HOMES OF FORMER EXPATRIATES across the globe are decorated with Asian artefacts and mementos. It's refreshing, however, to come across a collection that is more than a mish-mash of ubiquitous elmwood cupboards and Buddha heads. Despite bursting with exquisite furniture and decorative items, the London house of fine-art photographer Tim Hall and gilder and decorator Natasha Durlacher is a family home where art must vie with domesticity - books belonging to the couple's two daughters, Lillie, six, and Maya Rose, 18 months, jostle for surface space with Han dynasty ceramic horses. Dressing-up clothes can obscure piles of canvases for days. Hall and Durlacher often talk of setting up a gallery just to clear the decks, but the chaos embodies the home's character and adds to its charm. Their Victorian terrace house bears the stamp of its owners' combined 16 years of living and working in Asia. From their base in Hong Kong, Hall and Durlacher travelled constantly and became insatiable collectors with a well-honed sense of what worked. They rummaged endlessly in Macau ('It's all changed now,' says Durlacher), scoured warehouses on the mainland and ploughed street markets from Vientiane to Bagan. Durlacher was one of the first foreign dealers to switch onto contemporary Vietnamese art in 1993. After art school in Paris, where she was intimidated by the city's formal galleries, she found it liberating to discover wonderful paintings in Hanoi alleyways, where, then at least, commerce was secondary to artistic expression. 'I spent hours perching on stools, drinking coffee and swapping stories,' she says. Now her home - which doubles as her gallery - is hung with the reed-thin figures of Dinh Quan, the naive images of Le Thiet Cuong and the wistful motherhood oils of Nguyen Thanh Binh. Durlacher also sells home accessories she designed or sourced in Vietnam. Despite having left five years ago, Hall remains a recognised name in Hong Kong. A new exhibition - a retrospective of his best work as well as his latest pictures from India - opened in Central on March 27, and his portraits of Burmese, Vietnamese and Hong Kong people hang in homes and restaurants across the territory. They are striking in their 'portable studio' style. With his hero, Richard Avedon, always in mind, Hall is reputed for his clean, expressive portraits shot against a white canvas backdrop that has travelled with him for thousands of kilometres. Back home in London, the inconsistent lives of two creative people continue. While the children play house among the pictures, the phone never stops ringing. They are getting ready for London's Affordable Art Fair ( www.affordableartfair . co.uk), which opens on March 20 and where Hall and Durlacher are sharing a stand. Hall is also following up on orders from his recent British show. As he welcomes his next portrait client through the door, Durlacher dashes out; she's off to deliver canvases to a collector across town. Meanwhile, the paperwork stacks up - the business of art always comes first in this house. A Decade of Photography by Tim Hall will be on show at The Rotunda, Exchange Square, from March 27 to April 2, and then until May 2 at Galerie Martini (1/F, 99F Wellington Street, Central. Tel: 2526 9566; www.galeriemartini.com ). Contact Tim Hall on www.timhallphotographer.com and Natasha Durlacher at www.durlacherfineart.com . 1. Tim Hall and Natasha Durlacher in the master bedroom with their most prized possession: a 17th-century lacquered wood Burmese Buddha, bought in Bangkok. They admit feeling slightly guilty, knowing the sculpture probably spent previous centuries in a more sacrosanct space. It stands on an equally ancient English fruit-wood chest, a family heirloom, in front of a gouache on cheesecloth painting by Le Thiet Cuong (available though Durlacher Fine Art, tel: 44 20 7371 2237; www.durlacherfineart.com ). 2. In the master bedroom, an oil titled Mother And Child by Vietnamese artist Nguyen Thanh Binh (available from Durlacher Fine Art), hangs above an antique Chinese elm apothecary chest bought in Macau. An antique Chinese lacquered walnut chest, again from Macau, sits next to an 18th-century English painted and 'parcel gilded' occasional chair, another family heirloom. 3. Maya Rose scampers through the spacious French oak-floored living area, created by knocking three rooms into one. The main room leads to the kitchen/dining area, where a sloping glass roof was added to create a light-filled, conservatory-style space. An antique lacquered Chinese wedding cupboard (bought in Macau) slots into an alcove, the TV and video sit in the former fireplace, above which hangs Dressing By The Ganges from Hall's recent India series (from $6,500). 4. The breezy kitchen has been simply furnished with white lacquer Pedini units, worktops in Caesar stone and African iroko wood and a practical island fitted with a hob (all from Fulham Kitchens, London, tel: 44 20 7736 6458). 5. Hall's pictures, Lottery Seller and Ma Thi Hla Wa Di & Ma Ku La Zar (both available in three sizes, from $3,900), are displayed in 'floating-style' frames from Picture, a London-based framer (tel: 44 20 7371 6999). 6. The inviting kitchen seen at night from the terrace, laid with bulao-wood decking. Tried and tested: play and display Hall and Durlacher decided on a polished plaster finish for the stairwell walls, and had a niche built at the top of the stairs to house a Zimbabwean serpentine stone sculpture by the late Henry Munyaradzi. The display is all the more dramatic for the gilded finish applied by Durlacher, a trained gilder who created the ceiling of The Peninsula's Presidential Suite. To gild a section of wall, she explains, first seal with an oil-based sealant to ensure the surface is not porous. Prepare the area with a water or oil-based size (gilder's glue), available from art suppliers such as Yuen Fat Ho (77 Hollywood Road, Central, tel: 2546 8020). While still tacky, carefully apply overlapping squares of Dutch Metal (very fine fake-gold sheets) or, if you prefer the genuine article, nine-carat gold sheets (both available from Yuen Fat Ho), commonly used in Chinese temples. Durlacher bought her gold leaf from a market in Myanmar. When handling gold leaf, make sure your hands are completely dry. You may wish to sprinkle them with powder or wear surgical gloves. Allow the gilded area to dry overnight then, very gently, buff the surface with cotton wool to raise the patina of the metal. When you're satisfied with the finish, seal with a coat of matt, eggshell or gloss oil-based varnish, depending on the sheen desired.