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Prepare homes for Hong Kong’s winter chill

Simple additions and decorating tips can make your space feel cosier during the cooler months

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 December, 2014, 9:40am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 March, 2016, 5:31pm

The mercury is falling, and that short window when we all cheer the reprieve from Hong Kong’s sticky summer has given way to a reminder that our homes are not really equipped for winter.

Homes have good air conditioning, cool-feeling hard floors, lightweight furnishings and, if you’re lucky, some sort of outdoor space – but when it comes to warming up, most homes don’t even have heating.

With those few months of the chilly season looming, it’s time to knuckle down and cosy up.

Alexandra Sheldon of The Home Stylist agrees that Hong Kong homes are “definitely not” built for winter, but people are starting to factor this in during renovations.

“For instance, we’re seeing more and more bio-ethanol fireplaces installed,” she says of the new range of clean-burning fireplaces such as those from EcoSmart. They can be installed anywhere without the need for a chimney, and they are simple and cost-effectively, adding the cosy ambience of a real flame. Because the ethanol fuel is held in a purpose-built tank, there are no restrictive electrical cables or gas connections involved. These fireplaces also come in freestanding designs, so renters can take them along when they move and, in models designed for use outdoors, helping to enhance the entertaining space on a patio or terrace.

Sheldon believes that Hong Kong winters are getting longer. “It used to be that as of Lunar New Year we were looking at the end of the cold spell, but this doesn't seem to be the case anymore,” she says.  “So keeping your home cosier for those few weeks longer seems even more important.” 

However, the city still has a short winter compared to most other places, “so when cosying up we don't want to be spending too much”, she adds.

There are some simple ways to create feelings of warmth and luxury in your home, the stylist says, beginning with a change of colour. “Interiors trends follow that of the fashion industry, so this winter we're seeing grey, blue, green, brown and the subtle pinks/mauves - very much what you'd see in a make-up palette.”

Toasty textiles in seasonal hues and soft, cuddly fabrics are a sure-fire way to keep winter chills at bay. According to home furnishings specialist Ikea, by layering textiles from floor to ceiling, your home will feel cosy, comforting and welcoming.

Changing cushion covers will provide an instant refresh. Sheldon recommends mixing them up with different sizes and textures such as cable knit, which is on trend, cashmere or faux fur. “If you have a couple of textured or patterned cushions, the others can be plain cotton. Always have odd numbers: five cushions would look great on a two-seater sofa,” she says. “You can also mix patterns - one pattern just needs to be smaller than the other.”

Add a throw to the back of your sofa which you can snuggle into when the temperature drops. Sheldon says: “This again should be textured, but try to have a different feel to your cushions. I don't suggest faux fur cushions with a faux fur throw.”

And don’t forget to lay thick-pile area rugs over tiled floors – they’ll soften the space and be beautifully cosy underfoot.

Scented candles add the ambience of a flickering flame and a comforting aroma. Australian stylist and blogger Chris Carroll of The Life Creative says: “Candles are the most affordable way to update your space and instantly add mood to a room. In winter, though, it’s time to abandon those fruity, summery scents and opt for more calming and relaxing fragrances: think forest scents or even ones you’d use in cooking, like vanilla and cinnamon.”

If you’re a fan of candle holders, cluster them together in subdued hues to add interest without the colour explosion, Carroll says. Group votives of different heights on a mirrored tray to reflect the light for a charming effect. Another striking look is placing candles on a tray that match the base colour.

Winter also calls for subtle lighting, so invest in table, side and floor lamps that will help to create a cosy atmosphere. Also consider adding some character with a customised piece. Soon Arts Lampshades in Sheung Wan (tel: 2549 0165) can make table lamps out of found items such as a ginger jar. They can also repair old lamps or change American lamps to work with Hong Kong outlets.

Sheldon says there are local stores that are good sources for a stylish seasonal makeover. “For area rugs, some great cushions, lamps, throws and trays, check out Indigo Living and Bowerbird. Or, if you'd like some bespoke cushions and area rugs, contact Sun Sun Interiors (tel: 9150 5087).”

However, Sheldon adds: “There are some great stockists in Hong Kong, but it's also nice to have something different to everyone else, and therefore doing a little shopping online is sometimes a must. A lot more US companies now ship abroad.” Among the sites she recommends are Pottery Barn and The White Company.