Text Adele Brunner / Photographs Jonathan Wong
When the majority of Hong Kong homeowners want to renovate, they call in architects, contractors or interior designers to gut their properties and start from scratch. Not so Maya Kelett and Heath Tang, an Australian couple who have lived in Hong Kong for 5½ years.
“We gave our home a makeover rather than a full renovation,” says Kelett, of the almost 2,000 sq ft rooftop flat in Mid-Levels. “We ripped out most of what had been built in, such as cupboards and fake walls with cut-out niches. We then replastered walls, laid floorboards, installed kitchen appliances and repainted.”
Her use of the word “we” means exactly that. The couple had difficulty finding English-speaking contractors happy to take on the project with its short timeframe.
The abbreviated handover was due to the previous owner’s desire to remain in the flat for as long as possible after contracts had been signed and the couple’s pressing need to move into a newly reconditioned home.
“We had a one-month-old baby at the time so Heath did pretty much all the work. We had renovated various places in Australia, where we lived before coming to Hong Kong, and he knew exactly what to do,” says Kelett.
“He was such a star and did everything in between work and studying. If Heath hadn’t become a pilot, I’d love him to be something hands on like a builder or carpenter. I took our little ones back to Sydney and stayed with my mother while most of the de- then the con-struction work was going on.”
They make a good team. Having known each other since high school, they are in tune with each other’s tastes and tend to like the same things. In addition, Kelett used to work at the Australian House & Garden magazine – first as style director (she styled the photographs in this shoot) and then as editor – so she provides the creativity needed to make a home truly outstanding.
“Generally, Heath does all the building stuff and I do the decorative,” she says. “I come up with design ideas and then narrow them down; for example, I might give him five colours I’d be happy with and he chooses the one he likes best.”
Patterns are Kelett’s current passion and this is evident throughout the three-bedroom flat, with its stylish stencilling and hand-painted canvases, all of which she executed herself. Dot stencilling adorns the wall in the study area and even the desk, turning an otherwise insignificant corner into something spectacular.
The front door features a beautiful Indian-inspired pattern and nondescript risers on the spiral staircase have been made a focal point.
“The view from this room isn’t much, so there had to be something inside that was interesting to look at,” she says. “So I’d hand-paint or stencil one step at a time while [the baby] slept – also to stop myself going nuts.
I’d cover everything [with patterns] given the chance.”
Kelett has gone to town in the baby’s bedroom, covering the best part of two walls with a gorgeous tree.
Seemingly a wall decal, it is actually a felt-and-fabric combination, again designed and made by herself.
“I went to the fabric market in Sham Shui Po for the felt and patterned material,” says Kelett. “Later, on a walk with my boys, we found the perfect leaf, so we brought it home and I traced around it to make a template and cut the fabric accordingly. There is a book called Owl Know How [by Cat Rabbit and Isobel Knowles], which has a template for the little owl. It’s a bit girly but I can just about get away with it as the boys are still young.”
Kelett doesn’t like using the same decor in two places, nor is she keen on all-white rooms. Khaki doors and walls are pivotal to the apartment’s colour scheme, complemented by shades of Tiffany blue.
Although only a temporary addition to the flat, the light, bright and spacious upstairs kitchen is the epitome of contemporary chic. It combines sleek appliances and designer furniture with quirky touches such as a blackboard door. However, this is simply a makeover while the couple cook up plans for a new kitchen downstairs.
“It will be another project; the chance to create something different again,” says Kelett. “I’d love to create a beautiful garden [on the roof ]. I’ve seen prolific planting in hotels in Hong Kong so I know it’s possible and hopefully it will become another room, just one outdoors.”
Kitchen: Maya Kelett painted a door with Dulux blackboard paint from Yuen Fat Ho (77 Hollywood Road, Central, tel: 2546 8020). The blue planter with stand was from Pad Outdoor in the United States (www.padoutdoor.com) but the exact model is no longer available. The abstract artwork was painted by Kelett. The kitchen cabinetry was from Poggenpohl (LG/F, Sunning Plaza, 10 Hysan Avenue, Causeway Bay, tel: 2870 1183). The pendant lights were bought several years ago at Habitat in London, Britain (www.habitat.co.uk). The stainlesssteel table, which rests on castors, was custom designed by Kelett and made by a kitchen shop on Shanghai Street, Kowloon. The replica Panton chairs were 690 yuan (HK$865) each from mainland company Modern Design 100 (www.moderndesign100.com). The glass vase was picked up in Mong Kok’s flower market. The large serving bowl (US$118) and shallow salad bowl (US$129) were from Heath Ceramics in the US (www.heathceramics.com). The candlesticks came from a shop in Sydney, Australia, that has since closed.
Child's room: a drawing of a motorbike by Tang on the wall makes his little boy's bedroom super cool. The bed was from Ikea (various locations; www.ikea.com.hk) and the dinosaur bedlinen was from Dutch company Hema (www.hema.nl).
Bedroom: the pressed-metal panels that make up the headboard were from Pressed Tin Panels in Australia (www.pressedtinpanels.com). The bedlinen is from a selection by Martha Stewart from Macy’s in New York, in the US (www1.macys.com). The cushions were bought years ago from The Brown Trading Company.
It's a wrap Instead of ripping out and replacing a stair rail in a mid-tone glossy wood she didn't like, Maya Kelett found a spool of ribbon in Sham Shui Po that she wrapped around the offending item, using glue to keep it in place. The ribbon also provides a good grip for little ones negotiating the stairs.