More and more of Hong Kong's frequent visitors are opting to buy a pied-?-terre in the city rather than accept the impersonal aura of a hotel room. Tony and Linda Huang are one such couple. They invested in a 1,500 sq ft loft space in SoHo and set about recreating some of the atmosphere of their classically styled San Francisco home.
The bright space has been split into two levels and is simply decorated in a gallery style: white walls, light floors and an extensive system of halogen lights to illuminate the Huangs' collection of antique furniture, paintings, photographs and other pieces.
'Everything has to have a beautiful sweet face,' says Tony Huang of his many portraits and sculptures. 'There might be 100 other similar pieces but I'm always won over by an unusual, uplifting expression.' He points out a painting of a Chinese deity. 'Look at how he's smiling secretly behind his beard. You can't even see it unless you are close up and, usually, in a painting like this, the guy's expression would be completely serious or even aggressive - not smiling in this strange way. It's fantastic.'
The Huangs spent more than 30 years building their collection of antiques, many of which were purchased in Hong Kong. It seemed appropriate to repatriate some of them.
'We think of them as old friends, stolen from San Francisco,' says Huang, adding that their Californian home had become 'somewhat overstocked'. It was no easy task deciding which items should be brought over and which should stay, so the couple called on interior designer and long-time friend Douglas McDonald, of San Francisco-based Laurie Ghielmetti Interiors, to make the key decisions.
McDonald blended contemporary custom-made furniture sourced in Italy, France and the United States with a selection of the Huangs' antique pieces to create a cosy ambience, rich in Asian tradition and with the benefits of up-to-the-minute technology.
Even with a fully equipped office next to the upstairs bedroom, the Huangs are likely to be found in one of the two living areas, working on laptops or playing with the loft's wireless music system (see Tried + tested).
The loft has been tailored to the couple's taste in other ways, too. The kitchen amounts to little more than a well-stocked bar; a place to prepare simple salads and snacks to accompany good wine.
'We certainly don't come to Hong Kong to cook,' says Huang. 'That's why we love the location so much. We can just walk out and in seconds we are surrounded by every kind of food choice imaginable. It's so convenient here but the area has so much character, too.'
The proximity of the curio shops on Hollywood Road must also be a major draw.
'Yes, we still love browsing through those but we just have to stop buying,' says Huang, surveying his possessions. 'Unless, of course, we get rid of some stuff. The place does look a bit like an antique art showroom, doesn't it?
'Now, that's an interesting idea.'
1 By the entrance, a painting by Zhang Xiaogang, bought from Schoeni Art Gallery (21 Old Bailey Street, Central, tel: 2869 8802) in 1997, sits in between charcoal drawings of children, which were picked up in a Shanghai street market. Below, a collection of 18th- and 19th-century porcelains in burgundy hues, mostly sourced from an antiques shop since closed, is contrasted against a jade- green porcelain stool from Martin Fung Antiques (189 Hollywood Road, Central, tel: 2524 3306).
2 The living area is a gallery of fine antiques, made cosy and welcoming by a deep-filled sofa and ottoman, both custom built with Edelman tan suede (www.edelmanleather.com) by San Francisco-based upholstery specialist Belmar (www.belmarcompany.com) for HK$103,800. Dominating the setting are four black lacquer panels depicting a mountain scene in gold. Originally part of a 12-panel screen, they were sourced from a shop that has since closed. The chair in front cost about HK$45,000 from Los Angeles-based interior designer Nancy Corzine (www.nancycorzine.com). Other treasures include a Japanese tansu (beneath the television) from Honeychurch Antiques (29 Hollywood Road, tel: 2543 2433); in front is a Tibetan saddle blanket from Tai Sing Fine Antiques (12 Wyndham Street, Central, tel: 2525 9365).
3 Gold touches add glamour to one corner of the living room. A shimmering Buddha presides over a gilded art nouveau armchair purchased from LA-based JF Chen Antiques (www.jfchen.com) for HK$55,600 and upholstered with Edelman leather. The copper lamp base from San Francisco-based McGuire Furniture (www.mcguirefurniture.com) was sourced by Altfield Gallery (2/F, Prince's Building, Central, tel: 2537 6370) for HK$19,500 and paired with a custom-designed shade (HK$3,200) from the Lamp Shop in San Francisco (www.thelampshopsf.com). Adding extra warmth are vermillion accents such as the antique chest and motifs on the Chinese porcelain stool, sourced from a shop that is no longer in business.
4 An antique screen from a shop since closed provides a peaceful backdrop to an alabaster Buddha head, bought from Altfield Gallery for HK$54,000. A Ming-style altar table, from another shop that has since closed, stands behind the living-room sofa. The simple white staircase with glass balustrade glows with blue LED strip lighting.
5 Adjacent to the upstairs bedroom is another living area, furnished at one end with a long custom-built sideboard and French-style chair from Roland Marcz Design (now Shanghai Malong, suite 2316, Hing Wai Centre, 7 Tin Wan Praya Road, Aberdeen, tel: 2810 9033). An 18th-century Laotian 'rain' drum is used as a small table and at the far side a red lacquer chest is used to house paraphernalia. The 19th-century Chinese rug was bought from Tai Sing Fine Antiques.
6 The king-size bed is flanked by McGuire Furniture lamps, which cost HK$15,600 for the pair from Altfield Interiors. The lamp shades were custom made by the Lamp Shop in San Francisco. Hanging above the bed is a length of Javanese tribal wedding fabric.
7 In a bright corner off the main living area, the Huangs have paired a 19th-century Chinese tea table from Chine Gallery (42A Hollywood Road, tel: 2543 0023) with four water-hyacinth dining chairs costing HK$9,150 each from Nancy Corzine. The collection of antique blue and white porcelain came from various shops in Hollywood Road, including Martin Fung Antiques.
Tried + tested
No strings attached
Tony and Linda Huang are ardent advocates of the Sonos digital music system (www.sonos.com), which enables their audio files to be sent wirelessly to speakers anywhere in the house. A song can be played in every room or different tracks can be lined up to play in specific rooms. The system can also relay streaming online radio stations. The Sonos Bundle BU250 cost HK$10,999 from Tekk88 (3/F, Wing Fat Building, 3 Jervois Street, Central, tel: 2111 9558; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Styling David Roden