A boss once described Nathalie Weston as 'fearless' where interior design was concerned. Any visitor to her 2,500 sq ft flat - a rental to boot - would arrive at the same conclusion: walls are a riot of colour, texture and design; furniture has been painted; pendant lamps are hung in unusual configurations; and paper cutouts have been affixed to drawers.
Then there are the improvements she made so the apartment functioned and felt better. 'It was a pit,' she says.
Add an 's' to the noun to describe her landlord. Having created a beautiful nest in which they have lived for two years, the family will be moving out because the rent has jumped 50 per cent. This after Weston put in decking on the balcony; sanded and limed the parquet flooring (which was as shiny as an 'ice rink'); erected a partition wall to separate the living room from the entrance; and built cabinets for the bathrooms and re-enamelled the tubs. Weston also updated the kitchen with modern appliances, all of which will be staying put.
Although some enhancements were far from cheap - the made-to-order wallpaper with koi feature, for example - others were inexpensive, Weston says, including the black-and-white linoleum flooring installed in the kitchen and two bathrooms (which was much more cost effective than removing the offensive tiles they cover). Ditto spray-painting the mosaics on the wall, and lightening the once-dark wooden flooring as well as giving it a matt varnish, which was worth it, she says, considering its brightening effect. Building the wall was another minor cost.
Although the wallpaper will probably stay behind in the move, Weston remains a big fan of such coverings.
'Wallpaper is something that makes rooms feel bigger,' she says. 'There's nothing worse than walking into a place that feels like a gallery space, with big white walls or, even worse, big cream walls. Wallpaper gives rooms depth, and you don't have to hang anything on it, so for people who don't have art it solves a huge problem.'
Weston used wallpaper to decorate her daughter's room while in her one-year-old son's bedroom, she affixed narrow rectangular stickers in a horizontal line on the walls, giving the effect of a panoramic landscape, and on another surface painted vertical stripes.
'You don't want kids' spaces to be overstimulating, busy or wild, but you do want them to be fun,' Weston says. 'People tend always to have Winnie the Pooh or something cutesy in kids' rooms and it's not particu- larly stylish.'
Many also tend to favour single colour schemes, which Weston abhors. 'You're never going to find me doing an interior that's monochromatic or beige, because our lives are full of colour,' she says.
Her dining room is testament to that belief and to a love of whimsy: four panels of seemingly discrete wallpaper designs decorate a wall, in front of which are a table picked up in Sri Lanka that she painted white, chairs that she also personalised, and three copper lamps hung together to striking effect. The art on the walls is an appealing assortment and includes paintings of astronauts, a Japanese beckoning cat and a 16th-century portrait bought in France.
'I prefer things to be quirky and out there,' Weston says, acknowledging that her husband is the mathematician and engineer of the family. 'He is drawn to things straight and perfect.'
But to her what matters more than how to decorate is that people do so with items that mean something to them. 'I think the key is to surround yourself with things in the home that you love, rather than having everything new when you move,' she says.
No doubt she will be repeating that as a packing mantra ... along with curses for rapacious landlords.
1 Daughter's room
Gracing the bedroom of Simon and Nathalie Weston's four-year-old daughter is Cole & Son's flamingo wallpaper (HK$1,200 per 10-metre roll) from Altfield Interiors (11/F, 9 Queen's Road Central, tel: 2524 3066). The mini dining table (HK$850) and chairs (HK$350 each) came from Attic Lifestyle (12/F, Sungib Industrial Centre, 53 Wong Chuk Hang Road, Aberdeen, tel: 6901 6715), which was also the source for the patchwork quilt (HK$2,495). The play kitchen cost HK$799 at Ikea (various locations; www.ikea.com.hk). The peg rack was made by Nathalie Weston's interior design company, Weston & Co Design (tel: 6255 4933; www.westonandcodesign.com) for HK$500. The carpet (HK$2,900) and bed (HK$7,900) came from Inside (Prince's Building, Central, tel: 2537 6298). The Chinese stool was found in a junk shop in Sri Lanka years ago. The pink paper lanterns were from Offspring (The Repulse Bay, 109 Repulse Bay Road, Repulse Bay, tel: 2812 2636).
