Few in Hong Kong have the nerve to paint their home interior a deep celadon hue. But Richard Blight had no difficulty persuading two expatriate art lovers of its charms.
Displaying the colour beside earthy seagrass wallpaper, rich cinnabar red and Jim Thompson silk upholstery to match the walls, he was immediately given the green light, literally, to transform a nondescript new apartment in Sai Ying Pun into a warm, distinctive pad.
Blight was also tasked with adapting the layout to suit the lifestyle of his clients: James, who is from Australia, and Luisa Kay, an Italian writer of children's books on art.
Kay doesn't mince words when describing the 900 sq ft apartment they bought last year.
"The good thing was the view," she says. "But it was a stupid apartment with stupid rooms. You couldn't even put a bed in them."
To give them a sense of space (they like to entertain), two of three contiguous bedrooms were eliminated: one became part of the living area; the other was turned into a large dressing room complete with a bay-window seat.
All were decked out in celadon, because, Blight says, "If you use one colour it makes the apartment look bigger. If you use different colours you don't have that connection."
Mirrored panels on either side of a classic-Chinese-red entertainment unit also heighten the sense of space, in part because they reflect views of the harbour.
"The mirror gives depth," says Blight. "It makes the room disappear into another and it doubles the space."
Credit for one of the apartment's best features, however, must go to Kay. During the renovation she realised the kitchen could be opened to the living area by carving a bar out of a former helper's room that had been wedged between the two.
"It works well," says Kay. "You can put finger food on it, and use it as a desk when you want to stand up and work. After a while sitting is boring."
Without a dedicated study, Kay also works from the generously sized Chinese bed in the middle of the living room. That piece of furniture, constructed by tongue and groove, is also something to lounge on while watching television, and a convivial spot for guests.
"When I have a dinner party people sit all over it," says Kay. "It's nice because you can sit on one side and chat to people on the other side."
From this central area you can scan the art that fills the flat. Some pieces - including paintings on brick fragments salvaged from demolished hutongs in Beijing - were acquired from Schoeni Art Gallery, in Central, where Kay met Blight, who was behind the gallery's final renovation before it temporarily closed in 2013.
Many of the artworks she and her husband kept for the apartment (bigger pieces were shipped to their other homes, in Australia and Italy) have an Asian connection, which complements the contemporary Chinese style.
Did the pair ever have jitters?
"We had a moment when we thought maybe the tone should be a little lighter, but Richard said, 'You have to be braver and try it,'" says Kay.
Any doubt has since vanished.
"A dark colour is good for a small place and there's a lot of light in here," she says. "In the evening it's really cosy."
Living room The sofa and coffee tables were designed by Luisa Kay and made six years ago by Lux Home (80 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai, tel: 2528 3223). The pouffes (HK$1,800 each, fabric not included) were made by Richie Decoration (Aberdeen Marina Tower, 8 Shum Wan Road, Aberdeen, tel: 2368 7133). The green Jim Thompson chenille canvas (HK$550 per metre) used to upholster many pieces of furniture came from Altfield Interiors (11/F, 9 Queen’s Road Central, tel: 2525 2738). The Tibetan stool is part of a pair and came from a shop that has since closed. The black Kartell table lamp (HK$1,705) was from Aluminium (aluminium-furniture.com). The rugs came from Jaipur, India, many years ago and were the inspiration for the wall colour. The artworks on the wall behind the sofa are by (from left) Lu Peng (Plum Blossoms Gallery, 4/F, Cheung Tak Industrial Building, 30 Wong Chuk Hang Road, Wong Chuk Hang, tel: 2521 2189); John Way (Sotheby’s); Dang Van Quynh (Green Palm Gallery, Hanoi, Vietnam; greenpalmgallery.com); and Su Jiaxi (Schoeni Art Gallery; schoeniartgallery.com). On the coffee table are Zhou Jinhua’s Bricks Series, also from Schoeni, and a plate of porcelain dim sum, which came from a gallery in Beijing. The green vase came from a shop in Milan, Italy, years ago.
Living room detail The elm bed (HK$15,000), designed by Richard Blight (email@example.com), was made by Concord Arts & Crafts (6/F, Beverley Commercial Centre, 87 Chatham Road South, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 2973 0239). The mattress (HK$4,500, fabric not included) and Thai-style cushions (HK$3,300, fabric not included) were made by Richie Decoration. The red lacquer cabinet (HK$15,000) was made by RCC (Contracting) (7/F, Henan Building, 90 Jaffe Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2865 7191). The ceiling lamp came from Modern Home Commercial Lighting (206 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2877 9822). The lamp on the window sill and the cases beneath the bed were bought many years ago in Cat Street. The rhinoceros bronze sculpture, by Niu Miao, came from Beijing’s Amelie Gallery (www.longyibang.com). The portrait, by Noriyuki Nakayama, was bought through Est-Ouest Auctions (www.estouest.co.jp). The silver floor lamp, Aqua by Artemide, came from Lane Crawford Home Store and cost HK$6,900. The Mao sculpture was bought from a shop in SoHo many years ago.
Kitchen Though the elm screen doors (HK$12,000), made by Concord Arts & Crafts, is the kitchen that came with the apartment. The still-life, by Liang Yifeng, and work from Cheng Tsai-tung’s Elusive series were both bought through Christie’s.
Dining area Four gouache works, by Wu Yiming, bought through Sotheby’s, and a work by Way, acquired through Christie’s, flanks a standing Buddha from Myanmar that came from Arch Angel Art (53 Hollywood Road, Central, tel: 2851 6882). The dining table, designed by Kay, was made by Lux Home for HK$25,000, and the Kartell chairs (HK$1,640 each) came from Aluminium. The green Venetian vases were found at Milan’s Navigli market. The pendant lampshade came from an old standing lamp.
Bar The lamp (HK$5,200) came from Lane Crawford Home Store. The sculpture, titled Red Book, by Liu Kun, came from Yan Gallery (Chinachem Hollywood Centre, 1 Hollywood Road, Central, tel: 2139 2345). The works on the wall, by Chinese-French artist Sanyu, were bought through Christie’s.
Bedroom The bedside tables (HK$3,000 each) were made by RCC (Contracting). The seagrass wallpaper (HK$570 per 5.5-metre roll) came from Altfield Interiors. Two of Kay’s favourite artworks are the red and gold shoes, by Peng Wei, from Plum Blossoms Gallery. On the bedside table, the 19th-century blanc de Chine figure of Tu Di Gong, came from Arch Angel Art. The basket was a wedding present and the jewellery box came from a market in Wan Chai.
Dressing room The dressing room, accessed from the sole bedroom, features a bay window seat and a cabinet (HK$14,000) made by RCC (Contracting). The artwork came from Cat Street.
TRIED + TESTED
Off the wall A floor-to-ceiling plywood panel, covered in seagrass wallpaper from Altfield Interiors, was installed against the windows to give a focal point to the dining table. The panel affords privacy and provides another surface on which to hang art. Luisa Kay uses the small balcony for pots of herbs and as a display area for her collection of Mao Zedong statuettes.