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Hong Kong couple’s growing art collection finds a home in Southside house

When it came to transforming their new property into a warm home, a couple knew just who to call, writes Charmaine Chan.

Photography: Virgile Simon Bertrand

For homeowners Michelle and Charles Wan, who first worked with Jason Caroline Design 12 years ago, employing the firm a third time made sense on a practical level: having architects already familiar with what they owned saved time and money.

SEE ALSO: The joy of duplex

“We had chosen most of the furniture together during the previous two renovations, so it had sentimental value,” says Caroline Ma, who worked with husband Jason Yung on those occasions. “Our goal was to keep almost everything they already owned.”

The design team had first transformed an apartment in Mid-Levels for the Wans in 2003. Five years later, Ma and Yung helped turn that apartment into a 6,000 sq ft duplex after the Wans purchased the unit below. Then, 2½ years ago, the couple contacted Ma and Yung again, this time to help refit a three-level house.

Having bought a new property, the Wans kept what they could, including the marble flooring, although two bathrooms were sacrificed to enlarge adjoining rooms – the kitchen and, one level above, the study/movie room, which was previously one of four bedrooms. On the top floor, now a master suite, a room was converted into hisand- hers dressing areas and a pantry installed near the stairs, “so you don’t have to go down for water”, Michelle Wan says.

The couple’s new Southside abode may be smaller than their previous place but, at 3,500 square feet, with a 1,200 sq ft outdoor area, it more than adequately accommodates the two of them, their now-grown, United States-based sons when they are in Hong Kong and their growing collection of art. So many pieces hang beside the screened staircase threading its way through the house that going up and down the steps is as engaging as visiting a gallery.

Some of the pieces are by artists who are like old friends to the designers, including a couple of Ju Ming sculptures and a commissioned work by Chun Kwang Young, whose medium is old Korean mulberry paper covering tactile geometric wedges. Then there are newcomers, including Picasso, Damien Hirst and Robert Indiana, whose most famous creation is given pride of place in the glamorous living area on the ground floor.  There, a custom-made Sharon Marston chandelier and a fireplace wall covered in Maya Romanoff copper tiles lend warmth and sparkle to the contemporary classic interior.

“We knew where we were going to place the major artworks but it was fun working out where to put the smaller pieces – and they kept buying more,” says Ma, explaining that a wall beside the staircase was opened not only to afford views of the garden and swimming pool but also to give prominence to Indiana’s Love sculpture. “It’s interesting that when we move an artwork it becomes different somehow. Placement is important.”

That was true, literally, for the removal crew, who struggled to squeeze a few large works up the staircase. But it wasn’t simply a logistical problem moving items into the house. “The company said it was impossible to move the sofa out of the old place by the stairs or elevator,” Wan says.

The only option was to chop it in two.

That 3.2-metre-long Promemoria sofa now sits proudly in the sitting area, its scars seemingly healed.

“They cut it and put it back together,” says Wan, running her fingers over the base. “I can’t tell where.”

Two other items that exercised the designers’ minds were the 17th-century Japanese screens the couple wanted framed together and installed on the wall behind their bed. Because of the size of the undertaking it had to be done on site, which is why discussions with the framer began at the start of the 12-month renovation, completed at the start of this year.

That a few boxes remain unpacked makes it somehow inappropriate to ask if the Wans will be moving again anytime soon. But the question doesn’t really warrant posing. From the expansive windows along one side of the main bedroom, a few other houses can be seen in the distance, but mostly the view is of verdant hills.

“From our previous place all you could see were towers and buildings,” says Michelle Wan. “This is really peaceful.”

