Home away from home
HONG Kong-based interior designer Anne Sixt is in the business of making expatriates feel more at home in the territory. Her secret to creating a comfortable interior for those who may only be staying in the territory for a few years is to keep costs down, although not necessarily by scrimping.
'My clients are mainly expatriates who want to take things away with them when they leave, so I don't get to do grand effects like marble walls or shift walls. I'm always trying to save them money.
'But I don't think you should be too pushy and try to force your signature style down people's throats. The whole goal should be to make the clients as comfortable as possible,' she says.
By paying careful attention to colour, window treatments and lighting, Sixt, of Anne Sixt Interiors, transformed this three-storey 2,500 sq ft house on The Peak for a young American family.
The resulting interior has a certain femininity, but is based on clean and contemporary lines, for example balloon blinds are used in place of conventional curtains which could have been overpowering.
'The home was originally quite plain so I just made it brighter and more fun. The main concern was incorporating the family's collection of furniture, works of art and porcelain, but making it light and bright.
'It's a contemporary look but the pieces of furniture tend to be quite large so the effect is very clean,' explains Sixt.
In an effort to lighten the feeling of the dining area, Sixt opted for a glass-topped dining table with an acrylic base rather than a traditional style.
Canadian-born Sixt took the imposing Japanese screen as the starting point for the design of the dining area, and colours and shapes were chosen accordingly without resorting to contrived co-ordination.
The dining chairs covered in soft jade, green star effect fabric reflect the hues in the screen and the striped white and jade balloon blinds create an interesting contrast. This area is finished off by the custom-made Tai Ping carpet in complementary hues and an antique cupboard for storage. In order to keep the emphasis of the area on the screen, Sixt has made careful use of spotlights.
'I wanted to make sure the screen was shown off to the best effect; lighting is so important especially with works of art,' she said.
'The decor of the dining area was very quiet originally, so I tried to make it youthful, hence the stars on the chairs. But my treatment of this area was not timid, hence the striped curtains.' Because the dining area leads on to a family area, Sixt employed similar colours here - with touches of jade, such as on the sofa cushions. But a pair of beige check sofas were brought in for contrast along with cherry print blinds.
'I used similar colours because the rooms lead off from each other, but I wanted to ensure each space retained its own character. This is a real family room but can also be formal if need be,' says Sixt.
This family - like many of Sixt's clients - has worked with her for a number of years, so the designer was able to utilise fabrics and other furnishings that the family already had.
Sixt's ingenuity at reviving furnishings is displayed in the master bedroom, where curtain fabric was reused by cutting it into balloon blinds.
Here, a calming blue and white theme was employed, complemented by matching antique bedside tables.
Sixt's sense of fun is shown in the toddler's bedroom, which is enviably large and colourful. A checked red and white bed doubles as a sofa and brightly coloured wallpaper and curtain fabric from Designer's Guild brightens up the area. Coloured shelves in different colours house the boy's toys.
'When I started working with the family the little boy slept in a crib, but now that he's 21/2, I wanted to create a room where he could be a little boy,' says Sixt.
The guest bedroom is decorated in a contrasting style, with a choice of oriental colours such as blue and red.
In the living room Sixt made the most of the stunning view by framing the arched windows with softly draped swagged curtains in a subtle red check fabric. Working around the basics of a Japanese chest and desk and picking up the colours in the huge Persian rug, Sixt also recovered two armchairs and designed a cream ottoman.
The addition of a mirrored panel over the open fireplace has the double advantage of bringing more light into the already spacious room and acting as a visual divide between the areas on either side. It is obvious from looking at this apartment that Sixt prefers the modern look to anything overly elaborate and contrived.
On a personal level Sixt says: 'My style could be described as contemporary traditional or traditional contemporary. I like nice and clean simple lines and contemporary lighting.
I avoid anything too ostentatious; there's no need to use masses of silk, satin and gold which actually looks dated,' she says.
As for design trends in Hong Kong, Sixt feels there is a tendency to follow trends without thinking them through and checking their suitability for this climate and way of life.
'People seem to follow trends, such as the penchant for marble floors, whether they are practical or not,' she says.