One family's quest to find a weekend retreat in which to forget the pressures of city life has resulted in the perfect getaway. For many people, a weekend break involves traipsing to Macau or boarding a plane to neighbouring Asian destinations. For Lawrence and Paula Lau, it means a 30-minute boat ride from Central to an island where town life merges seamlessly into the country, Hong Kong style. The Lantau haven of the couple and their two sons - overlooking Silvermine Bay, with Pokfulam in the distance - is a home of ample ceilings, large windows and gracious vistas made private by dense flora. 'The place was totally gutted,' says Lawrence, an architect who worked with contractor Tony Tang (tel: 9191 7756) of Lantau Homes to transform the house. 'We were left with a concrete shell.' Floor plans were reconfigured, ceilings raised and dropped, windows added, the angle of the staircase altered and small bedrooms removed to create an intimate, airy and bright retreat. The 2,100-square-foot home is entered through sliding glass doors that open into a large space that includes a high-ceilinged living room, open dining room and open-plan kitchen. Two bedrooms and a bathroom are tucked behind this area. The master bathroom, master bedroom and a huge walk-in wardrobe are upstairs. Ceiling fans in each of the rooms give the home a tropical feeling in keeping with the staggering sea views from both floors. 'We love the seclusion of this home, especially considering how convenient it is for the ferry and the shops,' says Lawrence of their mountainside perch. The Laus have taken advantage of their privacy by installing floor-to-ceiling glass doors and windows. This complements the beautifully landscaped 3,000-square-foot outdoor area, which has a pool, gazebo, grassy knoll and pebbled resting spots. The merging of inside and out was part of the design plan. 'We chose natural materials, like stone and wood, to bring the outside into our home,' says Lawrence. Concrete structural support beams were encased in wood siding, rough and irregular stones were used to decorate walls, counters and bathroom features (see Tried & Tested), and limestone-like floor tiling was employed for an earthy and rustic ambience. 'When people visit us here we take them to the Big Buddha, so in keeping with that we wanted to create something that felt Chinese and different from our contemporary apartment in town,' says Paula. 'We wanted a resort away from the city.' To achieve this, the family has deployed several seated Buddhas throughout the property, selected textiles of rich, deep hues and chosen furniture made of the same type of wood as the trees that surround the home. The dark reds, shocking blues and magnificent oranges of the fabrics used for cushions, bed spreads and silk lanterns complement the deep browns of the stained bamboo and rattan furniture, as well as the antiques that furnish the house. The home, which blends in with the relaxing seaside environment and the abundant green of the setting, is, Lawrence says, 'our perfect getaway'. 1 By changing the angle of the staircase, the Laus were able to introduce extra storage space. The ceiling beams were covered in wood siding to give the room a rustic feel. The Laus faced the challenge of moving furniture up a steep path, so focused on lighter, local woods for hard furnishings. The custom-made bamboo lounge set is from C.I.C. Rattan Furniture (72 Queen's Road East, Wan Chai, tel: 2528 6903) and cost $4,160. The coffee table ($2,950) is from the Red Lantern (shop G103, Silver Plaza, Mui Wo, Lantau Island, tel: 2984 0099). The antique cabinet ($4,900), from Dynasty Antiques Gallery (4/F, Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 2554 8861), supports a seated Buddha from Sum Ngai Brass Ware Manufacturing Company (195B Kam Sheung Road, Kam Tin, Yuen Long, tel: 2477 7202). 2 To take advantage of the view, the Laus moved their open-plan dining room to the front and the kitchen to the back. The table and chairs ($8,540) were custom made by C.I.C. Rattan Furniture. The living room, with its many windows, recalls an airy greenhouse. 3 To create a feeling of space, the ceiling in the kitchen was raised. The stone counter was custom made by the contractor to provide a contrast with the smoothness of the wood-covered cabinets, which complement the natural aesthetic of the home. The ceiling lamps ($290 each) are from Tequila Kola (1/F, Horizon Plaza, tel: 2877 3295). 4 The master bathroom has a distinct shower room and bath area. The custom-made counter (see Tried & Tested) ruggedly supports the graceful, hand-blown-glass wash basin ($1,080) from Happy Face Discount Depot (287 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2923 5090). The ladder ($500) is from Matahari, (11/F, Horizon Plaza, tel: 2814 9038). The thick-framed mirror cost $750 from Indigo Living (18/F, Horizon Plaza, tel: 2552 3500). 5 The master bathroom was not big enough for a standard tub, so the Laus custom made one. The brass ducks are from Sum Ngai Brass Ware Manufacturing Company and the brass lantern was bought in the United States. 6 The bright master bedroom is surrounded by glass so the Laus had Curtain Town (tel: 2309 1882) make heavy blackout curtains and timber louvres. Treatments for all the windows in the house cost a total of $30,000. With the curtains open, a natural forest of bamboo soothes the eye. The Indonesian-style canopy bed ($10,700) is from Matahari, as is the bedside table ($1,200). 7 Double-glazed glass cuts out rays filtering into the study area of the master bedroom. The Ching-dynasty elm desk ($3,950) is from the Red Lantern and the lamp ($2,000) is from Chinese Arts & Craft (China Resources Building, 26 Harbour Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2827 6667). 8 A 3,000-square-foot outdoor area, presided over by a large, seated Buddha, has a bay view and accommodates a pool, gazebo and natural-stone sitting area as well as a patch of lawn. tried & tested rock solid The rough, uneven texture of natural stone makes for a striking architectural feature. In their effort to bring the outdoors in, Lawrence and Paula Lau transformed a pile of natural stone into walls, a bathtub and a bathroom counter (right). Using concrete and stones of similar sizes, the Laus' contractor fashioned these unique, labour-intensive benches that are naturally durable and water resistant.