Island life

Lara Tabac

Renovating old village houses is hard enough without having to rely on sampans to deliver the materials and builders. But for one couple in isolated Luk Chau, the challenge was worth it.

Good things often come to those who wait. When Corinne and Lucas Fuller remodelled their traditional village house on Lamma Island they waited for the rain to stop, the tide to ebb, building materials to arrive by sampan and contractors to show up. 'In the end though,' says Corinne, an architect (tel: 2982 2971) who designed the renovations and managed the project, 'we were extremely happy with the results.'

And so they should be. The 1,400-square-foot home, perched on the edge of a small village without road access, is a study in adaptive reuse and languid sophistication. 'We wanted to keep the spirit of the house,' Corinne says, 'so we didn't demolish too much. But it was terrible in here so we had to make a lot of adjustments.' These adjustments included removing three layers of tiles in the kitchen, scraping away coat after coat of paint throughout the house, removing walls and resurfacing those that remained, re-laying floors, changing the angle of the staircase and adding a second bathroom.

'We lived here while the work was going on so there was a lot of do-it-yourself involved,' Lucas says. 'For that reason we hired a series of contractors who worked on specific projects.' One of the first Lucas undertook was installing air-conditioning. He then concentrated on issues such as customising doors throughout the home according to plans Corinne had drawn up.

With a large deck made from an all-weather local hardwood used in the production of pontoons and piers, the front of the house is striking, with sheets of glass interrupted by slim slices of concrete wall and a second-storey wrap-around balcony. The glass ensures a subtle transition between inside and out and effectively enlarges the open-plan look of the downstairs living-dining-kitchen area. The staircase, which extended into the room and branched off on both sides of the upper floor in the original floor plan, now hugs the back wall, increasing the usable space and creating storage underneath. A bathroom is tucked neatly behind the living area.

The open-plan layout continues upstairs. A large office and study area is framed by the glass balustrade of the stairwell, above which is an eye-catching feature wall made of panels of thick textured glass. 'We needed to add a second bathroom, but wanted to keep the open feeling so we used this glass wall,' Corinne says. The glass also ensures light enters the bathroom. The master bedroom and children's room front the second floor, benefiting from the calm sea views and sunlight.

Touches of colour balance with the sunlight that penetrates the home. The mauve-kissed kitchen, tiled in light violet mosaic, is paired with neutral stainless-steel cabinets that go well with the green feature wall under the staircase and light-grey detailing and neutral-coloured furniture in the living room.

'I'm from the country in Australia, near a beach,' Lucas says, 'so living full-time in a flat in Central was a challenge.'

While challenging might be a word some would apply to the remote spot the Fullers call home, it clearly works for them. 'I like waking up in this house,' Corinne says. 'There is something so special about being here.'

1 The symmetrical design of the village home had the original staircase splitting at the landing and branching off in two directions, wasting a lot of space. Corinne Fuller refashioned the staircase to hug the wall, which opened up the ground floor and created useful storage space beneath the stairwell. The green feature wall was designed by Corinne, one of the many ways she merged indoors and out. The custom-made couch was a gift from friends. The antique coffee table, originally a day bed, was purchased in Zhuhai for $3,400 many years ago. The kitchen island ($16,000) is from Regent Steel Gate Products and Construction (shop D, 315 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2395 2885). The low Acerbis cabinet, custom assembled using three distinct modules ($5,000 a module), separates the living from the dining space. It is from a store in Happy Valley since closed.

2 The kitchen has a plastic tile floor in the same mauve hue as the mosaic tiles ($58 a square foot) from Mosaic Tiles Building Materials (shop 1, Sunshine Plaza, 353 Lockhart Road, tel: 2116 3002). The light grey Samsung refrigerator ($4,800, from Kingsway Appliances, 28 Aberdeen Main Road, Aberdeen, tel: 2814 8770) blends in with the stainless-steel cabinetry ($2,200 a linear foot, from Regent Steel Gate Products and Construction), which in turn mirrors the cool grey accent paint in the living room.

3 The Fullers took advantage of the privacy of the location to install large windows in both bathrooms. The downstairs bathroom was designed with men in mind and has a urinal. The custom-made cabinets were designed by Corinne and built to her specifications. The bathroom sink ($1,000) is from H2O (332 Lockhart Road, tel: 2834 1661).

4 The dining area, which opens onto the patio, takes advantage of the lovely views and sea breezes and is a perfect place for meals at any time of day. The patio railings, like those on the staircase and balcony, are made from taut wire. The dining table was assembled by Corinne and Lucas by perching a custom-cut oval of tempered glass (from King Cheung Mirror & Glass Engineering, 6 Tai Wo Street, Wan Chai, tel: 2808 0838) on two iron and stone bases imported from France ( The chairs ($3,820 each) were custom made at Desideri (6/F, Tak House, 5 Stanley Street, Central, tel: 2950 4026). The wall-mounted cabinet near the door is a single Acerbis module.

5 The entrance is festooned with abstract art. The painting on the left is by Corinne, the one on the right by Conchita Carambano (Bark Modern Art, 1/F, 13 Lan Kwai Fong, tel: 2537 7271). The branches over the door belong to a tree growing through a specially cut hole in the patio.

6 The inner doors were crafted by Lucas, who used zebra wood for the panels on the sliding doors in the master bedroom. The ceiling fan (Kingsway Appliances) circulates the sea air and cool breezes. The bed ($8,000) is from G.O.D. (Leighton Centre, 77 Leighton Road, Sharp Street entrance, Causeway Bay, tel: 2890 5555). Corinne added a shade to a table lamp base that was left in the house.

7 The wrap-around balcony on the second floor is accessed through a glass door in the master bedroom. The sleek wire railing does not obstruct the view. The lamp ($780) is from Concord Arts and Crafts (2 Shelley Street, Central, tel: 2973 0239). The custom-made blinds ($440) are from shop 3066, 3/F, Commerce City, Lowu, Shenzhen, tel: 86 755 8234 2002.

tried & tested

thick skinned

To keep cool in summer, the Fullers covered the walls of their home in double-skin panels, achieving a geometrically unique facade. These 1.2-metre by 2.4-metre sheets, made from chipboard and concrete, are normally used as sub-flooring. Part inspiration and part presentation, the Fullers' panels are as innovative as they are economical, saving money on air-conditioning in the summer and heating in the winter. The ubiquitous material, easily sourced at any building supply outlet, can be cut to any size and painted any colour.

stylist David Roden