As Jane Straley prepares for an event on the roof of her 2,400 sq ft apartment in Repulse Bay, what's usually indoors has been moved outdoors.
Straley has transformed the area using not just garden furniture but items usually more suited to the living room, such as wool rugs and works of art. The effect is dramatic.
Straley, who works for a Cambodian children's charity after many years in the clothing trade, and husband Phillip, who is a partner in a management consulting company, are having a 'pre-scaffolding' party for 60 guests before contractors start renovating the exterior of the apartment block, which will obscure the view for a while.
Dominating the roof area is a painting by artist Guo Zuchang that depicts a group of gamblers. Says Straley: 'We love this painting but don't want to hang it in the apartment at the moment so we bring it out here for special occasions and keep it in a storage area next to the kitchen the rest of the time.'
Its vibrant tones are echoed in the boldly patterned rug from Istanbul, Turkey. Here there are also a chocolate-coloured leather sofa and a pair of antique Chinese plant pot stands. You have to wonder at the wisdom of exposing such items to Hong Kong's heat and humidity, but Straley defends her decision. 'Before we married, Phillip had bought a beautiful rug from Singapore and I had about six from places such as Cairo and Istanbul that I bought while travelling for my job in the fashion industry. Even though they didn't go with the style of our home, we didn't want to part with them so we kept them in storage for years. It's a shame to keep them hidden and this is a good way of using them.'
As for the plant stands, she says: 'They are 70 years old. They didn't have air-conditioning then and they survived. They've been up here since last September and we've had them for 10 years. I think they look better as they've aged.'
The Straleys have kept the apartment's interior neutral so they can add colour with their expanding art collection. The only major change was the incorporation of a kitchen into what was the dining area. There is a small adjacent enclosed kitchen that the helper uses, but the Straleys wanted one in the main living area and they chose to place the dining table by the window, so they could take in the glorious view while they ate.
Because the property is rented, Straley was reluctant to have a permanent kitchen installed so came up with the idea of a structure that can be moved to future homes (see Tried + tested).
There are works of art displayed in every room because, Straley says, 'Phillip and I are getting more and more serious when it comes to collecting.' A striking graphic by a Cambodian artist takes pride of place above the bed in the master bedroom, which has been kept neutral at her husband's request. 'Phillip does not like strong colours the way I do,' she says. 'I have my own room that is very dramatic.'
Her workroom, which doubles as a dressing room, incorporates yet more vibrant artwork plus rails of clothes and shelves of shoes and books. There are two sets of blinds - pastel green for the daytime and deep red for night. 'I wanted to create moods,' says Straley. 'It's a girl's space but also multi-purpose and my husband can sit in the chair and talk to me while I'm busy.'
Straley says working in the fashion industry meant she used to enjoy styling clothes and showing them off; she still does, but has transferred some of her creative energy to learning about art and interior design. 'My focus has shifted. I used to dress myself, now I dress my home.'
Living room The sofa (HK$162,100) came from Simply Casa (8/F, Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 2525 2672). The B&B Italia coffee table was bought several years ago from Le Cadre Gallery (Ruttonjee Centre, 11 Duddell Street, Central, tel: 2526 1068). The Arco lamp that arches over the seating space was bought from Flos (44 Wyndham Street, Central, tel: 2801 7608) several years ago. The five-ball lamp in the corner, which came from Italy, was also purchased years ago. The brown chair cost HK$6,700 from Marc James Design (16/F, Horizon Plaza, tel: 2189 7476). The lamp behind the chair cost HK$21,500 from Flos. The sculpture (from Galerie Urs Meile; www.galerieursmeile.com) in the glass display unit is by Chinese artist Xia Xiaowan. The two large artworks, bought by Jane and Phillip Straley while on holiday in Argentina, are by Eugenio Cuttica from Buenos Aires. The glass for the shelving under the artworks came from King Cheung Mirror & Glass Engineering (6 Tai Woo Street, Wan Chai, tel: 2808 0838) and cost HK$3,000.
Kitchen The kitchen units and island were custom made by Eddie Ko of Legenda Interiors (12/F, Tower 2, Silvercord, 30 Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 2172 6872) for HK$130,000. The Philippe Starck hanging vase light was HK$44,100 from Flos. The portrait of Straley was a gift.
Roof The painting of gamblers was bought directly from the artist, Guo Zuchang. The three wall carvings were bought in Singapore several years ago and Jane Straley recently added blue acrylic panels behind them. The sofa cost HK$2,999 from Ikea (various locations; www.ikea.com.hk). The Stream armchairs (from HK$10,940 to HK$11,555 each) and bench dining table (HK$24,944) were from Dedon (32/F, 248 Queen's Road East, Wan Chai, tel: 2529 7233). The coffee table from Singapore, the wooden stool from Bangkok, Thailand, and the rug from Istanbul, Turkey, were all bought years ago. The antique Chinese plant stands were purchased many years ago from Chinese Arts & Crafts (59 Queen's Road Central, tel: 2901 0338). The calligraphy artwork was bought in Beijing circa 2000. The long planter was originally custom made as a step. Straley turned it upside down and added wheels.
Roof detail The Spa Beach recliners (from HK$36,000 to HK$40,500 each) were from Dedon. The two artworks are hand-knitted handkerchiefs bought on the mainland years ago. The stool was bought in Bangkok.
Dining area The B&B Italia dining table was bought from Le Cadre Gallery years ago. The Matteograssi chairs were HK$8,500 each from Design Direction (43 Wong Ngai Chung Road, Happy Valley, tel: 2904 7232). The crystal light fitting above the table was bought several years ago in New York. The blinds were HK$2,250 from Renew (117 Queen's Road East, tel: 9253 7218).
Master bedroom Straley designed the bed, headboard and bedside tables, which were all made by contractor Eddie Fung (tel: 9655 9496) in 2005. The bedside lamps cost HK$2,200 each from HMF (27/F, Horizon Plaza, tel: 2553 2888). The blinds were from Renew and cost HK$10 per square foot. The artwork is by Cambodian artist Yim Maline, represented by Sa Sa Bassac Gallery in Phnom Penh (www.sasabassac.com).
Bathroom The artwork is by the German duo Gertraud Aitenbichler and Peter Wieser and was purchased from Galerie Junger in Berlin (www.galeriejunger.com). The ceiling light was bought from Flos for HK$1,600. The tealights are displayed in tumblers that cost HK$10 each from Wing On (211 Des Voeux Road, Sheung Wan, tel: 2852 1888).
Workroom The blinds cost HK$10 a square foot from Renew. The coffee table was custom made several years ago by Fung. The desk, whose design is inspired by a sewing machine table, was custom made a long time ago. The chair (HK$1,390) came from G.O.D. (4/F, Horizon Plaza, tel: 2580 2290). The red filing cabinet was also made by Fung several years ago. The rug was bought in Auckland, New Zealand, years ago. The ceiling light was purchased years ago at PLC (210 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2519 6275).
Sewing machines Straley's father was a tailor and she learnt how to sew at a young age. She started collecting sewing machines when she began her career in the fashion industry.
TRIED + TESTED
Up to the multitask The kitchen island is on wheels so it can easily be moved to any part of the living area, making it a multi-purpose piece of furniture. It can be used as a breakfast table, buffet table and even a bar. The built-in appliances came from Miele.