three-bedroom that we saw in photos, but we are thrilled to have taken the risk.”

© 2022 Tatler Asia Limited. All rights reserved.