The moment Paul Dolan walked through the wide entrance of this three-storey, four-bedroom house in Shouson Hill, the Briton knew he'd found the ideal home for his family.
The 4,700 sq ft rented property boasted impressive views over Deep Water Bay, was elegant and offered room for all, including a 1,200 sq ft poolside room he knew could be transformed into a pink palatial playroom fit for a princess - or three.
His daughters Tara, 16, Issie, 13, and nine-year-old Amber agreed. Dolan chose the colour not necessarily because his daughters conform to some feminine stereotype, he says, but because it's fun. 'Amber and Issie play football, Tara plays hockey and they all swim - they're very active, energetic girls and I wanted a space that reflected that,' he says.
Recently divorced, Dolan, a managing director of an investment bank who works long hours and travels extensively, wanted somewhere special his daughters could call their own. He wanted them to have 'a bright, happy space' they could enjoy with friends. 'There's a limit to the time we can spend together and so I want us to do that in the best possible environment,' he says.
Interior designer Alexandra Lauren, to whom Dolan was introduced by friends, understood the requirements. 'Paul wanted me to create a gorgeous communal area so his daughters didn't just retreat into their bedrooms [but had] a place that felt welcoming, that they could really enjoy,' she says.
The starting point was a round, pink sofa - custom made by Lauren - to which she added other pink items and introduced flashes of bright colours such as lime green and white.
'The poolside room was very basic; it was just a big space,' she says. 'I enjoyed working on it - it was like working on something in the United States because it was so big.'
Hailing from Phoenix, Arizona, Lauren says one of the first things she does when determining a client's needs is to look at clutter in the home and how she can minimise it. Her creative designs for the Dolan girls include a 'skirt' for the ping-pong table, which hides storage space for toys and bric-a-brac.
After completing the poolside room, Lauren started on the girls' bedrooms. Issie had definite ideas, which included a round bed and a specific piece of art. 'She wanted the Paul Smith 'Love' picture she'd seen in the Sex and the City movie, but that would have been very expensive, so I took her to Artjamming in Central and she painted one for herself, which was good fun,' says Lauren.
In contrast, the sitting room, for which Lauren designed a range of wallpaper panels, has a formal feel. 'It is very elegant,' says Dolan. 'I was really pleased with Alexandra's ideas for that and also for the roof, which I was so happy with, I threw a party [there] just after she'd finished it.'
Says Lauren: '[The roof] has beautiful views, but it wasn't being used. It was just a tiled space that looked like an empty swimming pool.' Within a week she'd created a functional space for barbecues, sundowners and rooftop dining, furnishing it with, among other things, a sofa and a custom-made bar.
'Alexandra turned the house into a home and created a bright, happy place for us,' says Dolan.
Unfortunately, personal circumstances meant the Dolan family had to move before the project could be completed. But on the bright side, Lauren is working with them on their new home.
1 Dining area
One area of the playroom is dominated by a round pink sofa (HK$38,000) designed by Alexandra Lauren (tel: 9819 6549; www.alexandralauren.com ). The table was brought to Hong Kong from Britain by the client. The tableware, by Mario Luca Giusti Firenze, is available at Lane Crawford Home Store (Pacific Place, Admiralty, tel: 2118 3398).
2 Sitting room
The framed panels of silk printed wallpaper (HK$53,000) were designed by Lauren. The two armchairs (HK$21,800 each) and glass coffee table (HK$19,200) were from Parlour Concept (26/F, Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 2555 6963).
3 & 4 Poolside playroom and living area
The ping-pong table was already in place but Lauren added a skirt to it made from lime-green Designers Guild fabric (HK$275 per yard). The curtains are also Designers Guild fabric, which can be ordered through Lauren, who passes her trade discount on to clients, or from Cotton Tree Interiors (92 Queen's Road East, Wan Chai, tel: 9045 5320; prices available on request). The television unit was made by Lauren for HK$11,000, as were the chairs, which are available in a variety of colours for HK$6,500 each. The transparent round occasional table came from Aluminium (36 Cochrane Street, Central, tel: 2546 5904) and cost HK$1,200. The tray, goblets and pitcher are by Mario Luca Giusti Firenze and are available from Lane Crawford Home Store. The large soft grey L-shaped sofa, which comprises several smaller sofas, came from B&B Italia (3 Wing Fung Street, Wan Chai, tel: 3102 3189; prices depend on the size and number of sofas required). The white-lacquered, custom-made coffee table (HK$12,000) was designed by Lauren. The 200cm by 300cm rug, from Designers Guild, cost GBP1,050 (HK$12,500).
The units and appliances were already in place when Paul Dolan and his family moved into the property. The pink ice bucket, stack of plates and glasses are all by Mario Luca Giusti Firenze and are available from Lane Crawford Home Store.
6 Amber's bedroom
The bedroom set (HK$13,800) was made by Art Deco Furniture (238 Queen's Road East, Wan Chai, tel: 2834 6203).
7 Issie's bedroom
Issie asked for a round bed, which Lauren designed and had custom made on the mainland, with side tables, for a total of HK$13,000. The Moschino bedding came from Lane Crawford Home Store. Cotton Tree Interiors made the curtains (HK$7,000), with double gathering and black-out lining, plus a second track with sheer fabric. The artwork was painted by Issie at Artjamming (123 Wellington Street, Central, tel: 2541 8816).
The custom-made outdoor sofa was made by Lauren for HK$30,000. The table was bought years ago. The outdoor pillows were bought from Neiman Marcus in the United States (www.neimanmarcus . com) and the outdoor sofa cushions were made in the US by Trina Turk (www.trinaturk.com/residential ).
Tried + tested
Tray of light
This bespoke lacquered coffee table (HK$12,000) was designed by Alexandra Lauren and incorporates a handy removable tray.
Styling Alexandra Lauren