Text Adele Brunner / Styling Anji Connell / Photography John Butlin
Stepping into designer Ana Chan’s home in Tai Po is to experience house envy of the highest degree. Think 3,000 square feet of light, bright rooms, high ceilings and a sense of tranquility that comes from a neutral palette, a lack of clutter and the rural location.
“Most of the houses this size in the complex have the same exterior and footprint. We couldn’t change the shape of the home but we could do the interior the way we wanted,” says Chan. “I wanted clean lines; bright, big spaces and windows; lots of storage; and centrally controlled air conditioning.”
Born in Paris, France, to Shanghainese parents, Chan was brought up in Europe and lived in Britain for two decades before moving to Hong Kong, in the 1990s, with her husband and two children, who have since decamped to America to pursue their careers.
“Our Mid-Levels apartment became too small for us so we chose Tai Po because we could have a house and it was closer to work,” she says. “We re-organised the space and opened up the vista. It took about eight months to complete and we’ve been here almost a year now.”
Because she travels frequently, Chan was able to source furniture and homeware from all over the world but she also trawled Lockhart Road, in Wan Chai, for everything from shower tiles to flooring to outfit the two-storey, four-bedroom house.
“Design for me is the easy part as I am a visualiser and know exactly what I want. The challenge is finding the people to make it happen – I try to work with professionals and specialists in their field so I can achieve the detailing I require.”
Chan also prioritised finding environmentally friendly materials that are long lasting. The windows, for example, are double-glazed with energy-saving, low-emission glass that is specially coated to reflect sunlight and block ultraviolet rays: they keep in heat during the winter and stop the house from overheating in the summer, reducing the need for air conditioning. The rooms are designed for cross ventilation, while energy-saving LED lights have been used for artificial illumination.
The house reflects Chan’s love of simplicity. Glass, stainless steel and pale wood feature prominently and white and charcoal grey dominate the colour scheme.
Even the family dog, an adopted husky with silver and white fur, is perfectly colour-coordinated – although Chan insists she wasn’t deliberately chosen to match the decor.
“To me, a house should be like a plain canvas, to which you add splashes of colour through paintings, fabrics, food, flowers and accessories,” she says. “We’ve taken the same concept throughout the house. For example, my son’s and daughter’s bedrooms are both exactly the same – blinds, beds, flooring, walls – but they have added their own things and stamped their mark on each room.”
Much of the decor in the house has a story behind it, from the first painting Chan and her husband bought together to the living-room rug, “You and Me”, which, she says, sums up their relationship. Then there are the paintings she acquired with her children in mind. Luz (meaning “light” in Spanish) was for her son and Gifted Child for her daughter. Both were by Colombian artist Orlando Agudelo-Botero. Other paintings depicting London and New York icons, by artist Laura Jordan, remind her of cities she knows and loves.
“There’s no such thing as good and bad art – it is very subjective,” Chan says. “I might like Picasso – you might not. There’s nothing wrong with that. Personally I prefer contemporary art but I don’t just buy blindly or because somebody says it’s a good investment. It might turn out to be but I buy something because I like it.”
If Chan’s home wasn’t desirable enough on its own, the garden is the cherry on a well-iced cake. It boasts a patio, complete with comfortable sofas and a Japanese water feature, the highlight of which is a huge sculpture of a horse. Chan commissioned it for her husband, who was born in the year of the horse, and it was made by one of her friends.
“I wanted the garden to be like a reflection, an extension, of the house and as simple and striking as the interior,” she says. “Like my artwork, I prefer big trees and big plants.
“This isn’t my ideal home – one day, I will actually build that – but for now I am comfortable and happy and I love the tranquility of the place. At night, all you can hear are the crickets, the frogs and the water [feature] and you can see the stars. In Hong Kong, it doesn’t get much better than that.”