2 Son's room
On two walls in the Westons' one-year-old son's room, Nathalie Weston affixed Kikkerland panoramic landscape stickers (HK$280 for four metres) from Homeless (28 Gough Street, Central, tel: 2851 1160). The chair, from Shambala (2/F, Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 2555 2997), the chest/changing table, from Indigo Home (6/F, Horizon Plaza, tel: 2555 0540), and the Indian pewter table, from Inside, were all picked up at sales years ago. The hide rug came from Attic Lifestyle and cost HK$5,200.
3 Living room
A large carp features on wallpaper in the living room. The fish was designed to size and the wallpaper was customised by TapetenAgentur.de and cost Euro800 (HK$8,900). The television console was bought years ago from The Hamptons (27/F, Horizon Plaza, tel: 2553 2888). The Hollywood Regency coffee table beside it was bought through eBay for US$150. The coffee table in the middle of the room was made from an antique Dutch window customised by Weston & Co Design. The sofa and pouffe were bought years ago from Lane Crawford (various locations; www.lanecrawford.com). The small replica of the Philippe Starck Louis Ghost chair cost about HK$300 at A Square (2 Blue Pool Road, Happy Valley, tel: 2834 4555). The copper Diva floor lamp (HK$8,999) came from Aluminium (various locations; www.aluminium-furniture.com). The chandelier, bought at a market in Bruges, Belgium was rewired and restored by YL Lighting (33A Waterloo Road, Mong Kok, tel: 2780 0871).
4 Dining room
Facing the entrance is the dining area, which features Lene Toni Kjeld-designed wallpaper imported from Germany through TapetenAgentur.de and made specifically for this wall. Nathalie Weston used four designs side by side, which cost a total of Euro700. The three pendant lamps were bought years ago through eBay and at markets in Paris, France. The dining table and chairs came from Villa Saffron in Sri Lanka (411 Sri Jayawardenapura Mawatha Welikada, Rajagiriya, Colombo, tel: 94 11 5331 651) and were customised by Weston & Co Design. The console came from the same shop. The Westons' collection of art includes two paintings of astronauts from the 1971 Apollo mission, by John Parkin (johnparkin.co.uk), bought through Apart gallery in London, Britain (www.ap-art.co.uk). The painting on the far left is by Nathalie Weston. The Eames chair was a gift.
5 Master bedroom
Decorating the master bedroom are Fornasetti plates (about HK$3,000 each) from Lane Crawford Home Store (Pacific Place, Admiralty, tel: 2118 3668). The sleigh bed came from Villa Saffron years ago, as did the bedside table. The Kartell Miss K bedside lamp is available for HK$2,900 from Flos (44 Wyndham Street, Central, tel: 2801 7608).
6 En-suite bathroom
The Westons' contractor, Alteria (tel: 9819 9788), re-enamelled bathroom fittings and painted the wall tiles and existing sink counter, and installed laminate chequered flooring two years ago when the family moved in. The pendant lamp was found at a flea market in Paris and the second-hand print on the wall, by Vladimir Tretchikoff, was bought from Portobello Market, London. Similar prints can be found at the artist's website, www.vladimirtretchikoff.com for about HK$1,000 each.
New cabinets and Corian countertops were installed to complement the original 1960s enamel Japanese Takara Standard cabinetry (www.takara-standard.co.jp) and retain the retro look. The laminate flooring was sourced from Luen Hing Hong Building Materials (304 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2392 3129) and cost HK$4,500 for the kitchen and two small bathrooms. The appliances are from Baumatic (3 Leighton Road, Causeway Bay, tel: 2834 2380).
Nathalie Weston turned a regular balcony into a pretty sitting-out area with hanging lanterns (HK$620 each) and a porcelain stool (HK$1,090) from Sidewalk (10 Gough Street, tel: 2850 7121). The sofa was bought years ago from Dedon (32/F, 248 Queen's Road East, Wan Chai, tel: 2529 7233) and the birdcages came from the bird market in Mong Kok.
Beside the entrance is an old herbal medicine cabinet bought years ago at Villa Saffron. The hide rug cost HK$5,200 from Attic Lifestyle. The black-and-white photographs are by Simon Weston.
Tried + Tested
In the shade
Many of the drawers of this old medicine cabinet do not open and close smoothly. To make sure the cabinet does not look unsightly when some of the drawers are left ajar, Nathalie Weston painted the insides of each compartment a different colour.