Labour of love
An antique dealer’s apartment is a tribute to her late husband’s distinctive furniture designs as well as her own passion
Text Catherine Shaw / Styling David Roden / Pictures John Butlin
Ask antiques specialist Kate Davies to describe her home and she responds, with a laugh: “I don’t like to be tied down to a single style. Obviously I love antiques but I mix them with contemporary pieces. I’m also a very practical person, so everything has to be useful.”
The former investment banker, who moved to Hong Kong in 1997 from Melbourne, Australia, turned her passion for antiques into a career last year, partly as a result of the unexpected death of her Greek-Australian husband, Steven Rodis, in 2010.
“It was a traumatic time but it made me look at my life from all different angles. I travelled extensively for my work so it wasn’t sustainable. I chose to start something I was passionate about that also offered the flexibility to spend time with our daughter.”
Davies spent her childhood surrounded by European antiques and, having earned a reputation for sourcing distinctive items for friends and family, decided to establish an atelier specialising in 18th- and 19th-century furniture from France, Belgium and Britain.
Davies says she selected her current 1,800 sq ft rental apartment in Wan Chai with practicality in mind.
“As a single working mother I wanted to make sure our daughter, who is four years old, is near an established community of other children and that I could get to and from work quickly.”
The interior was designed with the aim of creating a welcoming home, she adds.
“Older pieces add warmth and mean- -ing to a home but I didn’t want it to be all antiques.
“Hong Kong apartments are usually quite small so you have to be especially creative to make decorations practical.
Luckily most antiques were designed to be useful. For example, my antique English butler’s tray looks highly decorative but I use it to serve coffee. My 250- year-old French oak dining table, meanwhile, has small drawers that are perfect for storing napkins.”
Davies says the antiques throughout the three-bedroom apartment are not intended to allude to a particular period but simply to evoke a sense of age. “It is more about injecting a feeling of a comfortable home. I think that is even more important when you are an expatriate and fractured from your family.”
For the open-plan living and dining area, Davies mapped out a free-flowing series of spaces ideal for reading or entertaining friends. The area exhibits a comfortable synergy between old and new, ornate and modern: Konstantin Grcic’s Chair One, in black, sits beside an 18thcentury English George III mahogany fall-front desk, which doubles as a workspace or sideboard when serving dinner.
Two large French antique mirrors on the living-room wall give the illusion of space.
Davies uses bold and vibrant art – such as the “portraits” of family names in Sanskrit (Davies met her husband in India) – to punctuate spaces and to imbue the lightfilled apartment with a sense of spirit.
Elsewhere, she communicates her vivacious personality through saturated colours and sensuous textures combined with quirky details, such as vintage monogrammed French table linen dyed a greyblue and used as an elegant bedcover.
Davies’ husband was a renowned product designer and several of his pieces have pride of place in the home. In the living area, for example, a solid turned-wood coffee table provides a striking visual focus, while in the master bedroom his modern interpretation of a classic wingback chair (called “No Secrets”) is a favourite reading spot.
There are hints of Davies’ practical edge, too: custom-made sliding doors covered in blackboard paint hide shelves of books and toys and double as a handy bulletin board.
“I collect what I like,” Davies says, surveying her home. “I don’t buy art and furniture to match but I like it to be authentic, hence the name of my business, Authentiques.
“[Furniture of a] good design always goes together, whatever age each item comes from.”
Dining area: The French oak dining table, from circa 1780, which extends to seat up to 14, is one of a range of similar tables available at Authentiques (HK$45,000 to HK$55,000; 10/F, Hua Qin International Building, 340 Queen’s Road Central, tel: 3460 4286). The English oak and rush-seated dining chairs were a gift from Kate Davies’ parents. The six paintings of family members’ names written in Sanskrit were custom made through Australian online gallery www. canvasandcanvas.com. The butler’s tray is a family heirloom. The potted olive tree (HK$560) came from Hay Fever Floral & Gifts (62 Flower Market Road, Mong Kok, tel: 2397 0668). The ceiling lamp was designed by Davies’ late husband, Steven Rodis.
