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SCMP interview

  1. Creative use of space is key to modern interiors
    Wednesday, 26 March, 2008, 12:00am
    Serviced apartments have to suit a variety of tastes, and the design must make guests feel right at home, writes Jacqueline Tsang

    People generally look to interior designers for ideas that reflect their personality and lifestyle, but the rules of the game change when designers are commissioned by serviced apartment companies to create a style that appeals to various tastes.

    What's the secret to designing an interior that everyone can live with?

    'A serviced apartment is halfway between a hotel and a regular home,' said Tomoyuki Hisano, managing director of interior design company Toms Works.

    The long-term stay at a serviced apartment necessitates the inclusion of home appliances such as kitchenware, washing and drying machines, and an extensive range of hi-tech appliances.

    John McLennan, managing director of Indigo Living said that the latest trend in serviced apartments was to provide a living environment that felt like a home, only with an impressive array of gadgets that would otherwise be difficult to afford. 'If the style and quality of the apartment can make them feel like they are getting more than what they would have at home, then the designer and service provider have done a good job,' Mr McLennan said.

    Nevertheless, it takes more than just the latest surround-sound speakers to outfit a home, and everything from the style and size of the furniture to the curtain fabric and colour must be carefully chosen and planned out.

    Stephen Chan Wai-ming, design manager of inX Design Studio, said that a contemporary design was generally popular with serviced apartments.

    'It is much more versatile, and the simplicity of this design will also allow guests to temporarily add their own personal elements, creating a living area that feels more like home.'

    Lighting, for example, should be arranged such that the resident has control over the intensity, and both Mr Chan and Mr Hisano recommend the use of dimmers for easy adjustability.

    Mr McLennan and Tristance Kee, course co-ordinator and college lecturer of interior design at the University of Hong Kong's School of Professional and Continuing Education, both suggested allowing for a variety of lighting options for different uses.

    'There should be a mix of both ambient light and task light,' Ms Kee said.

    'A milder illumination of the background, for example, would offer a less offensive interior look, while a task light at a desk or dining table needs to be more focused and intense.'

    Mr Chan said bright white lights should be avoided as they cast a sterile or industrial tone in a space that should be homey and comfortable. Similarly, colour choice should be kept neutral, and Mr Chan prefers khaki tones that are generally pleasing to everyone. Ms Kee said bold colours might be used, but usually as accent colours limited to accessories or furniture.

    In the end, durability was key when it came to a living space that would be reused constantly over the years, and 'designers must keep in mind the cost of future maintenance and replacement when sourcing fabrics and materials', Mr Chan said.

    Mr McLennan recommends fabrics that are fire-retardant, colourfast and have a high rub test rating, and materials that are resistant to chips and scratches. Another trick to guarantee easy maintenance, according to Mr Hisano, is having fittings that can easily be replaced, such as hanging a painting instead of using wallpaper, or laying down tile carpeting instead of a wall-to-wall carpet.

    One final consideration was the fact that serviced apartment buildings limited their apartments to a set number of styles, usually with no more than three to choose from, Ms Kee said.

    Each design must be applied to apartments that range in size from spacious penthouses to smaller studios, and designers have to ensure that what they plan for a large apartment must also be able to fit into a smaller one.

    Mr Hisano said that one can maintain the same design and materials in the smaller apartments, but still avoid overcrowding by using functional tricks such as opting for a shower instead of a bath, using a sofa that can double as a bed, or sourcing a bed with storage drawers.

    Another idea was to take design elements from the larger apartment and incorporate them into the small studios, Mr Chan said.

    Floor tiles, for example, cover a significant area of the apartment and are instantly recognisable. By applying the same floor tile to the design of the smaller apartment, the overall effect will stay the same.

    'The most important thing is to keep the ambience between the different living spaces consistent,' he said, explaining that this would in turn create a design and style that was familiar throughout a range of sizes.

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