Here we glow again

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 December, 2010, 12:00am

In Hong Kong, our winters are just about right: chilly enough but not too cold to enjoy long nights and lazy weekends snuggling up at home. But the brevity of the coat season means it's over before you know it, which is why now is the ideal time to give your home a mini-makeover that will provide warmth and comfort.

Catherine Trotman, owner and founder of interiors store Inside, turns her home into a cocoon in winter. It's not only to accommodate the change in temperature, but has cultural significance as well, she says. 'As Christmas and Lunar New Year approach, it's the time to start nesting and drawing family in around you. People tend to be home more over this period, so it's nice to cosy it up.'

Describing herself as 'very Victorian', Trotman 'changes everything' in winter, including the curtains and sofa covers. Summer's flimsy fabrics are tucked under the bed in vacuum-pack storage bags, replaced with luxuriant swathes of velvet and silk. Even in places where curtains don't normally exist - such as across open doorways - Trotman will put up a pole and hang rich drapery.

She puts 'layer upon layer' of throws on the backs of sofas, for snuggling up and watching television. Feather-filled blankets (like an old-fashioned eiderdown, only thinner) replace the duvets on beds, teamed with more textured throws in warming winter colours.

Lighting is softened to add a feeling of security, and candles are a winter staple. Trotman, who says you can't underestimate the value of lighting in design, has just installed twinkling pink fairy lights over her daughter's bed. 'I can't imagine doing that in summer,' she says.

French designer Thomas Letourneux has a radical thought: ban the television in winter.

'Winter is a period where time passes differently and activity slows down. So the less stimulation, the better,' says Letourneux, creative director of Boutique Design.

In his ideal winter cocoon, television would be replaced by a comfy sofa as the centrepiece. 'You can never have too many cushions on the sofa,' he says. 'Use tones of oranges and reds for the fabrics. Add a lamp with soft orange lighting. Place a small bookshelf next to your sofa, and fill it with magazines and books to flick through: they usually collect dust around the house, so it's a good time to give them the attention they deserve.

'Then, you can then either put on some background music or enjoy the quietness of the winter.'

Coming from 'dark, cold parts of the world', Swedish designer Lotta Rojens invokes familiar sights, sounds and smells in winter. 'As soon as it gets cold in Hong Kong, I bring out everything [cosy] I can, including candles, big and small,' says Rojens, of LRD. 'I love to put out many different types, styles and sizes of candles, nestling them together for a bigger impact.'

Candles produce a soft, yellow ambient light, and their flickering flames can be mesmerising. To enhance their effect, Rojens likes to stand candles on or against a flat mirror - the inexpensive ones from Ikea are fine - for an 'amazing, yet very simple' interplay of light.

Scents are high on the agenda for Rojens. 'I always have fresh flowers year-round, but come winter I go to Sham Shui Po flower market to buy tulips and hyacinths, arranging them with a bit of moss and ferns. When I open the front door and smell hyacinths, candles and cinnamon that I have out on a big plate, for me this is such a strong experience of winter.'

Changing one's surroundings enables you to 'feel' the different seasons, adds Rojens, who also accessorises in warm colours of oranges and reds in winter, and 'comfort' textures like fake fur, Tudor checks, sheepskin, suede and mohair.

But nothing quite says winter like a naked flame. In Hong Kong, candles might once have been the closest we'd come to an open fireplace, but that's changed with the invention of modern, ethanol-burning fireplaces that no longer require a chimney, and are safe to use in even a small flat.

Among the new arrivals this year is the Safretti range of decorative fireplaces, created by leading European designers such as Jan des Bouvrie, Frans Schrofer and Roderick Vos. Designs include the Carr?(from HK$42,800), which can be either wall or table-mounted, making them 'ideal for large, neutral living rooms in need of a focal point', says Dora Sui, brand manager, Kitchens + Interiors.

Another Safretti design, the Gaya, this year won Germany's highest official design award, the Design Award of the Republic of Germany, known as the 'prize of prizes'. The Gaya (HK$24,300) evokes images of dancing flames set against a striking black frame.

'It's like a painting on the wall, which at first does not appear as a fireplace,' says designer Roderick Vos. 'It is a design that has been reduced to pure simplicity.'

Should you have the inclination (and an oven), winter is also the time for hearty home cooking. And if you think knitting by the fire is going a tad too far, how about a nice glass of red instead?

You're getting warmer

Hot new products for a Hong Kong winter:

Safretti Fireplaces from Kitchens + Interiors, Shop 102-103, Ruttonjee Centre, 11 Duddell St, Central, tel: 2810 0979

Feather blanker (HK$1,100) and Moroccan duvet cover and pillow case (HK$1,100); Hurricane-look lamp (HK$290) with Bahai lotus candle (HK$90); mohair throw (HK$480) and blockprinted silk cushion covers (from HK$380) all from Inside, 12/F, Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau tel: 2873 1795

Natural goose down duvet (US$150 single to US$310 super-king) and pillow (US$90) from Sleep Naked online store;