Hong Kong Surprise
Raka Dewan -- Interior Design, 10/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
"Spas are very popular in Hong Kong right now," says Patrick Leung. "And most have a 'resort' feel." But not MTM, a women's spa by Leung's PAL Design Consultants. The designer made a huge effort to avoid imitating the competition. Instead of the pseudo-resort look, he focused on the interplay of form, texture, color, and light.
Easier said than done.
The site, in a neighborhood jam-packed with towering billboards and neon lights, lacked desirable tranquillity. But other attractions compensated: a ground-floor entry, a 3,500-square-foot double-height interior, and a potential customer base of well heeled shoppers, attracted by designer boutiques nearby.
Paperwork was copious, and construction grew complicated. Formerly a car showroom, the space needed additional plumbing—which required raising the floor 11 inches. The 10-foot ceiling also lost 2 feet to accommodate new ventilation ducts.
Add to that the absence of pleasing views. Leung's solution: Screen out the neighborhood with sandblasted glass panels, installed inside street-facing windows, and let the interior architecture provide the focal points instead. That meant plenty of sweeping, curvy planes.
"Ladies are curvaceous," Leung deadpans, pointing to the double-height reception area's rounded wall. Its white plaster surface is hand-finished with vertical striations. White leather-covered tub chairs gather nearby on a free-form rug in nubbly beige. "No matter where you choose to look," he adds, "you see a different shape."
Beyond the seating, a white-painted stainless-steel staircase spirals up toward an undulating screen of stained-MDF strips that wrap the mezzanine. This new 2,500-square-foot space holds the six standard treatment rooms with their shared lounge, dressing rooms, showers, and steam rooms. The spa's owner, Stanley Ma—who also manufactures skin-care products—specifically requested five private VIP rooms, which Leung placed on the ground floor.
One Japanese-style VIP room offers a traditional maple soaking tub, supplemented by a separate Western shower room. In the light-therapy room, the diodes installed in a circular ceiling detail produce rainbow effects on a wall of acid-etched bronze. The Therapeutic Room allows VIPs to attain calm while contemplating their very own pebble garden—its tree trunks and moss balls arrayed along the screened window wall.
But Leung deliberately kept any nature references subtle. Just inside the front entry, a marble rectangular trough holds a reflecting pool. Past it, in the reception area, an intriguing sculpture from Thailand stands on a pedestal—the form looks abstract, but it actually started out as two sections of a banana tree trunk.