Where we live helps determine how we live. When Jane Straley and her American financier husband, Phillip, moved within Repulse Bay last year, their 1,700 sq ft, three-bedroom apartment ushered in a new era in her life. “I used to be such a city girl,” she says. “We were always eating out and going out, but now we stay at home much more. I cook, I garden – I never did either of these things before. My husband can’t believe it. But it makes me so happy. I get up early to do the watering, and I talk to my flowers every day.”

On her third career, Straley is no stranger to change: this year she opened a non-profit art space, Kong, in Central, having worked in fashion and interiors. This is also her third home to be featured by Post Magazine: her previous two were in Sai Kung and Repulse Bay. “Last time, I said, ‘I used to dress myself, now I dress my house.’ But these days, I dress my garden,” she says, with a laugh.

In a town where secateurs are a status symbol, the Straleys’ outdoor space is enviable. It’s a 1,800 sq ft terrace with unobstructed views of Repulse Bay. South-facing, it gets the sun all day, and Straley’s flowers are blooming. “I have grown more than 30 different varieties,” she says proudly. “I have a whole herb garden – I’m saving the sage for my Thanksgiving turkey – plus tomatoes, pomegranates, cucumbers, lemons, beans … I have grown so many cactus plants from cuttings that I’m going to have to start giving them away.”

See also: Raising the roof

Like the apartment itself, the terrace is mainly decked out with pieces from the couple’s previous homes – planters, sunbeds and an outdoor kitchen.

“We used to have a bigger place [2,400 square feet] with a rooftop, just behind this building, but there was an accident – during a T10, one of our sunbeds blew off the roof, right through some temporary scaffolding, and disappeared.” When it was found, it was so badly damaged it could not be repaired. “After that, even though we loved [the apartment], we were worried about living there,” Straley says.

Having grown used to the luxury of a large outdoor space, the couple made that their priority when searching for a new, less-exposed rental home.

“It took a year to find this place and even then Phillip nearly turned it down because of the flooring – typical dark teak,” Straley says. “But I knew we could fix that.”

Straley had a grey laminate floor laid on top of the teak. The transformation was immediate, brightening the apartment and giving it a more contemporary look that complemented the neutral palette in the living areas. She also planned to cover the terrace with faux wood decking. And then the installer’s quote arrived.

“It was ridiculous!” she says. “My husband was between jobs, so I decided we had the time to roll up our sleeves and do it ourselves. Anyway, I thought it would be fun. I sourced flooring online for a quarter of the price and we laid it ourselves. It wasn’t hard, we did a few hours a day and finished in a week.”

See also: Bold & beautiful

The flooring is removable, an idea they brought with them from their last home along with the furniture and even the indoor kitchen. The kitchen units, oven, hood and former island, now transformed into a work surface, line one of the dining-room walls. Tall kitchen cupboards containing the fridge, crockery and food stand near the huge modular sofa in the living area. The apartment’s original kitchen is out of sight behind the dining room and used mainly for preparation, frying and Asian cooking.

The flooring is removable, an idea they brought with them from their last home along with the furniture and even the indoor kitchen. The kitchen units, oven, hood and former island, now transformed into a work surface, line one of the dining-room walls. Tall kitchen cupboards containing the fridge, crockery and food stand near the huge modular sofa in the living area. The apartment’s original kitchen is out of sight behind the dining room and used mainly for preparation, frying and Asian cooking.

Flooring aside, Straley says the only new items they bought were sofabeds for the couple’s individual offices, which take up two of three bedrooms. Straley’s is the most vibrant space in the apartment, with exuberant art, rainbow racks of clothes and open glass shelves crammed with books and old-fashioned sewing machines (her father was a tailor). Phillip’s room is more restrained, containing little more than a desk overlooking that amazing view, neat storage and the sofabed.

Art is a central feature. Dominating the living room is a large 3D painting by artist Xia Xiaowan made from panes of glass set on a white plinth, cleverly embedded within the Tetris puzzle of the sofa. Calm, neutral-coloured pieces adorn the uncluttered master suite. Elsewhere, Straley has used artworks to draw the eye away from the apartment’s uglier elements. “

I hate the bathrooms – they’re dull – so I used bright paintings on the walls to grab the attention,” she says, referring to the ensuite and guest bathrooms. “It’s a case of distract and attract.”

Terrace The dark grey sunbed (HK$85,600) was one of a pair, but the other one was blown off the Straleys’ former rooftop in a typhoon. Like the Yin Yang double chaise longue (HK$117,500) in the forefront, it was from Dedon (248 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai, tel: 3952 8787). The outdoor dining set was bought years ago from Everything Under the Sun (9/F, Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 2554 9088). The wood plastic composite decking (US$2.50 per square foot) was sourced from Huangshan Huasu New Material (Chengbei Industrial Zone, Huizhou, Huangshan, Anhui, tel: 86 559 358 2638).

Living Room The modular sofa cost HK$162,100 from Simply Casa (8/F, Horizon Plaza, tel: 2525 2672). The 3D glass painting, by Xia Xiaowan, came from Galerie Urs Meile (galerieursmeile.com). The laminate flooring was HK$35 per square foot from Sunwood Building Materials (308 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2827 0918). The Arco lamp was bought many years ago from Flos (44 Wyndham Street, Central, tel: 2801 7608).

Dining Room The B&B Italia dining table was bought from Le Cadre Gallery (Ruttonjee Centre, 11 Duddell Street, Central, tel: 2526 1068) years ago. The Matteo Grassi chairs were HK$8,500 each from Design Direction (43 Wong Ngai Chung Road, Happy Valley, tel: 2904 7232). The kitchen units and island were custom made by Eddie Ko, of Legenda Interiors (12/F, Tower 2, Silvercord, 30 Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 2172 6872), for a previous home and reassembled to fit into the new space. The crystal ceiling light was bought many years ago in New York, in the United States.

Jane’s office The glass-topped desk and red drawers were custom made several years ago. The chair (HK$2,500) was from Marc James (16/F, Horizon Plaza, tel: 2517 2000). The sofabed (HK$5,000) came from Aluminium (10/F, Horizon Plaza, tel: 2375 0298). The blackout blind was HK$50 per square foot from Ka Ying Curtain (G/F, Block 1, Sai Kung Garden, Po Tung Road, Sai Kung, tel: 2791 4796). The painting on the blind is by Los Angeles-based artist Tim Biskup (timbiskup.com), and the artwork on the wall is by Xia and came from Galerie Urs Meile. The Philippe Starck vase hanging light was bought years ago from Flos for HK$44,100.

Bedroom (above and below) The bed and side table set was custom made 10 years ago. The leather chair was reupholstered by Tony Sofa (10/F, United Industrial Building, 50 Heung Yip Road, Wong Chuk Hang, tel: 2895 3291). The ceiling lamp above the bed was HK$7,540 from Manks (3/F, The Factory, 1 Yip Fat Street, Wong Chuk Hang, tel: 2522 2115). The floor lamp is by Flos and was bought years ago. The Marcus Vagnby ceiling lamp by the wardrobes was a gift. The cushions were from a shop in SoHo that has since closed.

 

Under cover As part of Jane Straley's "distract and attract" strategy, she covered an uninspiring airing-cupboard door with a translucent white honeycomb blind and used it as the backdrop for a drawing by artist Simon Birch simon-birch.com.

"Because of its location right opposite the entrance, it's the first thing you see when you come into the apartment," says Straley.

The blind cost HK$45 per square foot from Ka Ying Curtain. The stacked glass ball light fixture was bought in Italy and the oil wall lamp in Copenhagen, Denmark. Both were bought years ago.