A Googler takes us on a tour of his gorgeous New York City apartment

Haw bin chai apartment tourMadeline Stone / Business InsiderHaw Bin-Chai, an engineer at Google.

Googler Haw-Bin Chai desperately needed to remodel his apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

The space was cramped, dull, and since it’s in a building that dates back to 1929, it was difficult to adapt the apartment to his needs.

Chai, a software engineer on a technical infrastructure team at Google, found out about Homepolish through an internal email chain.

He decided to purchase 55 hours of design time with Homepolish designer Kevin Clark. It ended up making a world of difference.

“I found that I was spending a lot more time in my apartment,” Chai said to Business Insider. “I come straight home after work a lot more, whereas before I would go somewhere to read or go to the park.”

Chai's apartment dates back to 1929 and had a rather strange layout when he first moved into the space a year ago. The Homepolish team decided to knock down a few walls -- including one where the kitchen island stands now -- to open up the space.

Suddenly, the whole apartment felt much bigger and more functional. They added a touch of nature with a small herb garden on one wall.

The kitchen tiles were custom-made and shipped from Morocco.

Clark, Chai's Homepolish designer, works full-time as a visual supervisor at Baccarat and does Homepolish projects on the side. 'This gives you a chance to be more creative and meet interesting people,' he said. 'I get to see parts of New York I wouldn't usually see.'

The kitchen cabinets, now a bold blue, were previously a dull pinkish-beige. Though Chai doesn't cook too much, he's making an effort to do it more often. 'One of my goals is to cook more this year,' he said. 'It's hard to convince myself to cook because we get free meals at Google.'

They had the kitchen island custom-made by an artisan they found online. 'I will say that before I had the island, I didn't really use the kitchen,' Chai said. 'There was nowhere to sit and nowhere to eat.'

They used the same site to build a custom shoe rack for Chai's exceptionally narrow entryway. 'The shoes are sideways. You can't actually find shoe racks like that,' Chai said. 'We picked the shoe rack to match the island. I felt like I was supporting the artisan.'

On the other side of the kitchen island, there's a living room with two easy chairs. 'One of our goals was to make it a really flexible floor plan without making it feel empty,' Clark said. 'We went back and forth over a few different furniture layouts.'

A tall bookcase holds some of Chai's old books and other things he's collected while travelling. The collection includes a calligraphy piece written and given to him by Vincent Koh, director and founder of the World Civic Orchestra. The symbol shown is the Japanese character for 'music.'

A miniature Android pays homage to Chai's days as a 'Noogler,' the nickname given to people new to Google. A stack of old RAM chips sits next to it.

'I got rid of a ton of thick programming books,' Chai said.

These old-style opera glasses were a gift from Chai's girlfriend. Chai plays the viola with the New York City-based Amore Opera, which puts on three performances a season. 'It's incredible fun,' he said.

Chai also keeps his keyboard in one corner, though he doesn't play it as much as he used to.

On the other side of a set of tall French doors, there's a media room set up with a TV, sofa, and standing desk.

The room's colour palette was inspired in part by this rug, which was handmade in Tibet and stained with vegetable dyes. Chai picked it up at Ralo Carpets in SoHo.

Chai says he does a lot of his meditation in this room.

He also gets a great deal of work done at his standing desk, the top of which was custom-made for the apartment. 'The standing desk I wanted because I had one at work,' Chai said. 'But I like this one even better.' The printer, keyboard, mouse, and camera can all toggle between his personal and work computers.

Though his main instrument is the viola, Chai also has two djembe drums. He bought the larger one of them from his Senegalese drum teacher. 'The body was carved somewhere in Africa,' he said.

Chai has a collection of handmade Turkish bowls that he found while on vacation in St. Thomas, oddly enough. 'When a client buys something I usually cringe, but (Chai) brought these out and I was so impressed,' Clark said.

Two more of the Turkish bowls sit on the island in the kitchen.

And another sits on an end table in the living room.

Chai says that the apartment is an accurate reflection of his interests. 'I'm definitely spending more time here,' he said.

NOW WATCH: Tech Insider videos

Want to read a more in-depth view on the trends influencing Australian business and the global economy? BI / Research is designed to help executives and industry leaders understand the major challenges and opportunities for industry, technology, strategy and the economy in the future. Sign up for free at research.businessinsider.com.au.