Living area A model of the curved Manchurian ash coffee table, designed by Rodis, is available for HK$7,000 from Authentiques. The antique Kilim rug was a gift from Davies’ parents. The cushions (HK$600 each) came from Berfin Kilim (www.berfinkilim.com) in Japan. The sofas were custom made 15 years ago by Artura Interiors (now called Artura Ficus, 15/F, Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 3105 3903). The 19th-century French notaries’ office antique mirrors cost HK$17,000 each (two more from the set of four are available from Authentiques). The black lacquered cabinet has four doors designed to look like apothecary drawers and came from Rodis’ furniture range. The black floor lamp (HK$649) came from Ikea (various locations; www.ikea.com.hk). The reading floor lamp cost HK$2,090 from Indigo Living (The Arcade, 100 Cyberport Road, Pok Fu Lam, tel: 2555 0540). The contemporary chandelier was a gift from Rodis.
Dining area detail The George III mahogany fall-front desk, made circa 1780, with leather interior, is available at Authentiques for HK$35,000. The Chair One, by Konstantin Grcic for Magis, was bought years ago. The neon orange lampholder (HK$1,900) came from Eclectic Cool (58 Po Hing Fong, Sheung Wan, tel: 2549 6682).
Bathroom To add character to the bathroom, Davies added lush green towelling; an Excell jungle shower curtain (US$29.99), from Macy’s in San Francisco, in the United States; white elephant sculptures (HK$550 for the large one and HK$420 for the small piece); and a quirky stool that was bought years ago. A hanging basket bought in Thailand adds to the tropical ambience.
Kitchen The hanging herb planter pots (HK$59 each) were from Ikea. The cake stand (used to store fruits; HK$315) came from Homeless (28 Gough Street, Central, tel: 2851 1160). Washable paper bags, which cost A$28 (HK$200) to A$44 from Uashmama (www.uashmama.com.au), provide storage for vegetables.
Daughter’s bedroom: The custom-made bedhead and fabric (HK$2,500), matching valance and fabric (HK$2,000), stool (HK$3,200), fitted black pure-wool carpet (HK$4,700), curtains (HK$2,800) and bespoke floor cushions (HK$450 each), which were made from Davies’ late husband’s shirts, were all made by Wai Wing Upholstery & Curtain (21/F, Block 1, Kingley Industrial Building, 35 Yip Kan Street, Wong Chuk Hang, tel: 9013 6162). The cushions (950 baht/HK$235 each) on the bed were purchased from Ginger & The House Shop, in Chiang Mai, Thailand (199 Moonmuang Road, T. Sriphum, A. Maung, tel: 66 53 418 263). The lamp at the foot of the bed, the cream faux crocodile skin storage boxes and bookcases were all designed by Rodis.
Master bedroom: The monogrammed vintage French linen bedsheet (HK$2,200) is from a collection available at Authentiques. The Turkish rug (HK$15,000) was bought on a trip to Istanbul. The colourful cushions (HK$900 each) were purchased from The Conran Shop, in London, Britain (Michelin House, 81 Fulham Road, tel: 44 20 7589 7401). The pair of oak demi-lune bedside tables, bought years ago in London, display Dutch designer Arne Jacobsen’s table lamps (HK$1,490 each) from Indigo Living. The green velvet French Provençale chair (HK$26,400 for a set of six) came from Authentiques. A model of the white linen and alderwood wingback armchair (HK$7,500), designed by Rodis, is available from Authentiques. The artworks were sourced many years ago.
All angles covered A custom-made storage cupboard, built for HK$4,200 by Namxing Construction (2/F, Block 2, Yip On Factory Estate, Wang Hoi Road, Kowloon Bay, tel: 2756 3318), maximises space in an angular bay window. It also offers a platform on which to display decorative items, such as the metal globe, which was a gift from Kate Davies' late husband, Steven Rodis, to her mother.