An Urban Island

An abandoned property in a historic area is given a new lease on life


In Hong Kong’s Quarry Bay, local multi-disciplinary design practice Lim + Lu have transformed an abandoned apartment into a sophisticated and modern home.

Housed in a 19th century tenement building, the expansive apartment (110 square metres, to be exact) is now a revamped urban escape, but its history is intriguing. The previous owner spent most of his life in the apartment until leaving the city and all of his possessions behind. For over 15 years the apartment lay completely undisturbed and untouched, becoming something of a time capsule and giving a glimpse into a former life.

The clients, a nature-loving couple with a love for antiques, embraced the nostalgic charm of the space. The original characteristics of the building are brought to the forefront and drove the choice of materials. “The idea that time could be used as part of the material palette was incredibly poetic,” Lim + Lu co-founder Vince Lim explains. Already a patina exists in the space that can’t be replicated with modern processes, and the designers left the chipped concrete beams untouched, creating a striking juxtaposition between the new bright white walls and the faded jade and orange beams.

The material palette also helped to create a peaceful haven away from the bustle of city life. Materials such as warm oak, woven wicker and volcanic slate feature often, and a series of oak and brass accents punctuates the apartment. As the apartment is in such a densely populated area with direct sight lines into offices and other apartments across the street, internal views instead became the apartment’s focal points. Framing devices on the walls are filled with sentimental relics from the couple’s travels, while at the entrance is a full-height oak-slatted shoe closet with a void carved out and finished in brass, and through which the open kitchen can be seen. Natural elements are brought into the home to create a tranquil ambiance, such as the vibrant row of succulents and other plants along the living room window that distracts from the outside view.

In this home, the man-made and natural, and the historical and contemporary, exist side by side and provide for the homeowners their own private island in the city.

Text / Babette Radclyffe-Thomas
Images / Nirut Benjabenpot and Pak Chung