Hong Kong designers choose their must-have home items

Hong Kong designers opt variously for the classic, the quirky and the downright curious as items they cannot live without at home

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 August, 2013, 2:05am

Could you envisage filling your home with Ming dynasty tomb furniture - or, for that matter, miniature architectural models? Tim Gunn, American Project Runway host and self-proclaimed "nester", lists both - the former collected during trips to Hong Kong - as must-haves in his Manhattan penthouse.

Who knows what appeals to whom and why, but as revealed in various lists of things designers say they can't live without, it's clear beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder.

Karl Lagerfeld citing his Süe et Mare art deco furniture (but only from the years 1919-1927) is understandable; as is British designer Kelly Hoppen's stated love for her plantation shutters. And it's fair enough that Kelly Wearstler "can't live without" her bathtub, all luxe marble and gilt trim.

But others surprise - such as the elegant Ilse Crawford, who once nominated her dog (described at the time as "a bristly old mongrel") as her favourite thing at home. And as for California designer Barbara Barry's selection of her Miele rotary mangle (for ironing sheets and pyjamas) - let's just say no more.

Closer to home, we asked around to create our own list of designers' favourite things and came up with the classic, the quirky - and the downright curious.

Two designers canvassed joined Kelly Wearstler in the bathroom (figuratively speaking). Adrian McCarroll, managing director of Original Vision, says: "The custom bath in our bedroom is just right: not too big, so it fills in a reasonable time, and not too small. It takes two at a bit of a squeeze, and has a great view out over the bay at the end of the garden." The bath is a concrete structure with a flame-textured black granite finish - it cost HK$20,000 all-in 13 years ago. McCarroll loves it because "a good soak in the morning is a great way to kick off the day".

Barrie Ho, founder and director of Barrie Ho Architecture Interiors, concurs. Ho says: "The one thing at home that I really like is the bathtub I got from Hong Kong's colour.living. It's a 1.6-metre-long, freestanding tub in pearly white, with a smooth and fluid contour pleasant to the eyes and the touch. Like every workaholic, an enjoyable and relaxing bathtub experience is crucial to and therapeutic for our hectic lifestyle."

David Chiu Kwok-wai, founder of Aluminium, cites a sideboard picked up years ago during one of his frequent trips to the Netherlands. "One of my favourite shops there was Design for Delight (now closed), which was a huge warehouse shop of over 50,000 square feet outside Amsterdam," says Chiu. "From there I purchased my rosewood sideboard [for HK$25,000]. Though the designer is unknown, this piece is amazingly attractive in proportion. Unlike most sideboards, it is more raised up from the floor. I have been using this sideboard to store all my LPs, CDs, DVDs and all kind of accessories."

Nils Neckel, director of Design & Distribution Link, cannot live without his Thonet bentwood knotted chair. This famous coffee-house chair is an icon and "initiated the history of modern furniture", he says. "The basis was a new technique - the bending of solid wood - that Michael Thonet developed and perfected during the 1850s and it was the first time serial furniture production was possible." Neckel describes this special-edition piece, bought for HK$10,000 directly from Thonet in Germany about 15 years ago, as historical and classical. "It looks fragile but is incredibly strong and durable and should last easily 100 years."

Jason Yung, of Jason Caroline Design, nominated a Tisettanta Metropolis wall unit - the main feature of their home on Hong Kong's south side. "The unit dresses the entire wall from floor to ceiling and is extremely functional," Yung says. "The bottom shelf is the library of our toddler daughter, and the upper shelves display our more valuable items. The sliding stainless steel ladder also creates a casual but fun look for the whole family." Bought directly from Tisettanta in Italy, the set cost about HK$110,000.

Clifton Leung of Clifton Leung Design Workshop picked his Varier Move Stool, upholstered in black leather. He loves the freedom of the 360-degree movement it allows and the unique saddle seating and disc base putting his body in total control. Leung bought it for HK$5,660 from Manks in Wan Chai.

Among the quirky, G.O.D co-founder and creative director Douglas Young also cites an iron, though not for pressing his pyjamas. "After work, I like to smoke a pipe and sometimes a cigar at home. As an ashtray, I use an antique Chinese clothes iron [the type heated by burning charcoal]. It is made of bronze and over time has developed a very attractive patina. Its shape is perfect for resting a pipe or a robusto-sized cigar. The heat of the cigar ash warms the flat bottom, making it good to hold in the winter while reading." Young found this treasure at a flea market in Shanghai, paying "less than HK$50" for it.

And for the curious: one Hong Kong person, who prefers to remain nameless, confessed to loving the "bidet shower" she invested in after seeing them in design magazines. "I was a bit embarrassed to tell my contractor to install it - but now, if I can, I will always have one in every bathroom that's mine," says the designer. They're widely available from local bathroom shops for HK$500 to HK$3,000. But you usually have to ask for them. Who knew?