THE 18th-century low cabinet made of light walnut wood sat unobtrusively against an alabaster-white wall, all-Zen 90s minimalism. Along comes Susanna Santi, who places a couple of vividly coloured Murano glasses and tosses a richly embroidered throw atop the plain surface, its pleasing patina acquired with age . . . and voila - an Architectural Digest moment. Ms Santi, formerly the chief homeware buyer for Joyce, has found a partner in William Chiang and a creative outlet in his China Art Central antique furniture gallery. Mr Chiang sources and sells exquisitely simple 18th- and 19th-century Chinese furniture made from homegrown woods: walnut, cyprus and pine, as well as museum quality Huang Hua Li and Zitan furniture. Ms Santi trawls through villages in the Philippines, picturesque Italian towns and bustling American cities to unearth contemporary design treasures that will be at home anywhere. The result is Hong Kong's first showcase of antique Chinese furniture paired with ultra-modern accessories. 'You don't usually find such a combination,' said Mr Chiang, whose family founded China Art 15 years ago with its first store in Cat Street. A second opened last August in Hollywood Road. The modern accessories line was launched last week in a bid - successful by most accounts - to add colour and a design-led sensibility to China Art's signature understated Chinese furniture pieces. Ms Santi, who worked with Joyce for about five years before leaving earlier this year, said her objective was to 'create a colourful accessories line that was Western and modern but that would work with antique Chinese furniture'. The decision to branch from one established discipline into an entirely new genre was twofold. Firstly, Mr Chiang and Ms Santi believe it is important for potential collectors to see how old Chinese furniture will fit into a modern home setting. But also, and somewhat less altruistically, few other antique stores effectively manage to merge the old with the new on a retail level. Ms Santi said she wanted to avoid falling for the old East-meets-West cliche. While some of the pieces are sourced from the East - such as the shell-work from an American artist living in the Philippines - they have a decidedly Western flavour. In many cases, pieces were commissioned and created solely for China Art, under the design directives of Ms Santi. Drinking glasses with abstract motifs from Murano, and heavy fabrics from Europe and the US used for throws and cushions, are nothing short of urbane sophistication. Of course, there would have to be some mild tweaks on Orientalism: chopsticks made of ebony and silver look sleek on silver-tipped, horn-shaped holders. Mother-of-pearl is used as a ladle on a sculpted black stem, or as a hand-held serving tray with an engraved silver snake as the handle. There are hurricane lamps designed to hold crackle-surfaced candles in green and glass vases in shaded hues of blue or covered in snowy flecks. While these stand out as covetable home accessories in their own right, they were created to mesh with the near-ascetic appeal of Mr Chiang's furniture pieces. 'The idea was to create a shopping environment that was more about home design rather than just antiques,' said Ms Santi. 'After months of sourcing, we have a finely edited collection, selected to reflect the mood of the antique furniture. 'It makes for an interesting mix because the accessories have a certain point of view.' Mr Chiang is no stranger to innovation. His Hollywood Road gallery gives customers virtual access to its 80,000-square-foot warehouse on the mainland where 10,000 pieces of furniture are stored. Photographs of each item have been entered into a data base so browsers can click through a computerised catalogue, and ask for what they want. And although Mr Chiang agrees that business at China Art 'was moving along nicely' (he has a strong coterie of international clients and also sells to auction houses such as Christie's and Sotheby's), it would hardly hurt to offer the added value - and the retail edge over competitors - that having a comprehensive line of accessories would provide. 'It's a clean and open space, so the splashes of colour from the glasses, candles and cushions really stand out,' he said. 'Now, people can walk in and have an idea of how all of this fits together and the different looks they can achieve at home.'