Much to write home about In this era of McMansions, it's hard to believe there was a time when architects designed attractive, affordable homes for the suburban middle class. In their book, Designer Suburbs: Architects and Affordable Homes in Australia, (right), Judith O'Callaghan and Charles Pickett examine the 1960s and 70s heyday of affordable architect-designed homes, and even for readers who might never have ventured Down Under it's a fascin-ating read and a sobering testament to how far suburbanites and housing developers have strayed.

The book is packed with images of sleek modernist homes designed by such luminaries as Harry Seidler, Ken Woolley and Michael Dysart, and most of them - especially those by builders Pettit and Sevitt - are in Sydney's leafy North Shore. The mission-brown oregon timber and white-painted facades are very much of their time; and the furnishings are designer offerings from the likes of Arne Jacobsen and Pierre Paulin. The book leaves you wistful for a golden era, when suburbia wasn't synonymous with poor taste. Designer Suburbs: Architects and Affordable Homes in Australia is available at


Enter the dragon We're not sure whether we love it or hate it, but there's no doubting the burnished bronze dragon motif wrapped around the new Hotel Indigo on Queen's Road East, Wan Chai (right), is interesting. Full marks to architect/designer Aedas for coming up with such an innovative eco-screen. The dragon counteracts hot spots and solar gain on the hotel's facade, so it's a case of form following function to keep the modernists happy. Opening its doors on May 1, Hotel Indigo Hong Kong, which is part of the InterContinental Hotel Group, boasts 138 guest rooms, each encapsulating the rich history of Wan Chai in idiosyncratic design features and artworks. The rooftop SkyBar should be a popular meeting spot for local movers and shakers while those with vertigo may want to stay well away from the infinity-edged glass-bottomed swimming pool. For more details, visit


Selling point To be honest, the Gira door handle by Jasper Morrison for Colombo is not the most scintillating object we've ever featured in Off The Wall. Don't get us wrong, it's sleek, it's shiny, it's everything a door handle should be and if we were ever in need of new door hardware, the Gira would be at the top of our list. But exciting? Hmm … No. What we really like about the Gira is the marketing campaign. Calling to mind "gnome-nappers", those cheeky scoundrels who steal people's garden gnomes and then send photographs of the little blighters in various locations around the world, the Gira has been taken on a tour of Venice and snapped at various points in the watery Italian city, from the Grand Canal to St Mark's Square. We think the point is to show that the handle (made from brass and finished

in stainless steel or chrome) can withstand the city's salty environment. Or something like that. The Gira (HK$1,180 for handle only) is available from E. Bon Building Materials (18/F, First Commercial Building, 33 Leighton Road, Causeway Bay, tel: 2891 3389).