Space Odyssey

Space Odyssey

Fed up of living in a pile of clutter? Take a few tips from the experts to make the most of the space you have.

By Asia City Staff Tuesday. 16 February. 2010

Living in Hong Kong, we’re used to squeezing ourselves and all our stuff into super-small spaces, but this doesn’t mean we have to compromise on design. There are many ingenious ways to get the most out of our teeny flats and keep our pads looking super stylish. We’ve asked some designers for their top tips on how to make the most of your small space.


If you’ve ever designed a room beautifully and then realized you have nowhere to put all your stuff, a little planning may be just what you need. “Think very hard about what you want and need from a room before you choose your furniture and layout. That way you’ll have the right amount of display and storage space for your needs,” says Clifton Leung of Design Workshop. Although it’s tempting to impulse buy that gorgeous minimalist coffee table you saw on your lunch break yesterday, Suzy Annetta, owner of Studio Annetta says it really is important to think carefully about each piece you buy, and if you don’t have much space, to consider hard-working pieces with more than one use. “Dual-purpose furniture is an excellent ideas for small spaces,” she says. “For example, look for tables that can serve as a desk by day and dining table by night, or an ottoman that becomes a cocktail table with the addition of a tray.” Also consider using a bench on one side of a dining room instead of chairs—you’ll get extra seating and consume less floor space.

It’s important to balance the size of the space with the size of its belongings. That gorgeous Chinese antique cabinet may look beautiful in a huge warehouse, but it will make your 300 square foot flat look like a cupboard and dominate the room. Smaller rooms will feel much more comfortable with moderately sized or slightly smaller furnishings.
Rather than ignoring problematic existing structures, try making use of them.  Take this awkwardly placed pillar, which has been cleverly utilized to help support a table.   

Custom-built furniture

With modern Hong Kong flats rife with tricky corners and strangely-shaped spaces, it’s often difficult to find ready-made furniture that’s suitable for your space. Our designers agree that custom-built furniture is often a great choice. Annetta explains that floor-to-ceiling cupboards with streamlined doors give more storage space, as well as giving the illusion of a larger room because it will be free from clutter. If you’re still not sold on the whole fitted furniture idea, there are less drastic options. “Simple ideas such as creating a bookcase within the nook of a wall or cabinets in your closet means the floor space is not compromised and the room offers more functionality,” says Monique McClintock, owner of Monique McClintock interiors. Try sketching out what exactly you want and planning what you will store there before getting your quote.

Glass and Mirrors

Glass and mirrors can be used in a variety of ways to create an illusion of space either by making use of natural light or simply reflecting parts of the room in order to make it look larger. “Glass is a great way of opening up a small room,” says McClintock. “By creating a sealed window in the internal part of a wall, a small room will feel and appear larger.” And you can forget about cramped bathroom cubicles; open bathrooms are starting a new trend this year, she says, but of course the toilet is kept private! Leung also suggests removing any doors that aren’t needed in order to maximize floor space. Swinging doors can be replaced with curtains, sliding doors or partitions made from glass or perspex. Mirrored cupboard doors create an illusion of space and increase the natural light.

The Life Aquatic


 With Hong Kong’s tiny apartments, more and more families are living on houseboats, which offer fresh air and plenty of space for your money. We look at the pros and cons of living on a boat, and Bart Kimman, managing director of Asia Yacht Services talks us through some space-saving design solutions.

All Aboard!

For those who love the outdoors life, it’s hard to beat living aboard a boat. Surrounded by gently lapping water, sea breezes and wildlife, liveaboards put you in touch with nature in a way that even the biggest garden cannot achieve. From a swing mooring, the view changes continuously, offering a never-ending panorama of mountains, sea and other boats. Wake up to herons noshing on the deck, fish leaping and the occasional ray popping up to say hello.

That’s the dream and, for 90 per cent of the time, it’s also the reality. But it’s not all G&Ts on the flybridge. Liveaboards require a lot of maintenance (hire a boat boy) and a bit of compromise. Much depends on the type and size of boat you go for. As a rule of thumb, motorboats and junks have large interiors, flooded with light, and shaded on-deck dining and seating areas. Sailing boats have smaller interiors—usually packed with clever storage solutions—and practical, mostly open, decks that attract yachties who plan to take their home for a spin at weekends.

Either way, you’re unlikely to have space for a house-load of antiques. What you will have, however, is an ingenious home that makes use of every square centimeter of space—and an incredible social life. After all, who can refuse an invitation to come onboard?

Plundering Design Ideas

Boat designers are practiced at using every last inch of space. Sleekly designed with streamlined panels of wood, acres of upholstery and sleek countertops, the practical use of space would not be obvious to an untrained eye. Bart Kimman, managing director of Asia Yacht Services, tells us a few of their secrets. “Most items on boats have more than one function,” says Kimman. “Seats lift up to reveal storage bins, sliding panels double as cupboard doors, even the cabin steps have pull-out shoe drawers or lift up to reveal rubbish bins.” Cabin tables fold once and often twice, and many tables have bulky central columns that double as a cupboard, or a retractable leg allowing the table top to be lowered to provide a platform for a mattress. On the Salona 44 racing yacht, the table can flip open so inbuilt seating on both sides of the cabin can use it.  Flat-screen TVs are recessed into bulkheads, and in really swish boats they sometimes appear out of the floor at the touch of a button.
Like the latest modern kitchens, boat galleys are also endlessly inventive. On Grand Banks boats cutlery has its own special hidey-hole in a drawer above the galley and  Seawind catamarans hang them by the stems inside an upholstered stool—just lift up the lid. Sinks have covers so you can use the surface when not washing up.

Asia Yacht Services sell new and used boats and is the exclusive dealer for the Oyster, Grand Banks, Salona and Seawind, amongst others. For more information check out

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