Text Adele Brunner Pictures Dickson Lee
Alex and Kaye Dong’s apartment in Ho Man Tin is proof that you should never judge a book by its cover. You might assume it would conform to the ornate style of the complex’s exterior and common areas; instead, it is an exercise in sleek design – not a marble fixture or fitting in sight.
Kaye is managing director of interior design firm The Grene Group so her expertise played a major part in the apartment’s decor, but both she and her husband already knew what they wanted.
“Alex and I like dark, moody tones but because we have two girls, aged eight and two, we decided we had to strike a balance and lighten up the decor,” says Kaye. “We did this using special wooden flooring made by a boutique Dutch company called Bolefloor. We liked the warm feel of oak against the dark elements of our home and the fact that the company uses a technique that means 20 per cent more of each tree is used.”
The eco-friendly floorboards are cut according to the tree’s natural growth and curve gently. No two boards are the same and each has its own “barcode”, fitting next to specific boards only, like in a jigsaw puzzle.
The Dongs knocked down walls to open up the 2,300 sq ft apartment and enhance the light. What was a fourbedroom flat now houses two bedrooms, a spacious master bathroom, a study and a large living, dining and kitchen area.
“We like open living and enjoy entertaining,” says Kaye. “I grew up in Australia with an open kitchen in the house and we also had room here to install a large island. Our guests mingle round it and chat while we’re preparing food; our kids love to sit there for breakfast. It’s a very livable home and we’ve made it safe for the children.”
One downside to an open kitchen is the clutter on show. Kaye overcame this by placing appliances, such as the coffee machine, in a cupboard. The appliances are plugged in and can be used in situ, with the cupboard door open, while a remote-controlled roller door can quickly hide them away.
“I wanted to conceal the kitchen appliances but because I use them daily the solution had to be functional,” says Kaye.
She and Alex are self-confessed collectors of “stuff “, so she incorporated a wall of shelves on which to display their sculptures, books and other items such as a hand sculpture that was originally a mould for a glove that the couple found in New York.
“I like the fact that most pieces in our home have a story or personality, and we wanted to display them so everyone could enjoy them,” says Kaye.
The shelving unit also acts as a divider between the living area and the study, which incorporates a desk along one wall and is large enough to accommodate a temporary bed for guests.
The Dongs travel a lot and enjoy hotel living, elements of which have been replicated in the master bedroom and bathroom.
The latter in particular has fivestar minimal style in spades while a calming blend of dark grey slate and beautiful details (such as the elegant taps and the sculpted sinks) prevent the area from looking too stark. A long, deep bath behind the sink units has a ledge around it for candles; a transparent glass cubicle housing the toilet becomes opaque at the touch of a button.
“I wanted to bring the luxuries found in a good hotel into our home,” says Kaye.
“Alex particularly likes hotel bathrooms, so we sacrificed one of the original bedrooms to ensure we had space to incorporate a good-sized bath, the double sinks and a shower cubicle with a large rainfall shower.”
Taking hotel luxury a step further, the couple installed a Lutron home technology system, which enables the lighting, curtains and audio-visual equipment to be controlled through an iPad.
“The home-control system had to be decided upon very early in the design scheme in order for all the electric cables and other hardware to be laid,” says Kaye.
“The software was then installed onto my iPad. I can simply carry it around with me and if I suddenly want to watch a movie, I can close the curtains, activate the projector and screen and dim the lights without moving. It is so handy and neat.”
Although Kaye incorporated Alex’s tastes into the apartment, she says he played no part in the design process. He didn’t even set foot in the home until the renovation was complete.
“I know exactly what he likes and doesn’t like, and he didn’t see any of it until it was finished,” Kaye says, laughing.
“He said that he’s going to be in charge of the design for our next home, but I think we’ll have to see about that.”
Living-dining area (top) The shelving unit (HK$30,000), which was made by The Grene Group (tel: 2868 0655; www.thegrenegroup.com), divides the living area from the study. On it stand cartoon-style Chinese warriors, by artist Yang Tao, from Galerie du Monde (Ruttonjee Centre, 11 Duddell Street, Central, tel: 2525 0529) jars from Lane Crawford (various locations; www.lanecrawford.com) and other treasures. The Henge sofa (HK$156,000 including armchair) from Essess Designer Fabbrica (6/F, Yu Yuet Lai Building, 43 Wyndham Street, Central, tel: 3583 1744) is complemented by a Kelly Hoppen throw (HK$859) and cushions (HK$499) from Indigo Living (6/F, Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 2555 0540). The dog planter with a watering-can head (HK$3,200) came from Lane Crawford. The Henge dining table (HK$58,000) and pendant lights (HK$35,400 in total) came from Essess Designer Fabbrica; the dining chairs, by Vitra, cost HK$3,999 each from Aluminium (various locations; www.aluminium-furniture.com). The family portraits are by Venture Photography (www.venturephotography.com) and the gridiron building painting against the wall is by Steven Dix (www.stevendix.com).
Bathroom The flower-shaped sinks by Pittella (HK$11,000 for two) and Goccia taps by Gessi (HK$6,700 each) are all from colour.living (333 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2510 2666). The large mirror (HK$20,000) was custom made by The Grene Group and the ladder was from a shop in SoHo.
Corridor The canvas at the end of the corridor is based on an old bus scroll and cost HK$4,800 from www.busscrolls.com. The Oak Rustic flooring, by Bolefloor, cost HK$125 a square foot and was sourced by The Grene Group.
Balcony The balcony chair cost HK$4,100 from Aluminium. The floor lamp (HK$10,000) in the living area was purchased from Flos (44 Wyndham Street, Central, tel: 2801 7608).
Kitchen The appliances (HK$268,778 in total) were supplied by Einzi Unique Kitchen Solution (14/F, Galaxy Factory Building, 25 Luk Hop Street, San Po Kong, tel: 2180 7720), as were the cabinets and the island (HK$300,000 in total), and the Gessi mixer tap (HK$18,000). The stools cost HK$3,500 each from Kaviar (139 Wong Nai Chung Road, Happy Valley, tel: 2504 5666). The cake stand cost HK$600 from Homeless (29 Gough Street, Central, tel: 2581 1880).
Girls’ bedroom Fun and practical, the girls’ bunk bed (HK$28,800 from Art Deco, 238 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai, tel: 2834 6203) includes a slide, drawers in the steps to the top bunk and shelves. The aqua chair (HK$1,800) and toadstool (HK$1,000) both came from Petit Bazaar (9 Gough Street, Central, tel: 2544 2255). The pink sculpture on the windowsill is by Eames and came from Aluminium.
Master bedroom The headboard with built-in side tables (HK$20,000) were custom designed and built by The Grene Group. The cushions came from Indigo Living and Laura Ashley (various locations; www.laura-ashley.com.hk); the silver-grey cushion on the windowsill (HK$1,000) was from G.O.D. (various locations; www.god.com.hk). The tray on the bed cost HK$699 from Indigo Living and the rug was HK$9,000 from TREE. The Mirror Ball bedside lights, by Tom Dixon (HK$6,300 each), were from Homeless and the silver picture frames (HK$400 to HK$1,000 each) were from a selection by Laura Ashley. Hanging above the bed are framed tea towels given to Kaye at her best friend’s wedding.
TRIED + TESTED
Secret garden Kaye Dong designed an easy-to-get-to indoor herb garden. The kitchen island incorporates a built-in trough, which can accommodate several standard-sized pots of herbs. The plants can be easily maintained or substituted with flowers. The "garden" also divides the seating area from the hob, preventing little hands from reaching over.