Located in a colonial apartment building in the Mid-Levels, the home was redesigned with sustainability and a nature-inspired look and feel in mind

In this home inside a colonial-style apartment building in the Mid-Levels district on Hong Kong Island, “the serene feeling of discovering a quiet stream in a tranquil forest” was what the owners wanted to capture, according to Liquid Interiors founder Rowena Gonzales. 

Gonzales and her team led the renovation of the 1,800 sq ft, two-bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom home. Colonial-style buildings in the city are typically low-rises in prime locations, and the apartments within are characterised by features like high ceilings, spacious balconies and an abundance of natural light.

A connection with nature wasn’t the only thing the owners looked for, however, says Gonzales. A passion for the arts meant they wanted the new design to complement the pieces in their collection. They also wanted to add modern elements into the home, which originally had a classical look and feel, while “sophistication for sustainable living” was another consideration. 

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Over a nine-month period, Gonzales carefully married the clients’ desires for their home with sustainable touches—something that she is no stranger to. The interior designer started her career in Hong Kong almost two decades ago and was one of the first in the local interior design industry to put sustainability at the forefront.

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Rather than demolish everything in the home, Gonzales refined the space and added to it. “We’re open to working with a previous design if it means being sustainable,” she says. “Preserving something that’s good is one of the most sustainable ways to work on a project.” 

Natural materials were used, and retained, as much as possible. The goal is not only to keep sustainability in mind, but also to modernise what’s already in place. 

The existing floors in the home were made of dark red oak, and instead of replacing it, Gonzales sanded it down in order to expose the lighter tone of original natural oak, which complements the brighter feel of the new space. In the week-long process, Gonzales “had to protect the edges—and we also used a very natural varnish on top.” 

And instead of tearing out the moulding entirely, replacements were made and some new additions were created where necessary.

Prior to the renovation, the owners also donated antique pieces to charity at the recommendation of Liquid Interiors—a better option than seeing them go to a landfill, says Gonzales. “We would much rather give these pieces a new home.”

Not everything was gone, though: antique Chinese furniture, as well as artwork by Chinese artists in their collection, were placed in the master bedroom and study. These touches are a nod to the owners’ Chinese heritage, says Gonzales. 

The focal point of the nature-inspired vision the owners wanted to bring to life is the living room. Furniture with light, neutral colours—such as a sofa and chairs from Manks and a marble coffee table from Forth Furniture—were chosen for the space, creating a bright and airy feel. 

It has a new fireplace by California-based Eco-Smart, which offers eco-friendly heating products using ethanol fire. An unusual feature for a Hong Kong home, the fireplace and anchors the room and “gives it a sense of cosiness, elevating the space.” Its design is reminiscent of the pebbles next to a stream, says Gonzales.

The living room leads to a beautifully decorated balcony via bi-folding doors, which, like the ceiling fan installed, offer natural cross-ventilation and allow the owners to be “very comfortable without having to open the air conditioning.” 

Plenty of plants were placed here, as were furniture made of natural wood, which the designer says gives the balcony a soft and comfortable feeling. While the balcony offers views of greenery, it also faces a high-rise. This is why curtains made of bamboo were added above the frameless balcony glass, which offers privacy for the occupants, while also retaining the space’s nature-inspired aesthetic.

The most challenging part of the project was the transformation of a pint-sized powder room into a full bathroom, which now comes complete with a hidden shower.

This was created to accommodate the owners’ grandmother, and accessibility was especially important. “They wanted to have a larger shower area, where it was easy to access without having to go in and out of a bathtub.” 

A mirrored sliding door was created, concealing the shower. The design results in the space offering the elegant aesthetic of a spacious powder room, rather than one of a cramped bathroom. 

Over in the kitchen, a beautiful breakfast nook was created out of an oversized bay window, a notorious feature found in many Hong Kong homes.

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This was built out of a desire to offer the live-in domestic helpers who worked in the home a space to relax and enjoy meals, says Gonzales. “It’s also a nice place to have your informal breakfast, have your morning coffee, sit and read and maybe also work.” 

The biggest change she made to the home, according to the designer, was creating a more masculine feeling in a space that previously felt “way too feminine”. Chandeliers and golden handles on doors and cabinets were replaced with black marble. “By bringing in more blacks, it became a bit more natural and masculine,” she says. 

Circadian lighting is used around the home to promote wellness, says Gonzales. “Whether they are working from home or relaxing by the fireplace, the lighting colour temperature adjusts to suit their daily activities and create just the right mood for each occasion.”

Meanwhile, the designer also adhered to the owners’ desires for feng shui features, such as a wall painted blue by the entrance. 

Reflecting on the redesign of this home, Gonzales says it was important to retain existing features in consideration of sustainability. “The advantage is that we had something to work with already,” she says. “To us, it’s about being sustainable. It’s nice, so why would you like to remove it? It’s about preserving what’s already nice.” 

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