Home of the Week: A small space is revamped in white

Using paint, a Hong Kong designer creates impressive results with minimum effort in a 900-square-foot flat.

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They say a change is as good as a holiday, and this certainly proved true for the graphic designer, photographer and personal trainer Davide Butson-Fiori. His apartment, which like many new builds in Dubai, measures just 900 square feet, was once a blend of brown, parquet floors and accent walls in startlingly bright shades. Now, however, it's an exercise in sheer, pure white - a fresh, calm and modern space.

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"I don't like living with things for too long, plus I have a child coming, so I really wanted the space to be clean and fresh," Davide says. To achieve this, he painted all the floors and walls a crisp white, using non-formaldehyde, water-based paints topped off with water-based lacquer varnish on the floors. He wanted the toxin-free products for a child-friendly space. "Everyone said 'it can't be done, it can't be done'," he says. "But it's a very hip thing to do in farmhouses and in beach houses everything is painted white, so I knew it could be done."

After some trial and error, including working with some paints that went yellow, Davide got the results exactly as had hoped. "I love the light," he says. "It's very similar to what happens in photography. The light bounces off the floor and the walls." He also painted the front door white, adding to the sense of light and openness.

As well as working with white, the New York-born designer strategically used blackboard paint in his kitchen and bathroom to striking effect. The revamped bathroom is particularly impressive - gone are the old, tacky pink-tiled walls, and in their place are sleek, black walls, covered with chalk-drawn greetings from friends, catchy phrases and drawings.

The kitchen is equally bold, featuring a mix of fire-engine-red Ikea cabinetry, original mosaic tiled flooring and one wall that serves as a blackboard. It's a fun, flirty space. "I wanted a working kitchen, a kitchen that looks like it's lived in. I cook every single night."

Davide's love of photography is abundantly clear. Photographs by Martin Schoeller of Christopher Walken and Bill Clinton, plus a host of black and white images by Davide himself, line or sit perched against the walls throughout the home. "I love black and white photography, so this is now a great space to display it."

Despite the predominantly stark colour scheme, there are splashes of colour here and there. A brilliant orange stool and a collage of masks collected on travels around Asia add vivacious touches to an otherwise clean and simple space. "I started picking up little trinkets here and there, like Buddhas, but I didn't have anywhere to put them. Then I saw this mask in Sri Lanka. So I started collaging them and it just got bigger and bigger. In a sense, that wall is about where I've travelled."

Each space has its purpose in the apartment, whether it's a corridor transformed into an open study, a wall documenting his travels or a corner that serves as an drinks cabinet. These designated spaces act to keep the home tidy and harmonious. "When you walk in, you don't feel like there's a lot of clutter," he says. "Nothing jumps out, it's all just very calming."