Text Catherine Shaw / Styling Anji Connell / Photography Jonathan Wong
The Elliott family home offers proof that even the most luxurious new interiors can be significantly improved with the addition of a few personal touches.
“We moved to Hong Kong in January 2013 and lived in our new apartment for a month before starting renovations, so we knew exactly what we wanted to change,” says Sara Sanchez, who, with her husband, Douglas Elliott, fell in love with their 1,300 sq ft flat because of its convenient location and spectacular sea views.
The property, in the Marinella complex overlooking Aberdeen Marina Club, was completed in 2012.
The couple, who met in Shanghai in 2003 while both were working for Coca-Cola, are renovation veterans, having redesigned three other apartments in Hong Kong and a 400-year-old colonial villa in Sri Lanka.
“Douglas’ father is Scottish and his mother is Chinese, and he was born and raised in Hong Kong,” says Sanchez, who is Spanish. The couple lived in Hong Kong from 2006 to 2007 before moving to Bangkok, Thailand.
“We are highly organised and know exactly what we want, which means the work can be done very quickly and efficiently,” says Sanchez, who is a full-time mother to Mateo, four, and Olivia, three, and also teaches yoga. “We worked closely with TEA Interior Design to come up with something that worked for our family but would also be rentable, as we plan to return to Bangkok [early this year], where my husband works as general manager for Associated Foods, Southeast Asia.
“The apartment [has been] snapped up by a family with two sons.”
With a clear plan drawn up, the couple took less than two months to renovate the apartment. The modern, well-designed kitchen remained untouched, while minor changes included a narrower door for the children’s bedroom, to allow more room for a full-size bed, and a new concealed sliding door for the master bedroom, which received a minimal upgrade, with some additional shelving put in.
“The most important design change we made was to open up the interior by removing several internal walls to create an open-plan feel and to make the most of the natural light and air flow,” says Sanchez. “We wanted to see as much of the sea as possible, so we also relocated the entrance to the master bedroom closer to the window facade to enable a full view of the marina from the sofa in the sitting room.”
Built-in shelving and storage were installed throughout the property, including floor-to-ceiling cupboards and under-bed storage in the master bedroom. Sanchez recalls the couple were horrified to discover how thin the original internal walls were. “We could hear every noise within our own apartment, so we decided to replace them all with proper thick walls that provide good sound insulation. It’s very important, especially with our children.”
The children’s playroom is another key design feature: the glass room-within-a-room means Sanchez can keep a close eye on their play while preventing their creative space from encroaching on the living or dining areas.
“The children go to an International Montessori school which encourages independent creativity, so I wanted them to be able to have access to their own area for toys. It could be used just as easily as a study or reading area. I like the fact that it is still a design feature and not too childish.”
Sanchez adds: “We also thought carefully about how to make furniture work in a flexible way. For example, the dining table has central legs, so the bench seating fits neatly underneath. The whole dining area can be easily reconfigured if we need additional space.”
Surfaces are also multi-purpose – a low timber shelf runs the length of the living and dining room and doubles at one end as additional seating at the dining table. Meanwhile, the study, which features a striking white lacquer desk, doubles as a guest room, thanks to a sleek Murphy bed that folds away along one wall but still allows cupboards to be opened when fully extended.
Putting your personal stamp on a home is essential, Sanchez says. “We designed this as our own home, so we invested in maximum efficiency for the family with easy-to-clean laminate flooring throughout and electrical sockets near the dining table so it can be used as a desk or food preparation area.
“We also painted the children’s bedroom door with blackboard paint to act as a notice board where we write messages. These may be small details, but they make a big difference in our daily life.”
