Design by Room Kitchens

Memories of Grandma’s Hong Kong Kitchen Inspired This Homeowner’s Renovation

With jade green cabinets, the past becomes the present.
Lydia Geisel Avatar

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green kitchen

The owner of this New Zealand home had a simple brief when he tasked Atelier Jones with renovating his dated kitchen: He wanted it to feel like the one in his grandmother’s Hong Kong apartment. The first time he remembers visiting her around age 12 (years after he and his parents had immigrated to New Zealand), the compactness of her kitchen, the distinct red-and-white–checkered floor tile, and the smell of “field chicken” left an impression. “It was like a time capsule of 1960s Hong Kong,” he recalls.

messy construction kitchen
The client’s kitchen, under construction.
open white cabinet doors
The client’s kitchen, under construction.
tiny white kitchen
The client’s grandmother’s kitchen in Hong Kong.

Most kitchens in Hong Kong have to maximize their small footprint, and his current 170-square-foot space is no different. “Every millimeter mattered,” says Atelier Jones founder and architect Raimana Jones. There was no wiggle room to expand the layout, so Jones and his spatial designer, Mathilde Polmard, focused on ditching the dated white melamine cabinets for a more efficient setup that felt true to the client. “I think having a kitchen that is inspired by your home country is something that is very self-affirming,” says the homeowner. “It acknowledges where I’m from and how it has shaped me as a person.” Here’s how they translated his family’s past to the present. 

Lighten the Cabinet Load

green kitchen with wood counters

Jones chose the new slender steel cabinets as a way to bring a much needed sense of airiness to the space and then had them painted in Hong Kong’s ubiquitous jade green to really transport his client. The cross-bar detail on the peninsula provides extra sturdiness so the clay pots and glassware on the shelves don’t shake when he’s chopping vegetables. “It’s also a nice way to create a subtle separation between the lounge and kitchen,” says Jones.

Reimagine Classic Tile Patterns

square tile backsplash
square tile backsplash

The backsplash presented an opportunity to channel the red-and-white–checkered floors of the client’s grandmother’s home in a fresh way. Jones found sheets of tiny square ceramic tile from Appiani and instead of doing every other setting in a different color, he spaced out one red block every 11 white ones or so. The small-scale pieces are also a nod to the mosaic tile work found in metro stations throughout Hong Kong.

Double Up on Countertops

wok on a stovetop
wood countertops

Fitting with the theme of the space, the countertops combine functionality and memory. The worktop around the sink and peninsula is made out of rimu wood, a species that is native to New Zealand (in this case, Jones upcycled the slabs from joists in an old house that was being demolished). The material on either side of the cooktop is made out of raw steel plates that have been blackened through a heating treatment. The color and texture were inspired by the owner’s seasoned wok.

Show (and Tell) Your Cookware

Exposing the main cooking tools has made life in this tiny kitchen a lot easier. “There are never moments when you’re digging through a cabinet looking for a particular pan,” Jones notes—they are right there on the rod over the window. Atelier Jones installed a similar handle over the countertop for spatulas and ladles, but everyone’s favorite solution is the magnetic knife block on the wall. “It’s very peaceful,” the homeowner says of working in the space. “It feels like you belong there in a way.”

Lydia Geisel Avatar

Lydia Geisel

Home Editor

Lydia Geisel has been on the editorial team at Domino since 2017. Today, she writes and edits home and renovation stories, including house tours, before and afters, and DIYs, and leads our design news coverage. She lives in New York City.