Text Catherine Shaw / Stying David Roden / Photographs John Butlin
When Scottish-born interior designer Sophie Tuckwell and her husband, Zach, an Australian investment banker, decided to return to Hong Kong in 2008, they had visions of high-rise city living. But the place they ended up renting was a two-storey house by the sea, one that evoked fond memories of their holiday home in Portugal.
“The minute we saw it, we knew it was the home for us,” says Sophie, who first moved to Hong Kong in 1997 and lived here for three years. “We enjoy outrigging and love the sea, so it was perfect.”
The 2,000 sq ft house on Hong Kong Island’s south side is at the end of a secluded leafy lane, features a wraparound garden and enjoys direct access to the beach.
“The house looks very Mediterranean, with white walls, terracotta floor tiles, archways instead of doors and huge windows,” Tuckwell says. “The layout is quite quirky, as if rooms have been added on, but they are all filled with light and have sea views.
“The builders were renovating the interiors when we first saw it so I asked for the kitchen to be open-plan.
I love the open [design]. It feels like I’m in Europe or Australia.”
There are three bedrooms, one of which doubles as her office.
“It’s the ultimate multitasking room,” says Tuckwell, who recently opened Plage, a boutique selling beach-inspired products, ranging from swimwear to furnishings. “I work here during the day and then the sofa transforms into a bed when my sons George [aged 16] and Sam  come home from boarding school in Britain. The room is also a cosy television room for Albie [five] and Jake [three].
“We wanted to avoid an over-designed artificial feel with the interiors. So, for example, we mix our favourite classic design pieces like Philippe Starck’s Louis Ghost chairs with a natural timber table for contrast.”
Much of the artwork throughout the house has either been painted or bought by Tuckwell’s mother, Lel Blair, an accomplished artist who lives in Scotland.
“Art should always invoke an emotion, whether it is a HK$10 framed postcard or a high-value collectable piece, but none more so than when you are actually related to the artist!” says Tuckwell. “I have framed quite a few pieces of the boys’ artwork over the years and all of it is treasured.”
The interior of the house is designed to complement the seaside panorama, with a palette of crisp white, dove grey and blue.
“I always start with a neutral base and then add pops of colour for interest. I don’t like stark white so usually go for grey, which is my favourite colour.
“Putting your home together over the years and not just going with trends and fads is important, although I often change the tone of a room with the seasons. For example, I transformed our bedroom from a summer-inspired natural colour scheme to warmer winter tones just by adding an antique rug together with new cushions and a woven blanket with tangerine tones.”
The family’s favourite spot, she says, is on the garden terrace, where a large table extends to seat 16.
“We love sitting outside, where you can hear the waves on the beach,” Tuckwell says. “The banyan tree is so old but beautiful. It’s almost architectural. I still can’t believe we are living in Hong Kong.”
Dining room The Nelson Bubble Ball ceiling lamp cost HK$4,600 at Marc James Design (16/F, Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 2189 7476). Sophie Tuckwell found the oak table (about HK$14,000) at Bowerbird (2/F, Oceanic Industrial Centre, 2 Lee Lok Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 2552 2727). The Philippe Starck Louis Ghost chairs (HK$2,780 each) are available at Aluminium (various locations; www.aluminium-furniture.com). Tuckwell decorated the dining table with textiles sourced years ago from India Jane (www.indiajane.com), in London, and handmade bowls (HK$435 each) from Australian brand MUD, available from Mirth (23 Wong Chuk Hang Road, Wong Chuk Hang, tel: 2553 9811). The standard lamp (HK$7,000), with an integrated side table, is from The Conran Shop (www.conranshop.co.uk), in London. The Bloomingville baskets cost HK$500 each from Mirth. The lamp (HK$1,000) on the kitchen counter was from John Lewis (various locations; www.johnlewis.com) in England. The lidded pots, from London, are more than a decade old.
Terrace The outdoor table and chairs (about HK$20,000 in total, including the cushions), were from Indian Ocean (www.indian-ocean.co.uk). Tuckwell added rattan tablemats (about HK$50 each) bought in Australia, and runners (about HK$300 each) from India Jane. The traditional French provincial dining set was bought years ago from Altfield Interiors (11/F, 9 Queen’s Road Central, tel: 2524 4867).