Sitting room The television bench, which doubles as seating at the dining table, was made by TEA Interior Design (7/F, 60 Johnston Road, Wan Chai, tel: 6388 8874) for HK$30,000. The linen sofa was acquired through AsiaXpat.com for HK$500. The white timber side table cost HK$1,000 at Paya (203 Soi Thonglor 10, Sukhumvit soi 55, Bangkok, Thailand, tel: 662 711 4457). The “double happiness” silkscreen poster was from T Wong Art (80 Stanley Village Road, Stanley, tel: 9202 9256) and the painting, by Vietnamese artist Nguyen Dieu Thuy, was bought years ago in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The silver floor lamp (HK$99) behind the sofa was from Ikea (various locations; www.ikea.com.hk). The wine fridge next to the lamp was bought from a restaurant in Bangkok that was closing down and cost HK$2,000. On top of the wine fridge are two decorative pieces that Sara Sanchez found on AsiaXpat.com; she paid HK$100 for the pair. The slim console table at the entrance was from The Red Cabinet (2/F, One Island South, 2 Heung Yip Road, Wong Chuk Hang, tel: 2536 0123) and cost HK$3,000. The container (HK$150) on top of the console was found at a Chiang Mai street market and the portrait box beside it was from Madrid’s Weekend Flea Market and cost HK$400. Built-in storage shelves, half-covered with a mirrored sliding door, were custom made by TEA Interior Design, which also installed uplighting throughout the apartment for HK$18,000.
Playroom Sanchez designed the playroom so her children can be seen from the living area. TEA Interior Design made the glass-andsteel structure for HK$21,000. The toys were sourced from Plan Toys (www.plantoys.com). The floor mat cost HK$300 at the Baby Best Buy Fair (www.thailandbabybestbuy.com) in Bangkok. On the corridor wall, the picture frame featuring family photographs cost HK$250 and was also sourced from the Baby Best Buy Fair.
Dining room The 10-seat dining table was sourced from Tree (HK$18,000; 28/F, Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 2870 1582) and the burnt-orange bench (about HK$5,400) was custom made by The Red Cabinet. The striped cushions were bought from a Chiang Mai street market and cost HK$25 each. The pair of overhead lamps were from New One Lighting (24 Morrison Hill Road, Causeway Bay, tel: 2381 1997) and cost HK$2,000 for the set. The silver candlesticks (HK$300 each) were bought at a shop in Bali, Indonesia, and the wine glasses were sourced at Bangkok’s Chatuchak Weekend Market (www.chatuchak.org). The linen table runners (HK$200 each) and napkins (HK$30 each) were found at Central Chidlom Shopping Centre in Bangkok (1027 Soi Somkid, Thanon Phloen Chit, tel: 662 793 7777).
Balcony To maximise the apartment’s panoramic sea views, Sanchez reworked the original entrance to the master bedroom, installing a concealed sliding door to create longer views from the living area. She also added steel-grey window blinds to protect the interiors from bright sunlight during the day. The two white chairs on the balcony cost HK$459 at Ikea and the flower-patterned cushions were from a Chiang Mai street market and cost HK$25 each. The outdoor plants were a gift. The original laminated light bamboo wooden floors throughout the apartment were replaced with a high-quality laminate that cost HK$45 per square foot from Hang Ngai Curtain (365 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2893 1768).
Kitchen A poster on the wall outside the kitchen provides a bright focal point at the end of the corridor leading from the dining room. It cost HK$600 at T Wong Art. The kitchen was left unchanged.
Master bedroom The built-in cupboards, headboard and king-size bed with hidden storage underneath cost a total of HK$28,000 and were all custom made by TEA Interior Design. An Indian tablecloth, found at a batik shop at Warehouse 1, Asiatique The Riverfront Night Market, Bangkok (www.thaiasiatique.com), doubles as a bed cover and adds a touch of colour to the master bedroom’s neutral scheme. The painting, by Nguyen Thanh Binh, was sourced years ago from a gallery in Ho Chi Minh City that has since closed (paintings by the artists who exhibited there are available from Spring Gallery, 1A Le Thi Hong Gam, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City; www.springgalleries.com). The candlesticks are the same as in the dining room. The small statue was a wedding gift. The white lacquer tray (HK$100) is from Index in Bangkok (various locations; www.indexlivingmall.com).
Master bathroom The bathroom features a Toto Neorest toilet and rainforest shower that came with the property. Sanchez added additional storage space, including a deep, glass-shelved, mirror-lined display unit, which was custom made by TEA Interior Design for HK$11,200.
Window's desktop To maximise space in the compact study, which doubles as a guest room, Sara Sanchez installed a glass-top white lacquer desk to fit over the existing bay window. Electrical cords are arranged out of sight behind the desk, which includes four extra-deep drawers. The desk and built-in storage shelves cost a total of HK$32,000 and were custom made by TEA Interior Design.