Hong Kong village houses are often studies in uniform ugliness, built cheaply to cookie-cutter plans. Think small windows, exposed pipes and exterior walls blighted by air conditioners and other eyesores.
Andrew Ho Hoi-tung’s three-storey, 2,100 sq ft village house in Sai Kung breaks the mould for several reasons: he designed it in 2013 to meet his and his family’s practical needs and aesthetic sensibilities. A British-trained structural engineer, he saw the potential to create a family home from a semi-detached block of three units, maximising the site’s knockout sea and green views.
For starters, large windows illuminate every floor.
“My wife wanted light,” Ho says. “We used to live in a flat with brown-coloured glass, and it was dark and dingy. When I built my first house [in the same village] I made sure there were loads of windows; I repeated that here.”
Thought also went into where to put the services, which were moved to one side of the house, and concealed. So what you see on the exterior are clean walls clad in the same large (three metre by one metre) grey ceramic tile that has been used for flooring on the ground level and in all three bathrooms.
“I wanted a large, very hard surface with a finish that people don’t read as a tile,” he says.
Then there’s his minimalist kitchen, by Modulnova, an Italian brand Ho introduced to Hong Kong in 2011. Like the rest of the house, the beauty of the kitchen is in the detail. As much a practical work space as it is display furniture, it boasts a clean look, solid feel and designer plusses.
The corner units, for example, were designed by Ho, with typical Hong Kong kitchens in mind, to make the most of every inch of space. These designs have since been adopted by Modulnova for the market here.
“Usually, not a lot of thought is put into the corners of European kitchens because, in Europe, there’s enough space to spread things out,” Ho says. “But [Modulnova] has been flexible enough to help me tailor-make cabinets for small spaces.”
Feng shui-wise, the kitchen also ticks the right boxes, thanks to Ho’s business partner, Tammy Ho (no relation). It had to be situated in the back corner (which was the plan anyway) but the hob could not be positioned in the middle of the main counter: “In feng shui theory, the centre of a house is like a person’s heart,” she explains. And who would want to set their core alight.
Also on her advice, the staircase remained in its original position, by the entrance. That allowed the rest of the party wall to be used for cabinetry running its entire length (a full-sized fridge is behind one of its doors). While it may narrow the room, says Ho, “having all the storage on one side doesn’t impact on the space”. The view can thus be enjoyed, unobstructed, from anywhere on that level.
Having sorted out the communal areas, Ho made sure his family was comfortable in their own zones.
On the level above is a study-cum-guest room plus two sea-facing bedrooms for his daughters, aged 19 and 17. The girls’ handiwork can be seen on a damaged toilet door, which they decorated with graffiti alongside their father’s more sober notes about its height and width.
Where youth characterises the rooms on this floor, the top level is the grown-up retreat of Ho and his wife, a scientific researcher at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, comprising a study and bedroom.
“We knew the girls would be going away to university and that we’d be here for a while, so we wanted the best space,” she says.
That includes a luxurious en-suite bathroom bigger than their bedroom. Lending lustre to the space is a large, inbuilt brass-leaf cabinet Ho created for toiletries. Other features are a spacious shower “cubicle” whose design eschews kerbs, doors and unsightly drains, plus a suitably minimal Corian basin counter, also from Modulnova.
While Ho can claim kudos for the tangible pros of his home, its overall success may owe something to the ineffable. Among propitious items are elephants, gourds, plaques and a water-filled bowl. There’s also a bronze rooster on the roof, positioned, for feng shui purposes, in the direction of Sai Kung town.
“The lights from the stadium signify worms coming out of the ground,” Ho says, smiling. “The chicken is there to eat them.”
That is another reason this is a special village house.
Living area Sai Kung town is visible in the distance. The sofa and footrest (€7,233/ US$8,895 and €440, respectively) came from Estel (email: firstname.lastname@example.org). The coffee tables (discontinued) came from Woodmark. The ball light is years old.
Dining area The dining table (HK$10,500), benches (HK$6,000 each) and chairs (HK$4,392 each), all came from Woodmark. The suspension lights (HK$2,500 each) were from Philips.
Living, dining and kitchen The ground floor is an open space shared by the kitchen and living and dining areas. A wall of cupboards hides the fridge and shoe cabinet. Tilly sits in front of an audiovisual unit (HK$52,000) from Modulnova.
Roof On the ledge, the bronze rooster was a gift from Tammy Ho. The sofa set (HK$10,990) came from SofaSale.
Main bedroom The custom-designed bed and bedside cabinets were made by Luxhome Furnishing years ago.
En-suite bathroom The bath (HK$76,000), overhead rain shower and handheld shower (HK$39,000 for the pair) were all from Modulnova, and the tiles, which also clad the outside of the house, from Big Tomato Trading. The shower area and brass-leaf cabinet were designed by Ho and built by Tung Tat Construction.
En-suite bathroom detail The Corian basin counter and cabinet (HK$42,000 in total) and pendant cylinder light (HK$2,600) came from Modulnova. The mirror (HK$1,900) was from Simplehuman. The panel on the ceiling is a radiant heater (about HK$2,000).
Daughter’s bedroom Blackboard paint was used for the headboard wall. The cabinet was designed by Ho.
Tried + tested
Shoe in Part of the wall of cupboards on one side of the ground floor, the shoe cabinet is supported by heavy-duty drawer runners plus a set of wheels, which prevent scraping. “The wheels are positioned above the stainless-steel anti-slip detail at the nose of the step, thus will not damage the staircase in any way,” says Andrew Ho, who designed the unit. The cabinet provides access to the shoes on both sides.