A FAMILY AFFAIR
PEOPLE TALK ABOUT having a family doctor or a family accountant, a tried and tested as well as trusted professional who is relied upon to handle the entire household's affairs. For the Gouws, this relationship also applies to their interior designer.
After Simon Jackson of Simon Jackson and Associates created Alex and Mary Gouw's sprawling 6,000-square-feet residence in Jardine's Lookout, the family were so enamored with the Australian's work they commissioned him again, and again . . . and again. First came the corporate office of the family firm, Gouw Assets Group. Then, for eldest daughter and stylish girl-around-town, Elizabeth Gouw, her Anya Hindmarch and Paula Ka boutiques in The Landmark. And most recently, modish restaurant Camargue on Hollywood Road for youngest son Carl Gouw (who also runs food and beverage portal, food4hongkong.com and is an investor in the Web site, icered).
'All I can do now for the Gouws is their yacht or aeroplane,' jokes Jackson, whose high-profile clients include Richard Li, Sir Po-shing Woo (founder of Hong Kong's biggest law firm, Woo Kwan Lee & Lo), Henry Cheng (managing director of New World Development) and Alasdair Morrison (former managing director of Jardine Matheson).
But it was with the Gouws' four-storey family home, split over seven levels, that Jackson first stamped his inimitable style. 'The children had grown up so their needs were changing,' says Jackson of the home he describes as classically European in style. 'This home had to move with them to suit their present and future lifestyle.'
'As there are so many generations under one roof, we were looking for that kind of long-lasting, classic, Grand Hyatt style,' adds Mary. 'Simon really knew what we wanted and I'm still not tired of looking at it.'
Recently refurbished, the original refit is unmistakably opulent but not oppressively so. Wherever you look there are antiques, paintings and tellingly valuable objets d'art, but this is also a home where you feel you could slap a mug down on the coffee table - uncoastered (though you might choose the vitreous marble, rather than a wood one) - or put your feet up on the furniture.
Many of the finest pieces - a 19th-century French ebony secretaire, a gilded Venetian corner chair, an oil painting by renowned mainland artist Chen Yanning - are in the living room where the Gouws congregate. 'This is really the heart of the house,' says Carl, who has an ardent interest in architecture and was keen to get involved with the project. 'Because the living room is located in the centre of the house, leading to the bedrooms upstairs and the dining areas downstairs, you have to pass here to get to anywhere. Some guests find it too glamorous and formal, but it's actually very comfortable.'
The refined living area leads off through French windows to a neo-Palladian style pool flanked by a columned colonnade. 'This is my favourite area in the whole house,' says Mary. 'We used to have a garden and a Chinese gardener who took care of the lawns, but it involved a lot of work. The limestone is so much easier to keep clean and tidy.'
After the garden was landscaped, all lawns and plants were removed bar six treasured bonsai trees which Jackson decided to sit upon limestone pedestals like sculptures. 'I wanted to create a formal court space off the dining area where the Gouws could have pre-supper drinks. Also, if the bonsai trees were removed, cushions could be placed on the pedestals to sit on.'
Part of Jackson's brief was to incorporate Alex's impressive collection of paintings, for which he created a temperature, humidity and light-controlled art room. This is where Alex now spends most of his spare time, reading about art and enjoying his collection of mainly Chinese and Taiwanese paintings that cover every inch of the walls.
Carl insists the house encompasses the entire family's idea of style. 'I like opulence,' he says, although a rather contemporary plywood stool from London's trendy Conran Shop is stashed inside his cupboard. 'In terms of taste, this house has to satisfy everyone. It's like a masterpiece we worked on together and is very controlled and structured. It reflects our family unit.'
The Gouws try to support local artists where possible with a large proportion of their collection coming from the mainland and Taiwan. For a more informal collection, they suggest mixing important works from auction or Hanart TZ Gallery (Room 202, 5 Queen's Road Central, Central. Tel: 2526 9019) with fun pieces from the Fringe Club (2 Lower Albert Road, Central. Tel: 2521 7251).
A smooth consistency
To create a feeling of spaciousness, treat adjacent rooms in the same style so there is a smooth transition. In the Gouw home identical striped wallpaper and French limestone flooring is used in the dining room and guest bathroom. For similar stone, Jackson recommends Acconci (Unit 1-3, Block 4, 18 Tin Hau Road, Nan Fung Industrial City, Tuen Mun. Tel: 2463 6120).
In the mood
Too much artificial light will flush away atmosphere. Create accents with table and floor lamps. The Gouws recommend Artemide (Shop 102-103 Ruttonjee Centre, 11 Duddell Street, Central. Tel: 2882 6863) and Barovier & Toso (Shop 109 Ruttonjee Centre. Tel:
For opulence to work in a small space, align furniture and accessories with windows, doors, beams and structural columns. This will give the space definition and make it look less cluttered.
Styling by Esther van Wijck