Living room The ikat-pattern curtains and blinds were made by New Bedford Interiors (67 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai, tel: 2520 0330), using Kravet fabric (HK$250 per metre; www.kravet.com). The two laser-cut artworks on the wall behind the television were by Edinburgh-based artist Jenny Smith (www.jennysmith.org.uk). The colourful artwork above the corner lamp is a David Bromley tapestry from The Cat Street Gallery (222 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, tel: 2291 0006). The sideboard was bought years ago from www.okadirect.com. The steel-and-glass coffee table (HK$10,000) was from Grange Interiors (3/F, One Island South, 2 Heung Yip Road, Wong Chuk Hang, tel: 2110 4814). The sofas (HK$20,000 each, from www.sofaworkshop.com) were recently reupholstered for about HK$4,000 each at GQ Interiors (2/F, Oceanic Industrial Building, tel: 2501 0905) using Flax linen (HK$250 per metre, from Helen Turkington in Britain; www.helenturkington.com). The cushions (HK$590 to HK$790) are from Plage (23 Wong Chuk Hang Road, tel: 2553 9811). The rug (about HK$12,000) came from Bowerbird. The ceiling lamps (HK$1,000 each) were from Zodiac Lighting (Amber Commercial Building, 70 Morrison Hill Road, Causeway Bay, tel: 2882 9082). The wall mirror cost HK$10,000 from Authentiques (10/F, Hua Qin International Building, 340 Queen’s Road Central, Sheung Wan, tel: 3460 4286). The lamps on the console table were bought years ago at Indigo (various locations; www.indigo-living.com). The coral-inspired lamp is part of a pair sourced from Helen Turkington years ago.
Study The Hemnes daybed (HK$3,490) from Ikea (various locations; www.ikea.com.hk) is decorated with cushions (HK$590-HK$750) from Plage. The white lacquer desk and chest of drawers (HK$14,000) were custom made by Artura Ficus (15/F, Horizon Plaza, tel: 3105 3903). The floor lamp (HK$12,000), by Diesel, was found at PLC Lighting (210 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2519 6275). The curtains and blinds (about HK$2,000 in total) were made by New Bedford Interiors. The rug (about HK$6,200) came from Inside (Prince’s Building, Central, tel: 2537 6298). The Louis Ghost chair is part of the dining room set. The table lamp (HK$2,200) was from Indigo while the bench cost about HK$5,500 from Altfield Gallery (Prince’s Building, tel: 2537 6370). The Acapulco chair (in the foreground) cost HK$3,200 at Mirth.
Study detail (above left) The blinds, made from French ticking fabric sourced by Plage for HK$500, were made by New Bedford Interiors for about HK$2,000. The mixed media painting, by Luke Martineau, was purchased from the Panter & Hall gallery (www.panterandhall.com), in London.
Master bedroom (above right) The American King bed (about HK$11,000), bedside table (HK$2,590) and lamp (HK$2,090) were all from Bowerbird. The throw was from Indigo Living (various locations; www.indigo-living.com) and the chest of drawers is a hand-me-down.
Staircase Many of the artworks throughout the house, including the large oil painting behind the cherry blossom and the smaller drawing of shoes, are by Tuckwell’s mother, Lel Blair. The pair of oils on canvas depicting the Italian countryside is by Scottish artist Leone Cockburn (www.leonecockburn.co.uk). The Aboriginal paintings were purchased at a gallery in Queensland, Australia that has since closed. The elephant print was purchased at the Trowbridge gallery (www.trowbridgegallery.com) in Britain. The oak chest of drawers (HK$9,000) came from www.okadirect.com. The mirror tray (HK$750) was from Grange Interiors and the vase (HK$240) from Inside.
Piece it together Sophie Tuckwell had this elegant French-style storage cabinet custom made by local cabinet-maker Raymond Chiu (tel: 9197 3809) 15 years ago. It has been updated several times by repainting and adding new fabric linings, which are visible through the wire mesh doors. "It comes in six pieces so although it is a large piece of furniture it has been easy to move to six different homes around the world," Tuckwell says.