Peace in the action

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 February, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 February, 2006, 12:00am

The quest for a quiet home life ended for one returning couple when they found a Pokfulam apartment with stunning sea views.

Most people who come to Hong Kong do not do so expecting a quiet life. When Louisa Williams and husband Johannes Duttenhoefer returned after an absence of seven years, they knew what they were letting themselves in for. 'We had a tranquil, peaceful flat in London, overlooking the Thames,' Williams says. 'We decided we would only move back to Hong Kong if we could have a home we wanted to return to every day.'

With this brief, Williams (tel: 9497 5908), a British-trained architect and designer, set about creating a serene and peaceful Pokfulam abode in which every detail pays homage to its sweeping ocean views.

'It really was an introverted flat,' Williams says about the original layout. 'There was an S-shaped living room and it looked in on itself instead of out on the views.'

Williams went into action to redirect the perspective. The 1970s beam-and-column construction posed no obstacle to her wrecking ball and after demolition, all that remained standing of the former three-bedroom, two-bathroom flat was one structural column in 1,600 square feet of space.

Williams set about creating a sanctuary that made the most of the scenery. 'Being so unrestricted structurally meant we could have done anything,' Williams says, 'but, to produce a calm space, we needed to make sure there was no clutter.'

Williams created a feature wall of concealed cabinetry that not only helps to keep the home tidy - by accommodating books, CDs and other paraphernalia - but also separates the social rooms of the flat from the sleeping quarters. 'With the clutter away you can focus on having beautiful things,' she says.

The entrance opens directly into the living room.

The large, sleek, functional kitchen is to the right of this space, on the other side of which is an office that occasionally doubles as a second guest room. Both rooms have sliding oak doors that, when closed, allow slices of the stunning view to remain visible. The door to the master bedroom, with en suite bathroom, is to the right of the concealed cabinets; it shares a passageway with that of the en suite guest bedroom.

Most materials used in the home have finishes that, along with the view, contribute to the feeling the space has of being enveloped by nature. Although some of these materials are inherently hard - including the limestone floor found in most of the house, the granite in the bathrooms and the timber of the balcony doors - the combined effect is one of softness and warmth.

The furnishings, some of which were acquired during the couple's first stint in Hong Kong, are a blend of mostly contemporary pieces accented with a few Chinese antiques and family favourites, all in subtle shades. Williams designed many of the furnishings, including an elm dining table with two benches. When not being used as seating, the benches can be pushed together to act as a coffee table.

Williams has created the kind of sanctuary the couple were seeking. 'We like it here so much that often we just want to stay in at night,' she says.

1 The wall of concealed cabinetry blends in with the smooth surfaces and straight lines of the living room, which is decorated with a mixture of new and old items. The two benches (custom made by Intohome, 9/F, 905 Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 2814 7413) that form a set with the dining table have been pushed together to create the coffee table. The couches were custom made for $21,000 by Attitude (7/F, Horizon Plaza, tel: 2375 4705). The original Eames lounge chair and ottoman were bought in the late 1950s in Germany, but the rosewood shell was refurbished by Casey Cheung (room D, 21/F, Kingley Industrial Building, 33 Yip Kan Street, Wong Chuk Hang, tel: 2552 1999). The 'wink' chair is by Toshiyuki Kita and is produced by Cassina. It is available for $32,000 from Anterra (5 Blue Pool Road, Happy Valley, tel: 2525 9874).

2 The master bedroom benefits from the same floor-to-ceiling sea view as the living/dining room. The blackout blinds are from New Asia Decorative Materials (262 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2507 3909). The Samuel Chan 'WEM' cherry-wood and stainless-steel bedside tables were purchased in Britain, but are available in Hong Kong from Sincere Living (3/F, Phase 1, Ming An Plaza, 8 Sunning Road, Causeway Bay, tel: 3105 9755). The photos on the wall are in frames from London.

3 Louisa Williams outfitted the master bathroom with a shower and dressing area, preferring to have the bathtub in the guest bathroom. The glass mosaic tiles ($60 a square foot from Score Pro, 138 Lockhart Road, tel: 2117 1868) give the room a luminescent sparkle and blend with the flamed-blue granite-tile floor ($90 a square foot, from Shiu Cheong Marble, 246 Lockhart Road, tel: 2802 2958).

4 Avid cooks, Williams and her husband, Johannes Duttenhoefer, wanted a functional kitchen with plenty of storage and counter space. The flamed-black Chinese granite flooring cost $35 a square foot (installation not included) from Wing Ming Marble (160 Lockhart Road, tel: 2598 8430). The white-pearl lacquered cabinets, with brushed stainless-steel shadow gaps (designed to disguise joins), are from Koda Kitchens (Grandfield Asia, 2/F, 31 Wyndham Street, Central, tel: 2899 2878). Williams designed the sliding oak slatted doors, custom made by contractor Ming's Home (1/F, 35 Sing Woo Road, Happy Valley, tel: 2836 0666) so that, when closed, the magnificent view remains visible.

5 The office can double as a second guest room when the flat is full. The rocking horse is from an antiques store in Delhi, India. The altar table was custom made by Intohome.

6 Sunsets are especially lovely on the balcony. The glass balustrade does not interrupt the view, while the large balcony doors turn the living room into an indoor/outdoor space. The timber-framed door perpetuates the natural aesthetic that typifies the home. Williams selected the large slabs of beige limestone for the flooring because the natural material has a soft quality to it. It cost $70 a square foot (installation not included) from Po Fung Marble (301 Lockhart Road, tel: 2598 8286).

tried & tested

shade dragons

With floor-to-ceiling windows and a large glass door leading to a terrace overlooking the sea, Louisa Williams and Johannes Duttenhoefer's Pokfulam flat can be very bright. Williams installed blinds to soften the light, but felt they were lacking something. 'I went shopping to find a pull for the blinds and came across these jade decorations on Cat Street,' she says.

The objects, which she attached to the blinds with ribbon, come in white, green and brown and in a variety of shapes, including zodiac signs and dragons. They cost $30 to $50 each, depending on the intricacy of the design, and have holes already drilled into them.

styling Esther van Wijk