Phoebe Wen and ShihHwa Hung of Phoebe Says Wow Architects designed this 1,345-square-foot apartment as a second home for a couple with a teenage daughter. Bobby Mak and his wife work in Shanghai, and while they chose the up-and-coming Neihu District in Taipei for its casual vibe and urban parks, the area’s residential towers are tightly packed—either side by side or face to face—in a configuration that limits views and privacy.
Wen and Hung brought the flat to life by opening up opportunities for sunlight to brighten the interior, while protecting the intimacy of the spaces with elegant custom screens.
To make the most of the apartment’s lofty elevation, Wen and Hung transformed the windowed side of the home into a corridor that allows sunlight to penetrate the full length of the space. Screens provide a buffer from neighboring buildings while letting soft natural light stream in. "The sunlight is abundant, but never scorching," says Hung. To further accentuate this quality of light, the design team painted the screens with a bright-yellow, piano-finish paint.
During the design process, the team played with the pattern of the slats to create variation when the screens slide over or under each other. "Overlapping those slats creates interesting pictures," says Hung. "One can adjust the pattern to create different illuminating qualities."
It’s rare for a flat in Neihu’s residential towers to have two balcony gardens, so Wen and Hung took full advantage of these spaces—one off the dining area, and the other beside the larger bath. By adding extensive glazing and lush plants, Wen and Hung transformed the balconies into vibrant interior courtyards. Seeking to emphasize the contemporary look of the space, they framed the greenery with precise, linear metalwork.
For the apartment’s internal divisions, the team tested various materials before deciding on rattan caning, a traditional element that can be found in homes throughout Southeast Asia. "We love the texture and warmth of the material," says Hung.
Since rattan allows both air and light through, they used it for the dressing room wardrobes to prevent humidity buildup in the warm, damp subtropical weather. For the partition doors, they used two layers of rattan to sandwich a glass sheet to provide more privacy and soundproofing.
Although the apartment features a broad material palette, a vertical linear motif ties the spaces together—from the balcony windows to the tiled bathrooms and the exterior screens. Hung says that they employed this motif to "lighten the weight of the space" and create a relaxed and serene mood.
The theme is perhaps most strikingly expressed in the marble cladding on the dining partition wall, where grooves cut with a CNC Router make a striking statement.
The same Carrara marble appears in the small bathroom, this time cut into square tiles and placed mosaic-style on the walls and floor. Here, the tiles are paired with a glass partition edged with thick black, clean-lined metal framing—a style repeated in the bedroom off the interior corridor.
In the large bathroom, vertical mosaic tiling echoes the pattern of the yellow louvers, creating a serene and cohesive visual rhythm. The handmade Fireclay tiles have a green tint that pairs well with the gray metal hardware and the foliage on the balcony. The geometric lines create a pleasing contrast with the seashell curve of the bathroom wall.
The team used pale, wide-plank Douglas fir flooring from Mafi for the floors in the public living areas. "It is thick, wide, solid hardwood, which gives great texture to walk on and endures well in a rather humid city like Taipei," Hung explains. To install the boards on-site with minimal seams, he custom-ordered the longest boards possible that could still be transported to the ninth floor.
The clients’ teenage daughter is studying art history, so Wen and Hung imagined the living area as a casual gallery, with artworks hung eclectically on one wall and additional pieces propped casually against the grooved marble partition across the room.
Elegant lighting fixtures add additional personality to the space. The entrance, kitchen, study, and bedrooms all feature simple, classic styles that complement the contemporary interior scheme. For the living area, Hung knew a Vibia pendant would be a great fit: "It gives the ceiling a standout feature, with its great color pairing (with the yellow screens and the marble) and the large area it covers."
Despite the tight plan, the apartment offers plenty of storage. "The design exceeded our expectations in providing spaces where we can make practical or decorative use of our stuff," says Bobby.
Both the designers and homeowner agree that, despite slow progress during Covid shutdowns, the build went smoothly. "It was all about our designers getting to know me and my family," says Bobby, who adds that he enjoyed many "heart to heart" conversations with Hung and Wen. Hung agrees, noting that the "great dynamic with our clients" led to a final project "that makes us both happy."
Interior Design: Phoebe Says Wow Architects
Structural Engineer: Quanovation Construction Consultant Co.
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