A Tiny Apartment in Hong Kong Uses Adaptable Joinery to Expand the Space

Sim-Plex Design Studio transforms a 504-square-foot flat for a young family with cleverly concealed storage and a private, lofted living space for their live-in helper.

When a couple with a young son bought a compact apartment in Hong Kong’s Tseung Kwan O New Town development, they approached Sim-Plex Design Studio to undertake a renovation that makes use of flexible joinery to ensure the family’s live-in helper has her own space and privacy.

"The phenomenon of ‘nano-flats’ in Hong Kong makes it difficult to provide an independent room to a maid," says architect Patrick Lam, founder of Sim-Plex Design Studio. "The couple hope that the new home will not only take into account the needs of their family, but also value the living space and privacy of their domestic helper."

The 504-square-foot unit originally had two bedrooms, so the architect’s main challenge was to create a new, separate space for the domestic helper. With ample ceiling height to play with, Lam inserted a floating platform above the living room to fit in a third sleeping area.

The new, lofted sleeping space is accessed via a narrow staircase with storage for the domestic helper’s belongings built into each step. A porthole-style opening in the side panel of the stairway increases ventilation. The new sleeping area overlooks the main living space. However, at night, the sliding door of the corridor that leads to the other bedrooms can be closed to ensure privacy for the both family and the domestic helper.

This clever approach to concealed storage is a signature element of the apartment’s design. In the principal bedroom, for example, the floor was raised to create a timber platform with integrated storage. In the son’s room, a lofted bed facilitates additional space underneath. The tall storage cabinet that forms the structural support for the new platform in the main living area also adds visual interest as a feature wall.

Similarly, the layout of the apartment can be configured to suit different privacy needs thanks to sliding doors that either open up the layout or break it down into more intimate spaces, as well as a lattice screen that separates the dining and living areas. "This also alleviates problems caused by lack of time to tidy up the home," says Lam.

Throughout the apartment, bespoke joinery crafted from melamine board and light maple timber features built-in shelving, cupboards, and wardrobe space. The contrast between the two finishes is designed to help zone the different spaces. 

"It’s always difficult to combine privacy and openness in a limited space," says Lam. "This project uses the concept of suspended space with movable, sliding doors underneath to allow for different living scenarios in order to achieve a perfect balance." 

Floor plan of Floating by Sim-Plex Design Studio before the renovation

Floor plan of Floating Plateau by Sim-Plex Design Studio after the renovation

Diagrams of the bespoke joinery throughout Floating Plateau by Sim-Plex Design Studio



Get the Pro Newsletter

What’s new in the design world? Stay up to date with our essential dispatches for design professionals.