The gods must have smiled when Rebecca Prince and her family decided to move house. According to fung shui masters, a 'death line' flowing through their home was behind their lack of direction in life, and the only solution was to 'get another house'. Says Prince: 'It's bizarre, but that's how we felt: we loved the house but we weren't feeling happy and weren't sure why.'
In the family's 'new', 2,100 sq ft, three-level village house in Sai Kung, however, positive energy from heaven and earth seems to bounce off the walls and the only type of lines are clean, symmetrical ones. A few minor adjustments had to be made, such as turning the back door into the main entrance, but the geomantic gurus were probably on to something when they declared the location 'auspicious'.
Site sorted, Prince and her husband set about a complete overhaul of the property. Having utilised Prince's background in fashion, her husband's in interior design and the help of a third Briton, contractor Paul Cowling, all can be proud of the results.
'My husband was the planner and I did the finishes,' says Prince, who admits that much initial planning had to be reworked because they had guessed wrongly when it came to the position of the stairs. 'We didn't actually look inside before we bought the place,' she explains. 'We loved the village and that's what sold it, with the trees. A village house is a village house.'
Not this village house, at least not anymore. For starters - from the front elevation and the remodelled rooms to the floor tiles laid so lines continue unbroken from one area to the next - there is little that can be called 'cookie-cutter'.
'It was dark and dingy,' Prince says, although light now pours into every level from wide glass doors at the front flanked by single panes of glass. Creating an open-plan living area helped brighten the lowest level. Here, the kitchen segues into the dining area and a lounge.
The bedrooms start up a flight of stairs - beside which, Cowling points out proudly, he installed perfectly aligned recessed wall lights. Although a new layout was not necessary on this floor, there is again a feeling of openness, in part because the glass interior wall of the study allows it to be an extension of the family room. 'We wanted it so you're not tucked away in the office and we didn't want any space to be out of bounds to anyone,' says Prince. 'We can be on the computer in there while the girls [Eva, nine, and Grace, six] are watching television outside, so everything still feels connected.'
On the top floor, which accommodates Grace's room and the master bedroom suite, the highlight is a spacious en-suite bathroom, which features a double shower and standalone tub. 'This bathroom was our biggest expense,' Prince says, acknowledging the project ran off budget because 'it was really diffi-cult to go cheap'. But it was completed on time - with-in eight months.
The work included sprucing up the rooftop, where precious space was gained by removing the old-fashioned red-tiled perimeter that is so common on village houses. Replacing it on three sides is a wooden fence that offers privacy and affords the sensation of being surrounded only by mountains.
Three floors below is the driveway, whose direction - south-facing - Prince says the fung shui wise men also deemed auspicious. 'Water runs along the side, and we're protected by the houses and mountains at the back,' she adds.
All of which points to a happy future for the family, unless, of course, the gods feel slighted by their table manners. 'We have to sit in certain places at the table; I'm not allowed to face north. I have to face west,' Prince, says, laughing. 'But we don't.'
Good life cover: kitchen In Kitchen (4/F, Lucky Plaza, 315 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2445 5688) built the kitchen for HK$89,000, using Formica wood-look laminate for the base of the island and some cabinetry. The Tom Dixon Blow Lights cost HK$6,500 for the pair from E Design (54 Morrison Hill Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2893 5050). The red Softline Spot stool (HK$3,999) is available from Aluminium (various locations; www.aluminium-furniture.com).
1 Dining area
In front of the open kitchen is a light-filled dining area with ABK floor tiles (HK$48 a square foot) from Arnhold Design (315 Lockhart Road, tel: 2865 0318). The table was bought five years ago from Shambala (2/F, Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 2555 2997) and the chairs, also five years old, came from Ikea (various locations; www.ikea.com.hk). The Bald & Bang Turbo 62 pendant lamp (HK$15,700) came from Marc James Design (16/F, Horizon Plaza, tel: 2517 2000). The Fujiya floor lamp (GBP520/HK$6,300, plus shipping) was from Dare Studio in Brighton, Britain (www.darestudio.co.uk). The kilim rug (HK$10,000) was bought from Turkey through www.kilim.com. The artwork on the left is by the Princes' son, Joseph, a freelance illustrator, and, the one on the right is a piece bought in Brighton from Castor + Pollux (castorandpollux.co.uk).