Living room The spacious living room features two distinct seating areas. The Cassina leather LC3 sofa (HK$117,000 for two-seater; HK$159,000 for three-seater) and armchairs (HK$90,950 each), by Le Corbusier, are available at Via (1 Star Street, Wan Chai, tel: 3102 0808). The Alanda glass coffee table was by Paolo Piva for B&B Italia (3 Wing Fung Street, Wan Chai, tel: 3102 3189). The Lady Costanza floor light, by Paolo Rizzatto, was from a shop in London, Britain, that has since closed. The You And Me rug under the coffee table was inspired by a painting by Orlando Agudelo-Botero (www.orlandoab.com) and made by Tai Ping Carpets (price on application; 8/F, Tower 1, Kowloon Commerce Centre, 51 Kwai Cheong Road, Kwai Chung, tel: 2848 7668). The leopard-skin rug is a family heirloom. The Minotti Hamilton sofa (HK$86,270 for a 236cm sofa) and ottoman (HK$35,700) came from Andante (Ruttonjee Centre, 11 Duddell Street, Central, tel: 2537 9688). The painting by Matilda Tumin (from London’s Royal College of Art; www.rca.ac.uk) was the first artwork Chan and her husband bought together. The red footstools, by Spanish company Figueras (www.figueras.com), were gifts. Nordic Ash Harmony pre-pressed solid hardwood flooring (HK$228 per square foot from Sky Excel, 366 Lockhart Road, tel: 2893 6286) can be seen throughout much of the house.
Garden The horse sculpture is by Ana Chan’s friend Ren Zhe. Slate sourced from shops along Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, was used to make the water wall behind the pond, which was designed by Chan.
Stairwell Chan designed the stainless-steel handrail and, although she is thinking about purchasing some art to decorate the walls, is currently enjoying her minimalist stairwell.
Dining area The low-emission, double-glazed doors and windows were from Million Hope Industries (2/F, Block A, Shatin Industrial Centre, 5 Yuen Shun Circuit, Sha Tin, tel: 2693 0276). The Nomos dining table, by Norman Foster for Tecno (www.tecnospa.com), cost US$4,600. The Vitra Eames EA 108 chairs (about HK$25,000 each) came from a shop that has since closed. The pendant lights came from a lighting store in London that has also closed. Outside, the brushed stainless-steel Gloster Kore table (which has been discontinued) and taupe mesh Gloster Vigo stacking chairs (HK$6,150 each) were all from Everything Under the Sun (9/F, Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 2554 9088).
Kitchen The painting, Gifted Child, by Agudelo- Botero, provides a bold splash of colour leading into the bright Leicht kitchen (price to order from Chest Apply Asia, Harbour Centre, 25 Harbour Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2575 8286). The Lapalma blanched oak Lem stools (HK$4,800 each) are available from Desideri (7/F, 46 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central, tel: 2950 4026). On the far wall is a sculpture by a graduate student from the Royal College of Art. The fruit bowls (HK$1,060, small; HK$1,900, large) came from Alessi (Prince’s Building, Central, tel: 2869 6377).
Master bedroom Chan bought all the beds in the house from Axel Bloom in Los Angeles, in the United States (www.axelbloom.com). The Tizio 35 bedside lamp was HK$4,100 from Artemide (1/F, Ruttonjee Centre, tel: 2523 0333). The leopardskin throw is a family heirloom. The Chinese ink painting is by Chan’s friend Ma Desheng. She bought the Buddha painting on a trip to Tibet. Dividing the master bedroom from its en-suite bathroom is a wall made of Seves Vetroarredo glass blocks (HK$285 a piece) from Buona Idea Building Materials (6/F, Block B, Hoi Luen Industrial Centre, 55 Hoi Yuen Road, Kwun Tong, tel: 2543 4243). The chest of drawers was designed by Chan.
Master bathroom The glass blocks echo those in the master bedroom. The Raindance E 360 shower head by Hansgrohe was HK$6,740 (available from H2O Pro, 332 Lockhart Road, tel: 2834 1661). The shower cubicle was Chan’s own design. All the sanitary ware is by Kohler and came from Arnhold Design Centre (315 Lockhart Road, tel: 2865 0318).
Her cup of tea Ana Chan began collecting delicate porcelain teacups a decade ago. To display them, she designed and custom made perspex shelves (HK$1,520) because she wanted the teacups to stand out rather than the frames.