Text Catherine Shaw / Styling David Roden / Pictures John Butlin
Arriving in Tai Long Wan village, tucked away at the end of a tiny lane on Lantau’s southern coastline, is like stepping into another world. Local fishermen repair nets while elderly women play mahjong in the open air.
Just a few minutes walk away lies a pristine white sandy beach.
“I knew it would be the perfect weekend escape,” says Dare Koslow, who purchased the 700 sq ft, secondfloor apartment two years ago. “I work in Central and live in Sheung Wan so this ‘secret’ village represented a real getaway from my usual life.”
When it came to redecorating his bolthole, Koslow, who came to Hong Kong 18 years ago from New York and now advises on marketing for Vodafone, wanted to create an unpretentious beach house.
“I didn’t want to create anything similar to what you would find in an apartment on Hong Kong Island so, instead, I channelled more of a lowkey Hamptons feel, emphasising rustic comfort,” he says.
With no load-bearing internal walls to restrict the interior layout, the space could be stripped back to introduce a modern touch through rough concrete and bare-brick surfaces, steel rails and industrial-inspired spot lighting.
Along the balcony and between the bedroom and living area are elegant wooden French doors with shutters that open to allow a breeze or light through.
Although a relatively simple project, the refit took almost 10 months, partly because of the isolated location. For Koslow, though, that drawback is also the property’s charm. “This is a weekend escape,” he says. “It is not intended for large groups.
“I used the space to create a good-sized bedroom and plenty of cupboard space, with enough room for a spacious living area and kitchen. I also wanted to avoid that small, cramped look you get when people try to fit too much into a tiny space. I’ve decorated with generous-sized pieces. The sofa, for example, is quite big but it’s great for relaxing and watching television on.
“I wanted to make the space for me.
The one bedroom forces you to edit how many people you bring out for a visit and that makes the environment peaceful.”
Other pieces were selected with functionality and style in mind: a collection of colonial teak chairs, for instance, are perfect for relaxing on the balcony with a good book. They also fold away for easy storage at the end of a visit.
Koslow has had plenty of experience in decorating small spaces, having invested in a series of units on Hong Kong Island that he decorates with his trademark modern-industrial look and original decorative pieces sourced from flea markets in London, Paris and New York.
“I love wandering around and finding things. Unique pieces like an antique clock and ceramics add another dimension to a living space.
“I also always have real wood floors in my apartments. It makes a huge difference,” he adds.
At Tai Long Wan, Koslow experimented with a retro-look kitchen complete with open iron shelving; a cream Smeg fridge; and a custom-made black marbletop island with built-in electrical sockets.
“I like the old-fashioned, 1950s look but it must be efficient and flexible,” he says.
Koslow admits his decidedly luxurious marble-clad bathroom is a departure from the rustic theme.
“It looks like a spa, but why not? The jacuzzi bath and huge rainforest shower are an indulgence but I love it and, besides, I designed the flat for me, not to fit a design concept.
“Funnily enough, I haven’t used the place very much since it was finished.
“My tenants and friends enjoy it on weekends but I have only been out a few times. Thinking about a visit is almost enough relaxation for me. I love the idea of getting off a plane after a business trip and taking a blue taxi for a change.”
Dining area The dining table (HK$14,000) and chairs (HK$2,400 each) were from Shambala (2/F, Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 2555 2997).
Reading area The cream wood chairs (HK$10,000 for the pair) were sourced at a New York auction house that has since closed. The table (HK$3,500) was from Restoration Hardware, in the United States (www.restorationhardware.com). The vintage clock (HK$5,000) came from a Cat Street antiques kiosk. The brown linen curtains (HK$7,000) and steel curtain rail (HK$1,200) were from Wai Kee Home (1/F, 30 Cochrane Street, Central, tel: 2522 3605).
Living area The linen sofa (HK$28,000), rustic patchwork-style rug (HK$16,000) and coffee table (HK$8,000) were all from Shambala. The retro-look ceiling fan (HK$16,000) was from Life’s A Breeze (16/F, Horizon Plaza, tel: 2572 4000). The teak flooring (HK$70 per square foot) and French doors (HK$9,500 a piece) were sourced through contractor Winspeed Engineering (Block B, 6/F, Tsun Win Factory Building, 60 Tsun Yip Street, Kwun Tong, tel: 9034 9504), which also built the teak television bench (HK$4,500). On the balcony is a Burmese rattan chair (HK$1,800), from eBay, and a side table (HK$1,200) found at Clignancourt Flea Market in Paris, France. The storage basket in the window corner cost HK$2,400 at Olde Good Things in New York (124 West 24th Street, tel: 1 212 989 8401).
Kitchen The Merbau wood shelves (HK$4,000 including brackets) and iron wall shelves (also HK$4,000) were sourced through Winspeed Engineering, which also custom made the cupboards (HK$28,500). The retro-look pendant lamp (HK$8,000) was bought on eBay (www.ebay.com). The fridge (HK$18,000) and oven (HK$9,000) came from Smeg (2/F, Amber Commercial Building, 70 Morrison Hill Road, Causeway Bay, tel: 3118 7449). The spotlights (about HK$600 each) were sourced from I Lighting (388 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2803 5012).
Bathroom The bath cost HK$221,000 at Arnhold Design Centre (315 Lockhart Road, tel: 2865 0318). The marble flooring cost about HK$250 per square foot at Kwong Shing Marble (221 Kwan Tei North Tsuen, Fanling, tel: 2674 3360). The woven laundry basket (HK$800) was found at Chatuchak market in Bangkok, Thailand.
Bedroom The spacious bedroom opens onto the living room. The Burmese rattan chair cost HK$1,800 on eBay.
Space mission To maximise space and efficiency, Dare Koslow designed a stone-topped kitchen island that fits partially over the dining table. Custom made by Winspeed Engineering for HK$18,000, it also serves as a food preparation area and bar. The table slides out easily to create extra seating space.