This town house renovation in Sai Kung, Hong Kong was designed by architects Ewa Koter, Łukasz Wawrzeńczyk from OneByNine and constructed in 2014. Given Hong Kong has one of the lowest average house sizes, this 120 square meter home is actually quite large by comparison. None the less, the design exemplifies a clever and efficient use of space.
Retaining the original form of the building, the architects have created a sleek and minimal interior that balances aesthetics and functionality. The original form, a white box with windows, snugly wedged between the two adjacent houses wouldn't gloss the cover of magazines. Although unassuming from the street front, the interior spares no luxury. We often see so much money invested in the exterior of a house, when it is primarily experienced by passers by as a fleeting impression in an urban landscape. The space of habitation is given the priority here; let's explore it more closely!
According to surveys, the average home in Hong Kong is a mere 45 square meters, paling in comparison to the average 201 square meter American home; with each having approximately the same average persons per dwelling. The high density in Hong Kong means that homes like this, slotted tightly between their neighbors and spread over numerous levels, require very creative and efficient uses of space. It is not only space that is a scarcity, finding ways to get maximum levels of natural light into the interior becomes a foregrounding design driver too. This renovation optimises the quality of living in the rigid constraints, characteristic of the area.
The original form of the house is built hard up against one of the neighboring structures with a very small gap to the other side. This gap was cleverly used to plant a little oasis of bamboo in the urban desert. Continuing to bring nature in, the walls opening to the back yard have been given new, very large glazed doors. This lets as much light into the original structure of the home as possible.
By lifting the ceiling lining to expose the floor joists, the height of the space is increased from the original situation. In large open plan spaces, like this, the appropriation of height has a small but very definite effect on the feeling in the room. Contrasting the joists against the white ceiling works to break up the horizontal nature of the space, while dark tiles reflect the use of black above to balance the spatial composition. Black, white and minimal; the OneByNine stamp.
Here you see the dramatic effect that the strip of bamboo has. Wedged between the neighboring buildings, the ground level receives limited natural light; which would render the space, somewhat, disconnected from the natural world in the absence of this green infusion. The steel floor joists, exposed and finished in black, draws the eye towards this striking feature. The space is afforded life through this visual connection. For more creative garden ideas, take a look at these.
Every design decision is very conscious of the site conditions and the constraints that the original form of the house impose. The spiral stair is built in likeness to the original stair; a very space-efficient means of connecting the various levels. The kitchen in stretched along the wall that is hard up against the adjacent house. This frees the other wall of obstructions so that large, sliding glass doors can beckon as much light into the living spaces as possible.
If you enjoyed touring through this home, you may also like to take a look at Bridge over water—water under the bridge.