Replacing the red-tiled perimeter added more room to the already spacious rooftop, which boasts a barbecue and dining area and a spot to kick back and enjoy the hills in the background. The umbrella cost HK$5,950 at Wicka Design (1/F, BT Centre, 23 Wong Chuk Hang Road, Aberdeen, tel: 2422 0885). The armchairs were bought years ago from Dedon (32/F, 248 Queen's Road East, Wan Chai, tel: 2529 7233). The Leonardo tiles (HK$48 a square foot) came from Arnhold Design.
3 Hangout zone
The armchair is many years old and the blue pouffe, accommodating Winston the family dog, was made by a friend. The Zebra hide came from a friend's farm in Zimbabwe. The Chinese chess pouffe in the corner cost HK$705 from G.O.D. (various locations; www.god.com.hk) and the coffee table (HK$4,450) was from TREE (various locations; www.tree.com.hk). The picture is of two of Rebecca Prince's children.
4 Living area
The Katakana low chair and ottoman (GBP1,950, plus shipping) came from Dare Studio. On the hide rug acquired years ago is a Noguchi coffee table (HK$17,999) from Aluminium. The sofa was made by A Square (2 Blue Pool Road, Happy Valley, tel: 2834 4555) for HK$11,550. The bean bag (HK$1,950) was from G.O.D. The Hunter Pacific ceiling fan cost HK$2,650 at Patsy House Electrical (shop E, Kam Wah Building, 18 Chan Man Street, Sai Kung, tel: 2792 0010). Items from the Princes' previous home include the television console, the Chinese chest, the console next to the sofa and the floor lamp, which was from Artemide (1/F, Ruttonjee Centre, 11 Duddell Street, Central, tel: 2523 0333). On the Chinese chest are lamps bought years ago from Rapee Living (shop 16, Sai Kung Garden, 16 Chan Man Street, tel: 2792 8410). Above the TV is artwork by Joseph. The African sculptures came from TREE years ago. The phone boxes artwork, by William Furniss, was from 10 Chancery Lane Gallery (10 Chancery Lane, Central, tel: 2810 0065).
At the back of the living room is a study with glass sliding doors. The London Toile wallpaper was GBP90 a roll from Timorous Beasties in Glasgow, Scotland (www.timorousbeasties.com). The walnut Katakana desk (GBP2,160, plus shipping) came from Dare Studio. The Hunter Pacific ceiling fan (HK$2,650) was from Patsy House Electrical. The shelving was built by In Kitchen for HK$8,600. The Eames chair (HK$6,999) is available at Aluminium.
6 En-suite bathroom
Bought through Arnhold Design were several Kohler products, including the Lovee cast-iron free-standing bath (HK$27,500), Escale toilet (HK$6,300), Forefront basins (HK$2,950 each) and Stillness widespread taps (HK$7,320 per set). The Leonardo floor tiles (HK$46 a square foot) and the Stone Italiana resin composite stone countertop (HK$650 a square foot) also came from Arnhold Design. The Diamond sconces (HK$4,500 for the pair) on the mirrored wall and the Opal glass ceiling light (HK$780) came from Megaman (188 Lockhart Road, tel: 2511 0690).
7 Master bedroom
In front of the walk-in wardrobe is the bed, built by In Kitchen for HK$7,800. Flanking it are Componibili units (HK$1,110 each) from Kartell (Home Square, Sha Tin, tel: 2602 3030). The bedhead (HK$25,000), built by contractor Paul Cowling (tel: 9374 4824; www.paulcowling.com), features Scantling wall lamps that cost HK$7,920 for the pair at Apartment (62 Leighton Road, Causeway Bay, tel: 2882 2198). The four prints above the bed, by Max Malandrino, were bought from Spitalfields art market in London. The view of Hong Kong is by Nick Gleitzman (www.nickgleitzman.com). The Chinese chest was bought years ago.
8 Daughter's room
Nine-year-old Eva's bedroom is a menagerie of animals. The Trophy lion's head (HK$799) was from Indigo Kids (18/F, Horizon Plaza, tel: 2552 0545), the Coco de Paris dog portraits were bought on www.etsy.com and the pony pouffe (HK$500) was from Babushka (66 Yi Chun Street, Sai Kung, tel: 6293 5948). The Noah sleigh bed (HK$3,745), table (HK$2,290) and bedside light (HK$1,250) also came from Indigo Kids.
TRIED + TESTED
A hanging rail system can have an industrial-chic appeal and was chosen for the en-suite bathroom so that, when the door is fully open, the bedroom and wet room become one, and both are brighter. The Saheco track and hanger were sourced through Saheco (www.saheco.com) and cost HK$8,000.
Styling Fox Daniels