News Home & Design Transformer Apartment Renovation Combines Smart Tech With Traditional Ideas of Zen Modern meets the ancient with this minimalist revamp of a 492-square-foot apartment. By Kimberley Mok Kimberley Mok Twitter Writer McGill University Cornell University Kimberley Mok is a former architect who has been covering architecture and the arts for Treehugger since 2007. Learn about our editorial process Updated March 24, 2021 01:03PM EDT Fact checked by Haley Mast Fact checked by Haley Mast LinkedIn Harvard University Extension School Haley Mast is a freelance writer, fact-checker, and small organic farmer in the Columbia River Gorge. She enjoys gardening, reporting on environmental topics, and spending her time outside snowboarding or foraging. Topics of expertise and interest include agriculture, conservation, ecology, and climate science. Learn about our fact checking process Sim-Plex Design Studio Share Twitter Pinterest Email News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices News Archive The island metropolis of Hong Kong is no stranger to small spaces. Because the astronomical cost of real estate there ranks among the highest in the world, much of the area's population often has to make do with extremely small living spaces in dense quarters. When it comes to wrangling the most functionality out of the tiny living spaces in Hong Kong, creativity is key. While one might go the low-tech route in redesigning a tiny residence, one might also go high-tech, as local firm Sim-Plex Design Studio has done with this state-of-the-art renovation of a 492-square-foot apartment for a family of three. Sim-Plex Design Studio Nicknamed "Smart Zendo" and located in Tung Chung, the apartment's owners are a busy young couple who moved from Taiwan to Hong Kong many years ago. The scheme merges the ancient ideas found in the geomantic art of feng shui and Zen – the pure state of true awareness and being – with all of today's modern conveniences. Most importantly, the revamped apartment prioritizes a view out to the natural landscape – a move that aims to soothe the couple's nostalgic feelings for the greenery of their home country. Sim-Plex Design Studio The studio says: "The spirit of 'Zen' is the pursuit of harmony. The 'Smart Zendo' is based on the spiritual details of 'Zen', trying to combine natural scenery and emotion of [a family home], traditional Feng Shui aesthetics and smart technology." Sim-Plex Design Studio In order to manifest that spirit of Zen, the new design centers on a minimalist transformer space that can switch between different modes. The elevated height of this central space evokes a feeling that one is stepping up into a hallowed, peaceful space that's clad with smooth, wood-like surfaces. Sim-Plex Design Studio As the studio notes, "smart" homes are becoming trendy in Hong Kong, but they often take on a futuristic tack. Here, these gadgets are used to save time, but not at the expense of simplicity in design: "The unique feature of this project is that although a large number of hardware smart functions are combined: such as voice-activated synthesizers, various lamp systems and air-conditioning switches, curtain opening, lifting coffee tables, projection screens, electronic door locks, etc. The remote control greatly saves the owner's time. At the same time, most of the design uses the natural materials to create a picture of the scenery. In the view of traditional feng shui, this project also refers to its relevant doctrine and adjusts accordingly." Thanks to all the various electronically powered pieces of furniture and accessories, this central transformer space can function as a living room, a place to have tea, watch television or a film projection, or where the couple's young son can take out his toys and play. Sim-Plex Design Studio In addition, thanks to accordion-like louvered doors, it can also transform into a private bedroom for the grandmother, who often comes to take care of her grandson whenever the parents are away for business and work. Sim-Plex Design Studio The design also incorporates tons of storage: under the floor, overhead in the cabinets and under the television. Sim-Plex Design Studio Nearby is the kitchen, which has an overlapping dining counter area that's equipped with more storage drawers, as well as benches that also hide storage within. Sim-Plex Design Studio The son's room follows the same space-saving ideas: an elevated platform that offers storage underneath, and a sliding pocket door that has been used in each room to save space. Sim-Plex Design Studio That elevated platform also is a place to sit, while the view outside is framed by the bed and overhead panel with integrated LED lighting. Sim-Plex Design Studio The parent's bedroom also has an elevated bed and lots of storage cabinets everywhere – one of which hides the vanity for putting on make-up and jewelry. Sim-Plex Design Studio The bathroom's small size is balanced with the use of lots of pale-colored materials, which help to reflect light from the single window, and make the space appear larger. Sim-Plex Design Studio Rather than use opaque shower curtains that might divide up the room or block off the sunlight, the glass doors on the shower also help to enlarge the space. Sim-Plex Design Studio In addition to all these other rooms, past the kitchen and the refrigerator, there is an enclosed space for a domestic worker to live, which is comparatively small, but private and closed off, at least. By Hong Kong law, domestic workers are required to live with their employers, and it's estimated that about one in three families with children will hire one. There's a big, ongoing social debate about the foreign domestic helper industry and the vulnerability of these communities in places where they are common, such as Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan. Sim-Plex Design Studio It goes without saying that an arsenal of high-tech gadgetry isn't needed to make a small space more multifunctional, but as we can see here, it does work hand-in-hand with more straightforward space-saving ideas to create a modern and peaceful haven and home. To see more, visit Sim-Plex Design Studio, on Facebook and Instagram. View Article Sources "World's most expensive cities." Global Property Guide.