Living colour

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 April, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 April, 2010, 12:00am

For Mandy d'Abo, owner of the Cat Street Gallery, a home only becomes a home when it has been shaped by the many layers of the lives of those who live there.

Such a philosophy does not work well in an impersonal high rise so d'Abo chose to live in an old colonial-style building in Repulse Bay. The 2,800 sq ft, three-bedroom apartment, home for her, her husband and their two young children, is filled with an eclectic array of artwork, sculptures and other decorative items, many of which have travelled almost as much as d'Abo, who hails from Zimbabwe and has lived in many countries.

While in Australia, d'Abo developed an interest in art, and Australian contemporary artists in particular, which she built into a full-time career. Her gallery, which opened in 2006, predominantly exhibits Australian artists, many of whom are represented in her home.

'I'm always kind of obsessed by my art and my artists so there's always stuff coming in and going out,' she says. 'Besides, the thing about putting art up in your own place is that after a while, it becomes the backdrop and you stop seeing it. So it's nice to move it around and keep your outlook fresh.'

Large-scale works of art share space with several sets of ornaments and oddities, such as a hefty curl of blackened glass on a luminous base, a contemporary Chinese sculpture inspired by calligraphic brush strokes and a gaggle of tabletop Chairman Maos huddled around the base of a lamp.

At one end of the spacious living room is an intimate and elegant dining area, in which an antique Chinese cabinet presides over an oval table that seats eight.

Family photographs and treasured mementos are strewn among the artwork and the living area's furnishings, which have been arranged to create inviting nooks.

Sleek and modern pieces nestle comfortably among vintage and antique curios, in many places overlaid with distinctively Indian accents such as a mirrored carving or fabrics in the dusty reds, oranges and pinks redolent of the state of Rajasthan.

The apartment was built for another era and d'Abo has capitalised on this, most noticeably in the bedrooms, where high ceilings and generous proportions have been complemented with updated Victorian furnishings and a four-poster bed in the master suite.

In a further nod to the sensibilities of a bygone time, d'Abo had the 'super shiny' wood floor resurfaced with a matt finish. But shininess is showcased elsewhere, particularly in the recurrent use of polished chrome and other reflective surfaces. A number of the larger sculptures are chrome-plated, as are the round centrepiece vases in the dining area, which throw out light from under sprays of orchids and lilies. Near the entrance hall, bowls of silver balls the size of oranges catch the splintered light of a mirrored disco ball suspended above.

'I love those silver balls,' says d'Abo. 'I love the light you get from them and the reflections. Reflection and light are the essence of every painting.'

Despite 'a little dabbling' of her own, d'Abo says that recognising beauty in art and being able to create it are very different things.

'I am in awe of artists and what goes on inside their heads. It's a kind of calling for them. I feel privileged to have the relationship I have with my artists. Watching them develop is so inspiring.'

Though very much a 'work in progress', the development of her home environment pleases d'Abo. 'It's full of things that are 'us', things we've picked up along the way. It's just a normal home like that - but that's how we like it,' she says.

1 Though many artworks and sculptures vie for attention in the living room, dominating the space is a crumpled portrait of a Chinese woman by Rupert Shrive (represented, like most other artists whose work is in Mandy d'Abo's home, by the Cat Street Gallery, 222 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, tel: 2291 0006; The beige sofas were custom made by Alan Mok of Alan Furnishing (29A Haven Street, Causeway Bay, tel: 2548 9981) and the leather armchair was bought from Australian online antique dealer The Country Trader ( The television console cost HK$11,900 from Ovo (16 Queen's Road East, Wan Chai, tel: 2526 7226) and the Arco-style floor lamp was HK$4,000 from Artura Ficus (20 Queen's Road East, tel: 2527 2893).

2 Indian glass pendant lamps found in a market in Chiang Mai, Thailand, hang from the balcony ceiling. An Indonesian teak table, bought from friends leaving Hong Kong, provides an inviting setting for al fresco entertaining.

3 In the entrance hall, visitors are greeted by a David Mach image of Queen Elizabeth made entirely from I Ching cards. Two metal sculptures by Liao Yibai (represented by Contemporary by Angela Li, 90 Hollywood Road, Central, tel: 3571 8200) gleam from either side of a glass sculpture by Wang Qin. The bright red lampshade was custom made by Altfield Interiors (11/F, 9 Queen's Road Central, tel: 2525 2738) for about HK$2,200.

4 The plain white cabinetry and counters of the kitchen have been accented by a round bright blue rug from Ikea (; various locations).

5 An unusual pendant lamp, bought during a trip to Barcelona, Spain, casts an intimate glow over a dining set bought 20 years ago at a Lots Road ( auction in Chelsea, London. Among the vibrant art- work is a large painting picked up in a flea market in Paris, France.

6 A conservatory overlooking the garden provides a light-filled art studio and colourful play area for the d'Abo children. Pint-sized armchairs, custom made by Mok, sit under walls lined with a colourful variety of pictures. At one end, play tables from Ikea form part of a painting area furnished with comfortable cushions.

7 The master bathroom is divided, with a separate vanity counter, providing plenty of space for ornaments and paintings. The flower lady portrait is by Argentinian artist Grillo Demo.

8 Daughter Poppy's bedroom is bright and elegantly furnished, from the prettily made- up French antique bed to the flower-pattern daybed, custom made by Mok. The hot pink fabric motifs complement a painting of pink zebras by Alexandra Spyratos.

9 A white four-poster bed brings old-world charm to the bright and spacious master bed- room. The antique bench at the foot of the bed was bought in India. On the left is an acrylic sculpture by Kirsteen Pieterse.

Tried + tested

Something old, something new

Appreciative of both antique and contemporary styles, Mandy d'Abo has fused the two throughout her home, most noticeably in vintage pieces upholstered with vibrant modern fabrics. The fresh and quirky transformations of characterful originals fit in perfectly with d'Abo's artistic and eclectic home. The upholstery fabric used on this teak planter's chair is from Designers Guild and costs HK$2,110 per square metre from Avant Garde (Pacific Place, Admiralty, tel: 2526 0104).

Styling David Roden