Living room The living room is furnished mostly with items from the Wans’ previous home, including the carpet (Fort Street Studio, 9/F, One Island South, 2 Heung Yip Road, Wong Chuk Hang, tel: 2889 5150); Cassina Auckland armchair (Anterra, 5 Blue Pool Road, Happy Valley, tel: 2525 9874); and Giorgetti coffee table (Magazzini, 1/F, Ruttonjee Centre, 11 Duddell Street, Central, tel: 2814 1663), also the source for the Promemoria Mogador sofa set. The Promemoria Balthazar cabinet beside the sofa also came from Magazzini. The round Giorgetti Ino bar cabinet (HK$122,000) came from Via (3 Wing Fung Street, Wan Chai, tel: 3102 3189). The chandelier was from Sharon Marston ( The XL900 burner kit in the fireplace came from Design Link (1/F, Ruttonjee Centre, tel: 2868 0991). The artwork above the sofa is by Chun Kwang Young. The Korean doll by the fireplace was a gift. The Ju Ming sculpture came from Alisan Fine Arts (23/F, Hing Wai Centre, 7 Tin Wan Praya Road, Aberdeen, tel: 2526 1091); the Robert Indiana Love sculpture was from Gallery Hyundai (, in Seoul, South Korea.

Study and TV room The Flexform sofa, bought years ago, was resized. Also old are the Artemide Pipes standing lamp and the Promemoria Theo Scrittoi table. The round Henge R-Table came from Essess Designer Fabbrica (Derrick Industrial Building, 49 Wong Chuk Hang Road, Wong Chuk Hang, tel: 2918 1858). The Poliform Wall System (HK$39,000), including shelving and desk alcove, came from Via. Over one arm of the sofa is the Mogg Vico swivel table (HK$11,000) supplied by InStile (8/F, iHome Centre, 365 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2350 1001).

Kitchen By the entrance is the expanded kitchen, where an Arne Jacobsen lamp (from Manks, 1 Yip Fat Street, Wong Chuk Hang, tel: 2522 2115), used in their former study, now hangs over a bar table. The Lapalma barstools are also from their previous home. The contraption above the counter is a Bulthaup spice cabinet. The bins are also from Bulthaup.

Outdoor area The garden redesign, by Jason Caroline Design (14/F, 39 Wellington Street, Central, tel: 2517 7510), was carried out by Greenfingers (Tung Tze Terrace, 6 Aberdeen Street, Central, tel: 2827 8280). The B&B Italia Canasta armchair (HK$28,000) came from ColourLiving (333 Lockhart Road, tel: 2295 6263). The EcoSmart fire bowl (HK$9,900) came from Design Link.

Bathroom The Antonio Lupi Tuba 3 basin (HK$40,000) and Dornbracht Mem wall spout and mixer (HK$13,800) came from ColourLiving.

Dining area From their previous home are the Mousi table that seats 10 and Marella chairs, all from Promemoria. The Henge circular ring lights were custom made by Essess Designer Fabbrica. The Yue Minjun painting was acquired at auction.

Master bedroom From the Wans’ previous home are the Flou king-sized bed (; Promemoria Aziza chaise; LuceCrea Class “La Primavera” chandelier (Desideri, 7/F, Oriental Crystal Commercial Building, 46 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central, tel: 2950 4026) and carpet (Fort Street Studio). New are the Promemoria Future bedside tables; bedhead (custom made for HK$11,000 by Jason Caroline Design and installed by Galerie du Monde,; and Vibia Swing bedside lamps (Lumen Arts, 11/F, Block B, Seaview Estate, 4 Watson Road, North Point, tel: 2803 4501). The 17th-century Japanese screens came from Yanagi Takashi (195 Nishino-cho, Yamatooji-dori Shinmonzen-agaru, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, Japan, tel: 81 075 551 1284).



Removing a side wall by the staircase allowed Jason Caroline Design to create the perfect display area for Robert Indiana's Love sculpture. It also allowed them to design a coffee nook and whisky bar. The coffee area accommodates a Miele machine and enough capsules to ensure guests are well caffeinated. The joinery cost about HK$20,000 (not including the side panels).


This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Third time’s a charm