Text Jane Steer / Styling Anji Connell / Photography John Butlin
Jane Goldsmith has a problem with colour. Her Mid-Levels home is a vision in black and white, from the cool marble floor to the rows of framed photographs on the walls. Glamorous and elegant, with squashy white sofas and vintage trunks anchored by a few dark-wood pieces, the monochrome palette is enlivened by gleaming silver, polished mirrors and lots of sparkling crystal. Even the pets – a glossy black Labrador and seal-point cat – are colour co-ordinated. It’s no surprise to learn that Goldsmith runs a diamond wholesale business.
“I have tried using more colour in the past,” Goldsmith says, “but I always end up coming back to black and white through a process of elimination. I can never quite make colour work. I’m the same with artwork – I’m not good at choosing paintings – so I used things we already had.”
And therein lies the secret to this chic apartment. For this is not the carefully co-ordinated work of an interior designer, but an intensely personal home. Instead of art, the walls are lined with photographs, most of which are not art shots but family snaps. On the study shelves are a much-loved teddy bear, a baseball, an old violin (Goldsmith played as a child and attended the Sydney Conservatorium of Music) and a pair of worn-out satin pointe shoes signed by New York City Ballet prima ballerina Sara Mearns.
It’s stylish and beautiful but, more importantly, every item is meaningful to Goldsmith or her financier husband, Rob, both of whom hail from Australia.
“Living so far away from home, it’s important that the things you live with mean something,” Goldsmith says. “Every family has these things. It’s all lying around forgotten in the back of cupboards or in drawers. I’ve just had the family photos reprinted and reframed.”
As well as the matching frames, there are handwritten captions on each mount so that even the casual observer is drawn to the images. There’s Great-Great Uncle Schmitzer in his 1916 army uniform, a little girl and her collie are labelled “Lassie & Mum 1932”, and an old team photo – arms folded, chests proudly puffed out – is the Rabaul RSL Army Rugby League Team 1964 (“Dad back row, second from right”). There are pigtailed girls and fat babies (“Nanna Metcalf & Uncle Austie 1916”) and shot after shot of children and adults in the styles of the 1930s, 40s, 60s and 70s, with dogs, cats, horses and even a calf.
The overall effect is engaging, charming and far more interesting than, say, another grinning cadre in a piece of contemporary Chinese art. This is a home that makes you want to browse.
“We all go out and buy decorations for our homes, but if we just look internally at what we already have it means so much more. It’s authentic,” Goldsmith says. “It just takes more effort.”
And it’s not just photos. Great Uncle Eric’s second-world-war medal commendations – and instructions for how to wear them – are framed on one wall. A series of 50s newspaper advertisements for nylons and slips, hand-drawn by Rob’s mother, Olga Goldsmith, hang in the guest bedroom. Even the handwritten ledger recording the sale of their one-time home has been put to good use as a print for original cushion fabric and as lining in the glasses cupboard (see Tried + tested).
It’s the perfect backdrop for crystal ware by Ralph Lauren.
“I’m a fan,” Goldsmith says of the American designer. “He does such comfortable, livable stuff and it’s such great quality that you’ll never need to upgrade. It’s an everyday luxury that will last forever.”
As well as an impressive array of crystal, she owns Ralph Lauren bedlinen, towels and scatter cushions (all in black and white, naturally) and trunks. The black piping and chunky crystal add to the apartment’s art-deco vibe, particularly in the master suite, with its mirrored dressing table and vintage trunks (one is used as a laundry basket, the other to store board games). Squint and it could be a set from The Great Gatsby.
“Contemporary pieces just wouldn’t work,” Goldsmith says, confessing that sometimes she falls in love with colourful, modern items but regretfully leaves them in the store. “It requires a degree of discipline – there’s a lot of stuff I have to say no to. But it’s calming and serene, and the black is sophisticated. It’s adult. And I like the consistency of carrying one scheme throughout the entire home.”
The 1,600 sq ft rented apartment came with marble floors, white walls and decorative built-in wardrobes. But it wasn’t perfect. Goldsmith glosses over the kitchen (“it’s so Hong Kong”), and of the second bathroom, which is stylishly dressed with two Ikea shower curtains draped stage-curtain-style across a dull beige bath, she comments: “Sometimes it’s about disguising the ugly.” One thing she couldn’t live with, however, was the lighting, installing large statement chandeliers throughout the space.
“We put dimmer switches everywhere, even in the bathroom,” she says. “Lighting is important – you don’t need bright lights at night. We’re so used to mood lighting in restaurants and elsewhere, and it’s so easy to do at home.”
There’s a collection of hats in the two bedrooms – a pith helmet, a straw topi, white panamas – and crystal decanters in the dining room. Goldsmith picks up the most elaborate.
