A colonial building on The Peak provides a recently arrived family with a taste of Hong Kong's past and stunning views of its present
Text Adele Brunner Pictures Jonathan Wong Styling David Roden
When Tom and Kara McBride moved from Tokyo to Hong Kong a couple of years ago they had no idea what kind of accommodation to expect. They opted for a run-ofthe- mill apartment in Mid-Levels but soon realised they had to find something else.
“It was convenient for a while but it was a dark, claustrophobic flat and as we got to know Hong Kong we knew there were far better options to be had,” says Kara.
The couple considered moving to Clearwater Bay for more space but when a friend, who was helping Kara to house hunt, took her to see an apartment on The Peak, she was instantly smitten.
“On paper, it had none of the criteria I had listed,” she recalls.
“The place was a building site; there were wires everywhere. It was a hideous shell, but I remember thinking, ‘This is perfect.’” The four-bedroom, 2,400 sq ft flat, has access to communal gardens and views of Victoria Harbour and the city, with plenty of green in between. Housed in a colonial-style building constructed in 1951, its rooms are large and spacious and the ceilings high.
“I love the fact that the flat is so light and airy,” says Kara. “I looked at a lot of other blocks around Hong Kong and so many of them were oppressive.”
Because the apartment is a rental, the McBrides didn’t have any say in the decor. Before they moved in, the walls were painted white throughout and a dark wood floor was laid. To personalise it, the couple have added splashes of colour in the form of paintings, light fittings, cushions and rugs.
“I have quite an eclectic taste and I like colourful things, with a tendency towards purple and other warm colours,” says Kara.
Much of the furniture and home accessories are keepsakes or have been picked up on the couple’s travels – from a wooden stool Tom made at school in England to art acquired in Hong Kong – but a Japanese flavour is also evident, particularly in the dining area.
Stunning photographic artwork of the Japanese Alps by photographer Tetsuo Kikuchi takes up much of one wall and a long cherrywood dining table and chairs are striking in their simplicity.
“We tracked down a Japanese craftsman we had heard about but his version of time was different to ours,” says Tom, of an aborted attempt to order a table made from scratch. “When he said the wood was ready, he only meant it had almost finished drying, so we cancelled and bought a ready-made one instead. But we struck it lucky as it is a single piece of wood and much better quality than the one we had chosen initially.”
From the Jake Phipps bowler hat light in the entrance hall to the David Trubridge lampshades in the main room, the illumination in the McBride home is bold and beautiful.
“Trubridge bases his designs on natural forms found in Australia and New Zealand, where he lives,” says Kara.
“The shades come in kit form so you can build them yourself. We cheated and had them assembled for us as they arrived the day we moved in and we wanted to get as much as possible installed.”
Often a problem in Hong Kong, the built-in storage space proved insufficient, so the McBrides turned one of the bedrooms into a study and kitted it out with a double desk and wall-to-wall bookshelves.
“It was a bare, stupidly shaped bedroom that you couldn’t do much with,” says Kara. “I designed the shelving and found a man to build it. By doing it ourselves, we could build a desk to the dimensions we wanted and create a special area for the computer screen. It made sense to spend a bit of money and turn the room into something functional, otherwise we would be paying for space we don’t actually use.”
The results speak for themselves: a light and spacious home perfect for a growing family.
Living room (top) The purple armchair was bought from the Conran Shop (www.conranshop.co.uk) in Britain many years ago and has since been re-upholstered by Sun Sun Interiors (24 Fleming Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2511 2008). The Octo birch pendant lamp above it, by Seppo Koho, cost HK$6,500 at Homeless (29 Gough Street, Central, tel: 2581 1880) and the pleated fabric KtribeT2 Soft side lamps, by Philippe Starck, cost HK$10,400 each at Flos (44 Wyndham Street, Central, tel: 2801 7608). The Clinker side tables, by Rich Brilliant Willing, are finished in oak and cost HK$11,520 each at Innermost (248 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, tel: 2857 5289). The striped rug (HK$30,000) was custom ordered from Faux (3/F, Harbour Industrial Centre, 10 Lee Hing Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 2851 4040). The long Philippe Starck Mister sofa cost about HK$80,000 at Anterra (5 Blue Pool Road, Happy Valley, tel: 2577 5716). The cushions (about HK$2,500 for six) were sourced through stylist David Roden (tel: 9774 3238; www.davidroden.yolasite.com). The blue throw was a present. The cherrywood rocking horse was bought from furniture maker Shutaro Hoshino in Japan.
Dining area The dining table and chairs were also bought from Hoshino. The photographic art of the Japanese Alps, by Tetsuo Kikuchi (Gallery Tetsuo Kikuchi, Wadano, Hakuba, Kita-Azumi, Nagano, Japan, tel: 81 2 6172 5048), was acquired when Tom and Kara McBride were living in Japan. The David Trubridge Coral lampshades (HK$3,250 each) came from Okooko (27/F, Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 2870 1132). The dog basket was bought years ago.
Living room detail The audio-visual cabinet (HK$15,000) was custom made by a local contractor and the audio equipment came from Bang & Olufsen (3/F, One Hysan Avenue, Causeway Bay, tel: 2882 1782). The photographic artwork was bought overseas.
Kitchen The kitchen had been fitted when the McBrides moved in. The couple bought the bird biscuit tin from a cafe in the mountains of Japan. “The lady had been trying to sell it for 25 years,” says Kara. The red Tripp Trapp chair, by Stokke, was bought online but is available from Mothercare (various locations; www.mothercare.com.hk) for HK$2,290.
Entrance The Jeeves bowler hat pendant lamp (HK$1,500), by Jake Phipps, came from Innermost and the table was acquired in a sale at Ovo (16 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai, tel: 2526 7226). The black-and-white photograph was bought in Cambodia.
Study The office chairs (HK$6,000 each) came from Marc James Design (16/F, Horizon Plaza, tel: 2517 2000).
Master bedroom detail At the foot of the bed is a discontinued reproduction Eames lounge chair and ottoman, and a chunky knit cushion (about HK$500) from Bals home store in Tokyo (www.balstokyo.com). The wooden statue of a giraffe was bought on a trip to Africa and the chest came from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Master bedroom Above the bed (about HK$10,000), from the Natural Bed Company (www.naturalbedcompany.co.uk) in Britain, is a painting by Hong Kong-based artist Richard Winkworth (e-mail: email@example.com). The bedlinen came from Heal’s in London (www.heals.co.uk) and the throw from Bed & Bath (Prince’s Building, Central, tel: 2522 5151). The Boja side lamps (HK$399 each) were from Ikea (various locations; www.ikea.com.hk) and the bedside tables from BoConcept (www.boconcept.com).
TRIED + TESTED
Cutting a rug When finding a rug for her daughter's bedroom proved difficult, Kara McBride decided to design one herself. She incorporated the family dog, her daughter's name and various cartoon characters into a colourful drawing, which Yarns Wool Carpets (26/F, Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 2525 2338) turned into a mirror-image rug, using 100 per cent New Zealand wool, in the dimensions of her choosing (HK$6,800 for a five foot by seven foot rug).