Lessons in small apartment living

To transform a 400-square-foot apartment in Hong Kong into a duplex fit for a meditative lifestyle, Patrick Lam of Sim-Plex Design Studio has deployed all the hacks and tricks from his design repertoire.

  • Lessons in small apartment living

Text by Yen Kien Hang

Ever since architectural designer Gary Chang pioneered small apartment living and design in Hong Kong, fascination with this type of home typology has grown into a unique design ‘core’ that has captured the imagination of city dwellers and architects alike. One of the latest examples is ‘Meditation Duplex’, a 400-square-foot apartment in Kowloon, Hong Kong by Sim-Plex Design Studio.

small apartment

In designing this space, Patrick Lam, the firm’s creative director, asked himself this question: “Micro-units have become increasingly popular, often featuring open kitchens and high ceilings, but the living room or bedroom area tends to be narrow. How can we make better use of the high ceilings to create more spacious living and resting areas while ensuring privacy?”

small apartment

What was originally a unit that had two bedrooms and an open kitchen but with a small living room has now been reconfigured into two clearly defined spaces. The front of house combines both living and kitchen spaces with a custom built-in to contain essential appliances like the television, induction cooker, washing machine and so forth.

An extendable table has been incorporated into one of the low cabinet drawers to provide extra prep space. At the same time, placing the dining table along the back of the sofa minimises space usage. 

small apartment

At the back of the house, a duplex space has been added to create extra liveable space for the homeowners. However, this is no ordinary ‘add-on’. By utilising the advantages of the high ceiling – over three metres high – Patrick has been able to include a detachable and expandable steel frame platform to lift the private resting area. This upper level also includes a transformable electric staircase that can be opened or closed to further accommodate different ‘living’ and ‘meditation’ scenarios. 

small apartment

As Patrick explains, the ‘living scenario’ is when the staircase is open, allowing direct vertical circulation between the upper resting area and the lower living area; the ‘meditation scenario’ is when the staircase is closed, providing a larger space on the lower level for meditation yoga or entertaining friends while the upper level becomes a private area. By having this flexible layout, the female homeowner will be able to practise yoga on the lower level, while the male homeowner can proceed ‘upstairs’ to work, watch television or rest at the same time.

Material-wise, Patrick has chosen to clad most of the wall surfaces and cabinets in E0-grade fine-grained plywood with different finishes for cohesiveness. Not only will this eliminate visual clutter in this small apartment, but it can also provide a coordinated and warm atmosphere, giving the interior a rustic and cosy feeling. 

Other environmentally conscious examples included paint with low formaldehyde content and using a ceiling fan (instead of an air conditioner) to facilitate air circulation. Even though smart technology for remote home management has been installed to reduce the burden of maintaining the home, Patrick still appropriately leaves void space in the spatial layout to integrate green planting. The ‘add-on’ platform can also be dismantled for easy relocation in the future without waste.

Also, careful consideration has been given to storage capacity. A good example is the curved corner storage unit that was added between the entrance shoe cabinet and the bathroom. This concealed, pantry-like space will be able to accommodate larger and more diverse items like cleaning supplies and even built-in electrical appliances. The rear end of the lower level also features more storage wardrobes.

Overall, this ‘Meditation Duplex’ succeeds in providing an innovative and sustainable design solution that can counteract the need to seek tranquillity outside the confines of a city apartment.


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