“It’s not a decanter, it’s a crystal Louis XIII de Remy Martin Cognac bottle,” she explains. “We were in Reims, France, and there’s a tradition that the person who buys the last nip gets the bottle. So Rob bought the last two nips – at €180 a glass – and we were presented with the bottle.
Then we were stopped by customs on the way home because it looked like a weapon on the X-ray.”
One of her favourite possessions, though, is an unassuming midnight-blue coffee cup with a gold interior that used to belong to her grandmother.
“I have loved it since I was a little girl,” she says. “It’s the simplicity that appeals.”
Balcony The vintage trunk (US$4,750) was picked up at the Ralph Lauren boutique in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles. The table lamp (A$550) was from Bloomingdales Lighting (www.bloomingdales.com.au), in Sydney, and the vase was a gift. Also from Sydney were the balcony benches (A$850 each), from Unique Teak (www.uniqueteak.com.au), and the stool (A$160), from Thonet (www.thonet.com.au). The ceiling lantern was custom made for 4,000 yuan by Yizhan.
Study The chaise longue (A$2,000/HK$14,185) and lamp (A$850) were from Coco Republic (www.cocorepublic.com.au), in Sydney, Australia. The Philippe Starck mirror (S$8,000/HK$49,000) came from Space (www.space furniture.com.sg), in Singapore. The chair (A$1,600) was custom made by Jade Upholstery (www.jadeupholstery.com.au), in Sydney. The fan (HK$2,800) was from Life’s A Breeze (16/F, Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 2572 4000). The side table (A$550) came from Villa Maison (www.villamaison.com), in Melbourne, Australia. On the Thonet stool is a globe from Indigo Living (various locations; www.indigo-living.com). The seagrass rug (HK$800) was from Ikea (various locations; www.ikea.com.hk). The chandelier (6,000 yuan/HK$7,560) was made by Yizhan Light Industrial Products City (www.yizhanzx.com), in Shenzhen. On the wall hang Max Dupain prints bought years ago.
Master suite Jane Goldsmith and Elle the dog hang out in the master suite. The armchair and ottoman (HK$18,000 in total) were custom made by Casa Vogue (Gold Harbour Mansion, 122 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai, tel: 2529 4848). The vintage trunk (A$650) and bedside table (A$550) were from La Maison (www.lamaison.net.au), in Sydney. The Thonet stool (used as a sidetable) came from www.thonet.com.au. The bedside lamps (1,800 yuan each) and bespoke chandelier (6,000 yuan) were from Yizhan. The bed was custom made by Jade Upholstery for A$7,500. The Palmer bedlinen and Langdon duvet cover (US$1,880) were from Ralph Lauren. The cushions were custom made in Shenzhen for 300 yuan each. The photographs over the bed were by Max Dupain.
Bathroom The vintage trunk (HK$7,800) was from The Hamptons Furniture (129 Wellington Street, Central, tel: 2869 8018). The chair (A$950) came from Coco Republic. The Palmer bath towels (US$350 a set, including bath mat, hand towel and face towel) were from Ralph Lauren Home. The painting was by Harajuku Matisse, from Omotesando, Tokyo.
Dining room The table (A$2,200) was from Sasson Home (www.sassonhome.com.au), in Melbourne. The chairs (A$400 each) were custom made by Jade Upholstery. The rose bowl is an antique champagne bucket that has been in the family for years. The bespoke chandelier (6,000 yuan) was made by Yizhan. Hanging in the dining area are more Max Dupain prints.
Living room The sofas and ottoman (A$16,000 in total) were custom made by Jade Upholstery. The bus-blind art (A$700) was custom made by an Australian company that has since gone out of business. On the silver side table, which cost A$850 at Bloomingdales Lighting, are boxes made in San Francisco by Pacific Connections (www.pacificconnectionsusa.net). The photographs are all family snaps.
Dressing table The dressing table and wall mirror (HK$12,000 in total) were custom made by Casa Vogue. The chair (A$1,800) was custom made by Jade Upholstery. The lamp (A$550) is from Bloomingdales Lighting. To the right of the mirror is a framed copy of a Mikimoto catalogue advertisement for the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair.
Cutting it fine The Goldsmiths' crystal collection is displayed in a glass-fronted cupboard lined with customised fabric. The print is a reproduction of a handwritten ledger recording the sale of their former home in Sydney, and was produced by Think Positive Designer Prints in the Australian city (A$800; www.thinkdesignerprints.com.au).
The cupboard (A$2,200), which has bevelled-glass panels, was custom made by Royal Charm Furniture (390 Pacific Highway, Crows Nest, Sydney, tel: 61 2 9906 3331). The crystal was from Ralph Lauren Home in Chicago and the candleholder (HK$80) from The Candle Company (11 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central, tel: 2545 0099).