Where the art is

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 September, 2007, 12:00am

An impressive collection of sculptures and paintings needs light and space to display its true colours - a goal not easily achieved in an enclosed Pok Fu Lam home.

When designer Ken Leung from Original Vision (tel: 2810 9797) was hired to refit Howard Bilton and Susie Rippingall's Pok Fu Lam home, his task was to create a light and uncluttered living space with a modern look. Keeping the place spartan would help accentuate the couple's considerable collection of art.

'They really have some incredible art,' says Leung. 'When you see it, you realise it needs to be showcased - big walls and plenty of natural light.'

Opening up the space, which covers more than 2,000 sq ft, wasn't a simple task given that two sides of the house - walls shared with neighbours on either side - have no windows. So Leung set about turning what was a top-floor study into a rooftop garden and enlarging the master bedroom windows to cover the width of the rear wall. That same wall downstairs became glass doors that slide away to reveal the veranda, dramatically increasing the size of the living room.

The front of the house was extended too, enlarging the size of the kitchen. Natural light was let in through an ingenious skylight that opens at the press of a button to allow a breeze between the kitchen and living room.

Besides the expanded windows and doorways, a few large white walls have helped open up the space. These are cleverly accentuated with a recessed stainless-steel moulding at the floorboard. The shadow it creates gives the walls an added dimension, which in turn sets off the couple's paintings and sculptures.

Bilton and Rippingall, both natives of Yorkshire, England, have been collecting art for more than a decade. In 2003, Bilton established Hong Kong charity the Sovereign Art Foundation, which supports worthy artistic causes. The couple's living room has been an obvious benefactor of their interest and includes a coat-hanger sculpture and giant Mona Lisa collage, both by Britain's Royal Academy of Art professor David Mach.

'David has become a friend,' Bilton says. 'Earlier this year I assisted in putting on an exhibition of his work which opened the M1NT club.'

Though the design of Bilton and Rippingall's house has the clean lines of an art gallery, it is comfortable enough to be called home, with many of its conveniences hidden from view. In the kitchen, a wall of floor-to-ceiling cabinets conceals a wine cave and extra refrigerator as well as the pots, pans and dishes. A 380-litre fish tank built into the wall at the living-room end of the cabinets adds visual depth.

The wireless entertainment system in the living room pipes music to speakers throughout the house. Closet doors in the basement open to reveal a kitchenette.

On the roof, a massive stainless-steel grill is a focal point. Covered by a retractable canopy, the area is a centre of activity when the couple entertain. The adjacent splash pool is an ideal summer play space for their three-year-old daughter.

Fun touches include a rain-dance shower in the main bathroom and a ceiling lamp in the toddler's shower that can be switched to different colours.

The couple have lived in the property for almost two years since the refit and say their wish to make it uncluttered and comfortable has been met.

'I suppose the real test to good design is whether you feel comfortable in it while at the same time it looks good,' Bilton says. 'The answer is positive.'

1 The timber flooring in the living room was installed by Cartina International (tel: 3105 0510) and contrasts well with the red crushed-velvet sofa (HK$25,000), designed by Original Vision (tel: 2810 9797). The company also designed the end table (HK$4,000) and shelving (HK$10,000). The Pucci chair cost HK$29,000 from Louvre Gallery (shop B, LG/F, Ruttonjee Centre, 11 Duddell Street, Central, tel: 2526 8400). The ceiling light (HK$3,830) was imported from Californian company Vibia (ylighting.com/vibia.html). The Digilinx audio-visual system cost HK$338,120 from Infomax Technology (flat 101, Manley Commercial Building, 367 Queen's Road Central, tel: 2891 1383). The Mona Lisa mosaic is by Professor David Mach (www.davidmach.com), of London's Royal Academy of Art. The Dedon Barcelona two-seater outdoor sofa in bronze (HK$17,900) and coffee table (HK$6,490) are from Resource Asia (room 1613, Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 2554 9088).

2 The kitchen, an extension to the house, was brightened by a skylight (see Tried & Tested). All kitchen supplies, including the cabinets, came from Kitchen (Pro) (16/F, First Commercial Building, 33 Leighton Road, Causeway Bay, tel: 2891 3389) and cost HK$468,000. The chairs were picked up in Spain.

3 To cover the large window in the master bedroom, the owners chose from Cloverleaf Interiors (tel: 2866 6801) a sheer curtain fabric (HK$190 a metre) for privacy and some silk (HK$500 a metre) to block out light. The bed and nightstands cost HK$53,600 from Magazzini Vivace (shop 110, Ruttonjee Centre, tel: 2521 3282). The triptych is by Patrick Hughes (www. patrickhughes.co.uk) and the large floral painting above the bed, by Australian artist Tim Maguire, was purchased at auction.

4 Illuminating the staircase is a HK$2,200 recessed floor lamp from Architectural Lighting (3/F, Shing Dao Industrial Building, 232 Aberdeen Main Road, Aberdeen, tel: 2870 2288) and a HK$940 wall lamp from Vibia. The wire-hanger sculpture is by David Mach. The glass banister was installed by CAD Contracting (tel: 2891 7733).

5 The faux granite splash pool adds an element of fun to the rooftop, with fittings from VIA (1A Electric Street, Wan Chai, tel: 3102 0808).

6 The upstairs study was turned into an alfresco dining area, with timber flooring, a retractable canopy and stainless-steel cabinetry installed by CAD Contracting . The grill cost HK$22,800 from Love That Lifestyle (room 1210, Horizon Plaza, tel: 2792 7268). The sconce lights above it cost HK$3,440 for the pair from Zodiac Lighting (shop B, G/F, Tak On Mansion, 32 Morrison Hill Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2832 9987). The Na Xemena table (HK$21,800) and benches (HK$9,700 each) are from Resource Asia.

7 The shower (not shown) in the daughter's bathroom lights up in different colours to make bath time fun. The wall-mounted light adjacent to the vanity cost HK$1,995 and was imported from Vibia. The toilet (HK$3,460) and bathtub (HK$4,480) are from VIA. The glass-bead curtain above the bath was purchased in Koh Samui.

tried & tested

sky high

The kitchen might have felt like a cave were it not for a clever skylight above the sink that can be raised and lowered with the push of a button. It comprises a simple pane of glass, more than a metre wide, that has a brass post mounted at each corner. The machinery is driven by a motor hidden in the ceiling. To prevent leakage, the glass is slightly larger than the porthole it sits atop. The skylight not only lets in light - when raised, it also allows air to circulate.