No matter how much we already own, a new living space usually calls for a shopping trip: whether it is a specific piece of furniture, storage or artwork, there’s always something we need.
Adding those new buys to the holiday souvenirs, gifts and heirlooms that were dotted around the previous property can lead to a mish-mash of possessions in various colours, styles and degrees of functionality.
The result can be a quirkily eclectic collection that creates a unique home. Or just a mess.
After living in five countries (Portugal, Switzerland, Italy, Czech Republic and Germany) in 15 years, Nina Giustiniani had the latter when she, husband Alvise and their three sons moved into a sprawling five-bedroom South Bay apartment in 2011. There was glassware from Nina’s native Sweden, a dresser from Alvise’s family home near Venice, a giant light bulb from the Czech Republic and a rug from Portugal, to name a few items.
“Nothing went together,” Nina says. “I like lots of different styles and want my home to be eclectic, but it’s hard to make it work. I was starting my own executive coaching business [she runs Magnusson Consulting, which helps people in transition – in their careers, moving country or mums returning to work] and wanted to concentrate on that. I decided I needed help.”
She turned to fellow Swede Lotta Rojens, who runs interior design business LRD. Rojens was tasked with sorting through the family’s possessions and creating a coherent scheme that met Nina’s request for something colourful and contemporary as well as Alvise’s more conservative taste, without major renovations to the rented apartment.
“I wanted colour, not beige, beige, beige,” Nina says. “But Lotta said, ‘Calm down, let’s get a neutral base and add colour.’ We started with the picture of the children.”
Created by artist Claudia Peill in Rome about 10 years ago, the huge portrait that dominates one wall of the living space comprises close-up photographs of the three boys – Filippo, Leo and Marcus – in a graphic arrangement with blocks of colour. (“My husband wanted a classic portrait with me in a chair and his hand on my shoulder. Over my dead body!”) Rojens incorporated the colours from the artwork into a bespoke zigzag-patterned rug, scatter cushions, a squashy blue sofa and two gorgeous purple armchairs, which she mixed with pieces the family already owned: a coffee table from Lausanne, in Switzerland, and an artdeco side table from Rome.
The living room has two small balconies – the apartment was once two flats. The five bedrooms are in two “wings” off the two ends of the living space. The current owners lived in the apartment before renting it out and had it renovated to a high specification, with plenty of built-in storage and luxurious details, such as a walkthrough wardrobe in the master suite
Rojens made only a few tweaks. One room has been converted into a media room, where a tiered seating arrangement was created behind a sofa by adding a padded cushion to a deep window sill and a sturdy glass seatback in front of the windowpane. In the living room, she hid an ugly shelving unit behind a wallpapered panel (see Tried & tested) and added extra shelving to the dining area.
The result is something the whole family is happy with.
“My husband was sceptical in the beginning,” Nina says. “Then in the summer we visited friends in Europe, who live in a dream house by a lake, and afterwards he commented how much warmer, more personal and cosy our home is. He loves it.”
Although the apartment was finished in 2012, Nina still seeks Rojens’ opinions before she buys something new. That includes a glass artwork in her bedroom: “It has a hole in it that reminds me of The Repulse Bay [a commercial and residential complex with the ‘fung shui hole’] and the story of the dragon flying down to the sea.”
Nina adds, “I feel we’re partners in this apartment. I will call her and send a picture – just because I love something doesn’t mean it will go. Lotta thinks about proportions and colour schemes, which I would never do, and she has solutions that don’t cost an obscene amount of money.
“We will take the scheme with us when we leave Hong Kong – that’s why it’s worth working with a decorator even if you’re renting. In the end, you save money – and you live in a space that’s finished.”
Living room The huge portrait of Nina and Alvise Giustiniani’s three boys is by Italian artist Claudia Peill. The cushions (HK$1,800 each, with Osborne & Little fabric) were made by LRD, which also had the sofa reupholstered in Kalahari fabric by P Kaufman for HK$8,000. The bespoke round ottoman (HK$24,000) in brown leather was also made by LRD. The Porta Romana table lamp (HK$10,000) came from Altfield (www.altfield.com.hk) and the side table (HK$7,000) from Ovo (www.ovo.com.hk). The coffee table was custom made years ago in Lausanne. The blue sofas (HK$32,000 each), covered in Acadia fabric in graphite by Chase Erwin; the New Zealand wool rug (HK$12,000); and sisal carpet (HK$23,000) all came from LRD. The white cushions (HK$400 each) were from White Contemporary Homewares (Prince’s Building, Central, tel: 2526 8482). The Tolomeo floor lamps (HK$3,280 each) were from Artemide (Ruttonjee Centre, 11 Duddell Street, Central, tel: 2523 0333).
Living room detail The purple velvet armchairs, covered in Bosforo fabric by Brochier, were custom-made by LRD (www.lrd.com.hk) for HK$12,000 each. The art-deco table was bought in an antiques store in Rome, Italy. The Bohemian crystal vases and votive holders came from Artel Glass (www.artelglass.com), in Prague, Czech Republic. The cushions (HK$560 each) were bought online from San Francisco company Crate & Barrel (www.crateandbarrel.com). The Lema shelving unit (www.lemamobili.com), from Italy, has travelled the world with the Giustiniani family. The porcelain elephant on the top shelf was created by Nina’s sister-in-law for Villari (www.villari.it). The Buddha head and pair of green candlesticks were from Bowerbird (2/F, 2 Lee Lok Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 2552 2727).
Dining area The dining table (HK$5,000) was from Artura Ficus (15/F, Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 3105 3903). Similar Eames DSW-style dining chairs are available for HK$2,290 each from Indigo Living (various locations; www.indigo-living.com). Illuminating the table is a Mar pendant lamp (HK$ 10,300) by Bover (bover.es). The glassware has been collected over decades, with many pieces from Murano Glass (www.muranoglass.com), in Venice. The built-in shelves came with the flat.
Study The study is easily converted into a guest bedroom. The desk and chair were bought years ago from Ikea (various locations; www.ikea.com.hk). The replica Jacobsen lamp was HK$1,490 from Indigo Living.
Kitchen The fully equipped kitchen has plenty of storage, stainless-steel splashbacks and Siemens (www.siemens.com.hk) appliances, all installed by the landlord.
Bathroom Installed by the landlord, the ensuite bathroom features custom-made drawers and wall units. The sink is by Duravit (www.duravit.com) and the accessories were from Inside (various locations; www.inside.com.hk).
Master bedroom The headboard was covered in P Kaufmann’s Tanzania fabric by LRD. Beside the Dux bed (www.dux.com) are antique bedside tables that are family keepsakes. The candleholder (HK$2,000) came from Svenskt Tenn (www.svenskttenn.se), in Sweden. The Archimoon Soft lamps (HK$4,000 each) are by Philippe Starck for Flos (www.flos.com). The throw (HK$2,000) was from Inside and the linen bedding from Society (www.societylimonta.com), in Italy.
Paper back To hide a shelving unit in the living room and create space for an antique chest of drawers - an heirloom from Alvise's Italian family - LRD custom built a panel covered in wallpaper. Lotta Rojens chose the Mediterranea paper (HK$560 a roll) from Cole & Son's Fornasetti collection www.cole-and-son.com The rubber plant pot (HK$980) was from Homeless (various locations; www.homeless.hk