Wall to wall

Beautifying Hong Kong one business at a time, these studios are showing off the city’s best co-working spaces, restaurants, coffee spots and boutique hotels through thoughtful design.

Top drawer

Co-working provider TheDesk works alongside Toby Ng Design

Homegrown co-working brand TheDesk opened its third space in March in Causeway Bay. Central to this expansion is a visual identity that cuts a dash in a crowded industry. A D-shaped logo created by two tables coming together provides a clear and geometric rendering of the company’s calling card: creating an inclusive community. Members are connected with established companies in the adjoining tower blocks and not just other members.

The logo is the work of Hong Kong’s rising star, Toby Ng. “I couldn’t think of anyone better,” says Oscar Venhuis, co-founder of TheDesk. “The end result is so simple but it was a long process.” All in all it took eight months to get the design right – twice as long as usual for Ng. “We didn’t want to compromise on quality,” says ceo and co-founder Thomas Hui, who didn’t set any deadlines. TheDesk’s first site in Sai Ying Pun opened in 2016 as a test site and Hui was happy for a placeholder logo created by the architect to remain in place until the new identity was ready to launch.

Unveiled in July 2017, the signs look promising. Another five locations are planned for 2018 before an expansion next year to Shanghai and Shenzhen in China, as well as Singapore. “Our new identity can transform into different parts of our future business,” says Hui.

  • Studio: Toby Ng Design
  • Discipline: Graphic design
  • Location: 511 Queen’s Road West, Sai Wan
  • Principal: Toby Ng
  • Founded: 2014
  • Designers: Six
  • Website:
  • Other work: Hotel Stage, Yau Ma Tei
  • Pictured: Oscar, Toby and Thomas

Graffiti chic

Painterly street art by Elsa Jean de Dieu draws people in to Uma Nota

In the early evening a crowd can regularly be seen lingering outside Uma Nota restaurant on Peel Street. Yet not everyone is gathered there to sample the fusion of Brazilian and Japanese food being served. Some have come to snap a picture with the wall art on the façade by Elsa Jean de Dieu, a French artist who moved to the city a decade ago and now runs her own studio.

Alexis and Laura Offe, the brotherand- sister duo behind Uma Nota, decided to daub the exterior with paint in order to import some colourful São Paulo street vibes to the Soho area of Hong Kong. Nevertheless, the profile of a laughing lady, adorned with a floral headdress, gold earrings, peacock feathers and a toucan, has certainly proved an adroit way of standing out in Hong Kong’s competitive dining scene – and even catching international attention. A second Uma Nota in Paris is planned and the local restaurant partner has requested that this creative partnership be exported to the French capital.

  • Studio: Elsa Jeandedieu Studio
  • Discipline: Murals, wall art and paint finishes
  • Location: Unit D, 11F, Man Lok Building, 89-93 Bonham Strand East, Sheung Wan
  • Principal: Elsa Jean de Dieu
  • Founded: 2015
  • Designers: Three
  • Website:
  • Other work: Pure Yoga, Causeway Bay
  • Pictured: Elsa and Laura

A shore thing

Little Cove Espresso and Studio Adjective bring Aussie beach vibes to the Hong Kong coffee scene

Coffee can offer a vital kick in the morning for many but at Little Cove Espresso it is more of an invitation to kick back and relax. Having spent a few years in Melbourne, Adam Keith and his wife Jade wanted to start a café in Hong Kong that serves not only flat whites and smashed avocado on sourdough but also a space that immerses people in the city’s lesser-known beach lifestyle.

In 2015 the couple took over a small café in Sai Kung, a coastal neighbourhood where Keith grew up, before moving this year into bigger premises nearby – gaining higher ceilings and a front yard but keeping the same whiff of a sea breeze and views of the surrounding hills. The coffee couple sought out another husband-and-wife team, Wilson Lee and Emily Ho, to design their larger Little Cove. “Wilson and Emily have also lived in Australia so they completely understand what a laidback, Melburnian mood should look like.”

  • Studio: Studio Adjective
  • Discipline: Interior design
  • Location: 8F, 8 On Wo Lane, Central
  • Principal: Wilson Lee
  • Founded: 2016
  • Designers: Four
  • Website:
  • Other work: Noc Coffee, Sai Ying Pun
  • Pictured: Emily, Wilson, Jade and Adam

Three’s company

Boutique property developer District 15 gets into bed with Charlie & Rose

District 15 started out building serviced apartments before moving into retail and hospitality. A decade later founders Dinesh Nihalchand and Alex Bent have come back home with a new 71-room property called The Nate, which welcomes its first tenants in October. Located on Nathan Road in Tsim Sha Tsui, The Nate is an entry into the city’s growing market for what has now become known as co-living apartments with shared facilities and common areas.

The Nate is also a homecoming of sorts for its designer, Ben McCarthy of Charlie & Rose. The last residences he designed were at One Hyde Park in London for previous employer Candy & Candy. Soon afterwards the Aussie moved to Hong Kong to set up his own business, focusing mainly on the f&b industry. Paths crossed when Charlie & Rose created a space for one of District 15’s restaurant tenants. “We wanted to use Charlie & Rose because their interiors are welcoming, accessible and unpretentious,” says Bent.

While each room has a unique layout, similarities can be found in the use of terrazzo, brass detailing and walnut veneer that references mid-century cabinets. Meanwhile, pastel colours in the bathrooms reference Hong Kong tiling from the 1970s. Providing private bathrooms is part of the trio’s elevated approach to co-living. The rooms are meant to be a sanctuary, not a student dormitory for grown ups. “Residents don’t necessarily want to play Jenga with 50 other people,” says McCarthy. Staying with this approach, there will be no curated events or forced sun dances on the rooftop overlooking Kowloon Park.

Technology has also been used sparingly: yes to high-end audio equipment, no to audio-enabled door access. “Early on we made a deliberate choice to avoid the common tricks and distracting tactics used in the marketplace,” says Nihalchand. “We wanted to keep it simple and let the design speak for itself.”

  • Studio: Charlie & Rose
  • Discipline: Interior design
  • Location: 2F Wing Hing Commercial Building, 16 Sutherland Street, Sheung Wan
  • Principal: Ben McCarthy
  • Founded: 2011
  • Designers: Four
  • Website:
  • Other work: Stockton Whisky Bar, Soho
  • Pictured: Alex, Ben and Dinesh