Home is where the art is

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 May, 2006, 12:00am

An artist's Kennedy Town residence combines minimalism with alluring natural materials to provide the perfect setting for an eclectic collection.

Stanley Wong, aka Anothermountainman, is well known for his red, white and blue artwork based on the ubiquitous striped nylon commonly used to sheathe buildings under construction and to make tough holdalls. His loud, tri-coloured work graced Central MTR station in March, guided visitors to Hong Kong's first outdoor Book Festival in 2004 and last year created a talking point at the Venice Biennale. But despite his fascination for the material of 'amah bags', little in his scenic Kennedy Town home points to any kinship with the material or its hues. Since he and wife Jessie became Buddhists several years ago, he says, his tastes have changed. 'I don't like bright colours,' he admits. 'I prefer the minimalist look of wood because it makes me feel closer to nature.'

Teak covers the floor and walls of much of the couple's 1,200 sq ft flat, imbuing it with the kind of warmth felt in traditional Japanese buildings. 'When I started designing the place I knew I'd use wood,' says Wong. 'Then I thought of Kyoto and tried to remember not the technical details of buildings there, but the feeling I got from them.'

A fan of 'found art' and a collector of works by everyone from Japan's Nobuyoshi Araki to Britain's Patrick Caulfield, Spain's Joan Hernandez Pijuan, Hong Kong's Almond Chu and New Zealand's Laurence Aberhart, Wong naturally needed a suitable backdrop for his many paintings, photographs and objets d'art. But Jessie ruled out a gallery-style, industrial look and Wong didn't want to drill holes into his walls or install picture rails. 'That's showing off,' he says, laughing. 'This is my home; I don't need to hang paintings, put a spotlight on them and say this is my art.'

Instead, he installed narrow grooved shelves along a wall in the living room and the length of the corridor. 'When you hang art, you need to measure the space and be exact,' says Wong, adding that he prefers a more casual look. 'With these shelves I can move things around and show what we like at the moment.'

What they favour presently is a palette of black and white, which sits well against the simple timber canvas. Enhancing the Zen look is the carpentry. Wong insisted nails necessary for the wall panels were hidden and the wood on the floor did not zigzag. 'The contractor was against installing the floor like this,' he says. 'Normally you'd have wood interlocking in a more secure way, but he said, 'It's your risk, I'll do my best.''

Wong, a graphic designer and advertising film producer, says: 'An incomplete aspect of my life is

that I'm not an architect.' But that didn't stop him reconfiguring the flat's layout. Although the living room remains in its original location, Wong took down a few walls beyond it to convert a bedroom into an open dining room-cum-work area. This space is dotted with collectables, including scores of antique rulers, a storage box from Portobello Road market in London and his prize possession: a portrait by Zhou Chunya.

The focal point of this room, however, is not the art but the tall school-type lockers (see Tried & Tested), which the couple use to store clothes, books and odds and ends, including their tools for Chinese calligraphy, a shared hobby.

Also at this end of the flat - which boasts sea and mountain views - is the bedroom, with en suite bathroom. Although in charge of the apartment's overall design, Wong yielded to the advice of a fung shui master on one point. 'The bathroom door was moved,' says Jessie, 'because he said it shouldn't be directly opposite the bed.'

Despite the profusion of art and keepsakes, the flat retains a clean ambience, helped by tall ceilings, a sparing reliance on furniture and the homogenous use of wood. 'I'm a minimalist person but minimalism can be done in a rich way,' says Wong, referring to the home's embellishments. 'I buy art not just for the value but to appreciate it. It's a reflection of my taste and emotions.'

1 The Grand Confort chair by Le Corbusier and Charlotte Perriand is available for $40,000 from Aluminium (19 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central, tel: 2546 5904). The Lenny sofa cost $26,000 from Ligne Roset (shop D, 12 Blue Pool Road, Happy Valley, tel: 2891 0913). The second-hand 1970s coffee table cost $2,000 from Flea + Cents (1/F, 34 Queen's Road East, Wan Chai, tel: 2528 0808). The photograph behind the sofa, Mount Taranaki by Laurence Aberhart, is from the John Batten Gallery (tel: 2854 1018). The floor lamp is by Philippe Starck.

2 The subdued palette of white on teak extends to the bedroom, where a fung shui master had the door to the en suite bathroom shifted to the right so it didn't face the bed. The floor lamp is from Artemide (Ruttonjee Centre, 11 Duddell Street, tel: 2523 0333) and the side table is from Ikea (various locations; www.ikea.com.hk). Stanley Wong took the photographs on the wall, which are of his wife, Jessie. The Frette sheets are from the company's outlet on Via Vittorio Veneto 45, Concorezzo, Italy, tel: 39 039 628 08; www.frette.it).

3 An abstract picture by Kwok Ying is one of the few hung artworks in Stanley Wong's flat. The table is an antique purchased in Macau.

4 The Chaise Costes chair by Philippe Starck was bought years ago from Le Cadre (Ruttonjee House, 11 Duddell Street, tel: 2526 1068), as were the glass dining table and Spaghetti chairs. The Tse & Tse crockery is from Colette (213 Rue Saint-Honor? Paris, France, tel: 33 1 5535 3390; www. colette.fr). The rulers were collected from around the world.

5 The Boom steel mirror unit was a gift. The sink is by Flaminia (room 906, tower A, Regent Centre, 63 Wo Yi Hop Road, Kwai Chung, tel: 2421 0383; www.ceramicaflaminia.it). The black-and-white photo is by Almond Chu (room 801, Cornell Centre, 50 Wing Tai Road, Chai Wan, tel: 2530 3583; www.almondchu.com). 6 Teak, used on the floor and walls, was installed by Well Treasure (tel: 2838 3852).

tried & tested

school's out

Stanley Wong isn't the only one who sees beauty in severe school-style lockers. American chain store

Target (www.target.com) sells these 'retro' items for US$149.99, although, if you're after design inspiration, www.schooloutfitters.com offers a sleeker version in 21 colours for US$188.48. In Hong Kong, it's probably easier to have the lockers made to order, although they're available ready made from Horizon Steel Furniture Factory (room 1002, One Hysan Avenue, Causeway Bay, tel: 2881 0203; www.horizononline.com.hk) in a variety of sizes and configurations. A slim one-door locker (314mm x 508mm x 1,778mm) costs $525; an eight-door locker (four top lockers with four beneath, measuring 1,177mm x 508mm x 1,778mm) costs $1,400. They come in grey or beige; silver and charcoal versions cost 10 per cent more.