In a happy place

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 August, 2010, 12:00am

Some people shy away from colourful homes. Not Tarlan Amigh, whose duplex is a vibrant nest replete with paintings, pictures, ikebana, children's toys and more. Multihued polka- dot carpets cover the floor, turquoise Chinese-style cabinets house crockery, Aboriginal art graces the staircase and recycled catering tins redolent of yesteryear provide extra seating in a living area that boasts postcard views of hills and sea.

The 2,800 sq ft Mid-Levels apartment wasn't always this full of life. Before Amigh, an Australian of Iranian heritage, made it home eight years ago, the flat was occupied solely by her then boyfriend, now husband.

'It was very sparse: it had one sofa and a TV,' she says. 'I moved in and we started accumulating; then the children came.'

The couple's collection of art and accessories includes items borne of Amigh's creativity, such as old black-and-white bus destination signs from Sydney, where she lived before moving to Hong Kong, and blooms and branches from the flower market in striking Japanese-style arrangements.

'I remember, when I was young, my mum going into the yard and coming back with what to me looked like a leaf and a twig,' Amigh says. 'She would turn it into something amazing and make the space feel warmer.'

Not for her are look-but-don't-touch homes that wow but come across as cold and impersonal.

'Our stuff gets a bit trashed, the kids knock things; I don't dig those houses that are so done up you're scared to put your drink down without a coaster,' she says.

Not that you would, in a home where everything, it seems, has a place, including a play area filled with items from Hocusadabra, an online company that sells children's books, toys and more, and which she co-owns.

About her new business, Amigh says, 'It shocked me that Hong Kong was a shopping town but there was a huge lack of choice in terms of high-quality children's items.'

The children's zone, delineated by a large polka-dot carpet, sits beneath a curved staircase that leads to a master suite, com- plete with an en-suite bathroom and walk- in wardrobe.

Amigh's eclectic tastes can be seen in not only the items she sells but also the art on display in her home, although she says her husband deserves credit as well. Works from Iran, France, Japan, Australia and elsewhere fill the walls along the sweeping staircase (which also leads to a balcony), in the open dining area and above the television in the living room. Art also decorates the bedrooms.

Because theirs is a rented flat, renovation has been kept to a minimum, although before her first-born arrived five years ago, a new kitchen was installed with efficient floor-to-ceiling cabinets, Corian counters and a sink large enough to use as a baby bath.

'Everything in here is stuff we've really wanted,' Amigh says, seated on a B&B Italia leather sofa that was one of the couple's first purchases. 'I love a bargain ... and it was brand new,' she says, recalling how she'd pounced on a newspaper advertisement placed by a woman who'd bought the item then changed her mind. The three-seater couch sits beside another B&B sofa: one of the few items in the apartment when she moved in. 'That's been re-covered [in red] since,' she says. 'It was beige originally and no one was allowed to touch it.'

With daughter Zahra digging into freshly baked chocolate cake, fingers awaggle, disaster could be moments away, yet all is calm.

'This is really us,' Amigh says. 'I like the feeling of home being a place where everyone can feel really comfortable.'

1 The living room, which boasts a lofty ceiling and spectacular views, features a polka-dot wool rug made in Pakistan and bought from a shop that has since closed. The B+B Italia armchair and ottoman were bought years ago from Space Furniture (www. The white leather B+B Italia Harry sofa was bought second-hand. Cardboard storage boxes/seats (HK$550 each) from Hocusadabra (www.hocusadabra .com) sit at the bottom of the staircase.

2 The 12-seater La Barca table by Cassina was bought years ago from Desideri (6/F, Capitol Plaza, 2 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central, tel: 2950 4026). The chairs, covered in cream hide, came from a shop that has since closed. The watercolour on the left, by Hua Jin, came from Galerie du Monde (1/F, Ruttonjee Centre, 11 Duddell Street, Central, tel: 2525 0529); the Aboriginal painting, by Nyurapayia Nampitjinpa (also known as Mrs Bennett), came from a gallery in Woollahra, Sydney; the black-and-white picture, The Last Word, by Iranian Shirin Neshat, was bought through New York's Gladstone Gallery (www.; The Man In The Blue Background, by Wu Yiming, is from Shanghai's ShanghArt Gallery ( The colourful vases, cups and bowls are from Dinosaur Designs in Sydney (shop 77, Strand Arcade, tel: 61 2 9223 2953; The place mats were made by Tarlan Amigh (see Tried + tested).

3 The children's play area, which features a multicoloured polka-dot rug from a shop no longer open, is filled with items from Hocusadabra, including colourful storage tubs (HK$130 to HK$180), a Bisphenol A-free green truck (HK$390) and an ABC Love print (HK$450), above which are Cameroonian warrior headdresses sourced online many years ago.

4 The outdoor sofa was made years ago by Keystone ( The stools, sold in pairs by Hocusadabra for HK$1,750, are made in Germany using recycled catering tins.

5 The cabinet and alter table cost a total of HK$12,000 from Chine Gallery (42A Hollywood Road, Central, tel: 2543 0023). The ikebana is by Amigh, who has been studying the art for five years. On the floor, the wooden sculpture, Gwag Gwag Gwag, by an unknown artist, was from a gallery that has since closed. The blue artwork, Planet 66: Summer Vacation, by Takashi Murakami, was from Fabrik Contemporary Art (4/F, Yip Fung Building, 2 D'Aguilar Street, Central, tel: 2525 4911). The other work, Money or the Gum, by James Gordon, was from the Cat Street Gallery (222 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, tel: 2291 0006).

6 The kitchen was designed by David Roden (tel: 9774 3238; and cost about HK$80,000 including appliances. The Nest baby chair will soon be available through Hocusadabra.

7 Daughter Zahra's bed, dressed in sheets by Margaret Muir from Intohome (2/F, Prince's Building, Central, tel: 2869 9186), was custom made for about HK$7,000 by Kids By Red Cabinet (31/F, Universal Trade Centre, 3 Arbuthnot Road, Central, tel: 2868 0681). The handmade capes (HK$450 each), toys (HK$300 and up) and wooden step (HK$800) are from Hocusadabra, as are the prints (HK$450 each) in Ikea frames (various locations;

8 A Missoni towel hangs over a door of an Ikea cabinet, which cost about HK$4,000 with the bench, in the en-suite master bathroom.

9 The king-sized bed, with storage in the base, came from Desideri years ago, and the Poliform chest of drawers are from Sydney. The photograph above it, showing On Wo Lane and Gough Street in the 1960s, came from Picture This (2/F, Prince's Building, tel: 2525 2803).

Tried + tested

Roll call

Old bus destination rolls, sourced from an antiques shop in Sydney, were stretched by Tarlan Amigh and mounted by Mandarin Framing (53 Wellington Street, Central, tel: 2526 6098). Some now hang on the wall at the top of the stairs. Amigh also made the signs into place mats, by having them cut to size and covered in laminate by Ocean Printing (4/F, Shing Dao Industrial Building, 232 Aberdeen Main Road, Aberdeen, tel: 2819 5112).

Styling David Roden