DesignEightFiveTwo transforms two 20-year old office flats into a spacious home for three

Flat19 by DesignEightFiveTwo (DEFT) is an industrial-inspired residential Hong Kong project that invites natural light in

  • November 23, 2020

  • Written by Gabrielle de la Cruz

  • Photographed by Dennis Lo

There have been a lot of projects which demonstrated how small homes are converted into offices or workspaces. With the current situation, people are even forced to bring work at home, making home offices and work-from-home the new norm. A renovation project by DesignEightFiveTwo (DEFT), Flat19, is all about the exact opposite. DesignEightFiveTwo was commissioned in late 2018 to undertake the renovation. It is the studio’s 19th flat project, thus the name Flat19. Coincidentally, the conversion entailed a total of 19 months, with 7 months of design and 12 months of construction. 

The client is a “European couple working in finance with a young son,” shares DesignEightFiveTwo, whose brief was to have “an industrial-inspired flat with as much natural light and open spaces as possible.” The converted residence used to be two Hong Kong office flats inside a 20-story commercial building, occupying half of an entire floor. The architects and designers say that the original spaces totaled 2400 square feet” and that they “combined the two units and utilized every part of the plan.” 

DesignEightFiveTwo - original floor plan - Flat19
The original floor plan of Flat19 showing the various areas of the two office units. The first unit is an open office, with only a few designated areas and most of the employees sharing a large open space. The second office has separate rooms for various employees, including a spacious room for the CEO. 

Turning the flat into a home

Following the client brief that the design must incorporate as many open spaces as possible, DesignEightFiveTwo decided on an open layout for Flat19. The residence was designed to encourage the family to mingle every now and then, without sacrificing every single one of their individuals wants and needs. The initial spaces were reorganized with respect to light penetration, area size, and accessibility. How the entire space seamlessly spreads out is established upon entrance, with the entire flat seemingly divided into spatial categories: shared and intimate. The most obvious transition is the placement of most shared and service areas towards the left side of the house (where the unit with an open office used to be) and the assignment of the family’s private areas at the right (the area which used to house the office with a designated CEO room).

DesignEightFiveTwo - master bedroom - Flat19
Borders and partitions (even doors) within Flat19 refuse to entirely divide the spaces.

The open office of the first unit was retained as an open area, now acting as a lounge for the family. The pantry next to the open office was converted to a front kitchen, with the previous storeroom next to it serving as a back kitchen. For privacy and security, the old server and copy rooms tucked in the corner were transformed into a private space for the family’s helper. Another obvious choice was to assign the large CEO room as the new master bedroom and bath, with the area for the assistants converted as a walk-in closet. The son’s bedroom and bath, which used to be an area for the managers and the executives, is located right next to the master bedroom. The large meeting room now acts as a den, with the storage room next to it serving the same purpose. DesignEightFiveTwo implies that the placement of the bedrooms, kitchen, living, and dining areas were carefully thought of, as these areas provide an overlooking view of the harbor through 3-meter tall windows that provide generous north-facing natural light. 

In this photo, the use of glass blocks and metal implies that there is a need for privacy yet demonstrates that there is no need to restrict the flow from one space to another.

Industrial-inspired design

DesignEightFiveTwo shares that the industrial-inspired look for the flat takes reference from the industrialized neighborhood of Chai Wan. The interiors of the flat mimic the bespoke craftsmanship of multiple local trades within the neighborhood, with gray Venetian plaster walls and concrete floors incorporated in the design. Unique textures are also placed throughout the house, along with wood accents that provide contrast against the neutral backdrops. 

The designers made use of lighting accessories that complement the selected finishes and textures within the house.
DesignEightFiveTwo - lighting - Flat19
Small and chic glass bulbs that are disguised as additional aesthetics contribute to the overall industrial-inspired look of the flat.
“The main lounge is anchored by the 3.5m-long copper and marble island. The countertop slab of Carrara marble was hand-picked from a local stone yard for its soft blue veining which contrasts nicely against the copper base and solid oak cabinetry.”
DesignEightFiveTwo - countertop- Flat19
“Behind the island, a 2-meter coplanar panel slides open to reveal a hidden front kitchen, with additional concealed doors for the refrigerator/freezer, and back kitchen,” the designers share.

Greenery was incorporated in various areas of the flat to breathe life into the new space. DesignEightFiveTwo shares that the clients let them run free with the design, provided that they followed the brief on open spaces and the overall color tone. Evident in the flat is the use of dark hues be it on accent walls or fixtures, along with furniture and other accessories that are neutral in shade but particular in texture. 

DesignEightFiveTwo - Flat19 - son's room
The studio says that the clients were keen to ensure that their son “would have enough storage space for his belongings and toys, and still be able to spread out and utilize most of his bedroom space for play.” The door towards the right is a designated area for study. 
Although considered as the innermost corner of the flat where there is the least natural light penetration, the family den enclosed with three sliding glass partitions is quite noticeable.
DesignEightFiveTwo-Flat19-Den
A large Coelux skylight placed in the center of the space radically transforms the lighting condition when turned on. The space doubles as a movie room and guest bedroom.

According to DEFT, the other floors within the building that holds Flat19 are mainly used for offices and industrial warehouses. Although this renovation story is different from the usual home to office transformations, the conversion of two office units into a spacious family home was possible. With the new plan completely erasing the corporate and busy atmosphere of the two spaces, Flat19 has become an intimate home that respects the context of its environment.

READ MORE: IN PHOTOS: DesignEightFiveTwo (DEFT) recommends study and workspace schemes to adjust to the new normal

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