British art consultant Alison Pickett and her French sculptor partner, Paul-Alexandre Bourieau (aka Polo), had a short but exacting list of must-haves when searching for a pied à terre eight years ago: it needed to have a convenient location, high ceilings, good light and a view.
“Not a lot to ask for,” says Pickett, laughing.
After viewing half a dozen flats, they found a 1,100 sq ft seaview unit in Kennedy Town they felt was “perfect”.
“The light around four o’clock is fabulous, and the sunsets are breathtaking,” she says.
The couple, who designed and project-managed the four-month renovation, divide their time between Hong Kong, where they run their businesses, and their house in Tuscany, Italy, where they are landscaping and building a sculpture garden.
“We have stunning views over the white marble mountains of Carrara,” Pickett says. “It’s very calm and peaceful, and a wonderful contrast to Hong Kong and the high-octane energy of the seven million people here.”
Art helped connect the couple: Pickett and Bourieau met during a sculpture sourcing trip in Italy.
“He was covered head to toe in white marble dust from sculpting three tonnes of marble for a huge project he was working on for the Vatican,” says Pickett. “It was very romantic.”
Bourieau’s pieces are among the artworks in the Hong Kong flat, which Pickett describes as having been “hideously ugly” when they found it.
“The decor clearly hadn’t been changed since the building’s completion in the late 80s,” she says. “There were low false ceilings, lots of small subdivided rooms and no natural light as the walls of the main room along the windows blocked any light coming through. We started from scratch, knocking down the walls, removing the false ceilings and reconfiguring the entrance so as to display art and sculpture.”
They had only one heated row while renovating the apartment, she says, and it centred on the windows.
Bourieau wanted to replace the black metal-grid windows with large panes of glass that would make the most of the view and light. But because the existing window opening couldn’t be altered, Pickett wondered if it was worth the hassle.
“It was one of the largest renovation costs and involved getting approval from the Buildings Department before we could commence,” Pickett says.
Now, however, she admits her partner was right: “It’s made a world of difference.”
The light that pours through the windows illuminates the open-plan flat, with its large living and dining room, spacious ensuite bedroom, ample storage space and small but perfectly formed kitchen.
“It is compact but great to work in,” she says. “We planned it so everything is easily accessible.”
Practicality is also a highlight of a camphorwood drawer case (see Tried + tested), designed by Bourieau and inspired by traditional Chinese medicine chests.
“It’s functional art,” says Pickett. “The fixed drawers don’t open and close, so take up very little space and are so useful for just popping things in and out.”
The many sculptures migrate around the home.
“You should be able to touch them and move them about,” says Pickett. “I use one sculpture as a door stop, and a model of one of Polo’s sculptures is hung on the bedroom door.”
Her slice of heaven, however, comes in the shape of a big bubble chair that hangs in a corner of the living area.
“I love to sit there and read, with my feet up on my footstool, watch the sunset and listen to the early morning birdsong.”
Given a second chance, would they change anything?
“No,” she insists. “Although the Lamma ferries are very noisy when it’s foggy.”
Living room The sofa (HK$10,000) was from Stockroom (20/F, Hong Kong Industrial Building, 444 Des Voeux Road West, Kennedy Town, tel: 2817 0999); the Eero Aarnio Bubble Chair (HK$45,000) came from Aluminium (www.aluminium-furniture.com); the teak chairs and coffee table (US$3,000 for the set) were from Shanghai’s Arario Gallery (www.arariogallery.com); and the Eames lounge chair (HK$60,000) was from Lane Crawford. The Tolomeo Mega floor lamp (HK$6,400) came from Artemide (Ruttonjee Centre, 11 Duddell Street, Central, tel: 2523 0333). Above the Bubble Chair is a 1970s Curtis Jere wall sculpture from Faux (3/F, Harbour Industrial Centre, 10 Lee Hing Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 2851 4040). The mirror polished stainless-steel Dew Drop sculptures on the floor are by Danny Lee, whose work can be sourced through Grotto Fine Art (1/F, 31Wyndham Street, Central, tel: 2121 2270). A framed pinhole photograph, by Li Gang, from Red Gate Gallery (www.redgategallery.com), hangs above the television. Beneath, the modular unit (about HK$10,000 in total) was from Tree (www.tree.com.hk). A Laurens Tan work, in the shape of a miniature red armchair, sits below the Bubble Chair. The stone sculpture by the bookcase is by Marvin Minto Fang. Next to it stands Reflection Man, by Polo (www.urbanrocksculpture.com). The artwork in this and other rooms has been collected over time from artists, auction houses, galleries and art fairs.
Dining area The table and chairs were acquired several years ago from BALS Tokyo (Festival Walk, 80 Tat Chee Avenue, Kowloon Tong, tel: 3106 8958). On the table are a Ye Sen wooden sculpture (right), from Red Gate Gallery, and a piece by Sophie Dickens, from the Sladmore Gallery (www.sladmore.com), in London. On the floor on the far left is a wooden sculpture with a metal bell, by Liang Hao, from One Moon Art (www.onemoonart.com). Artwork on the desk includes a lightbox work by Jayne Dyer and an acrylic piece by Barnaby Gorton. On the wall are an Antony Gormley framed paper work (left) and an Allen Jones engraving.
Living room detail Polo’s work IT’S hangs on the bedroom door. The console accommodates a Fang work on the far left, as well as other sculptural works by Man Fung-yi, Lin Xue and Mok Yat-san. Leaning against the wall, in a black frame, is a work by photographer William Furniss. A collection of Pickett’s hats hang on an Eames hat rack on the door to an expansive cupboard. A stool sculpture, by Li, sits on the floor by a pink dinosaur, by Sui Jianguo, from Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art (ucca.org.cn), in Beijing. The blue and red metal piece is by Kim Tae-sue.
Bedroom The Eames DAW chair (plastic, HK$5,000; fibreglass, HK$7,200) was from Aluminium. A pair of hand-carved marble sculptures, Plus & Minus, by Polo, sits on one bedside table, and a David Williams-Ellis figure sculpture and a small wooden sculpture, by Alison Crowther, rest on the other. The pendant lights are by Annette Boissevain and the artwork over the bed is by Gerard Bookle.
Bathroom A sculpture by Irene Lau Kwai-ying hangs on the wall. The ladder and stool were picked up years ago in Hong Kong.
Kitchen The pendant lamp (HK$900) came from G.O.D. (www.god.com.hk). On the wall by the kitchen entrance is a Henry Moore work on paper, below which is art by Ng Ka-chun, from Gallery Exit (3/F, 25 Hing Wo Street, Tin Wan, Aberdeen, tel: 2541 1299). Sitting on the end table is a Christian Cadelli sculpture with a work by Lam Keyee underneath.
Open sesame In the kitchen, this camphorwood drawer case, designed by Polo specifically for a small space, stores keepsakes, herbs, condiments and kitchen gadgets. The permanently open drawers provide easy access.