When it comes to Hong Kong interiors, East-meets-West is a classic that teeters on the brink of cliché. But every now and again, a designer revisits the concept and comes up with something new.
In British interior decorator Louise Harris’ hands, the Oriental-Occidental fusion is reimagined as a fresh and feminine scheme for a 900 sq ft apartment in Kennedy Town. The interior was inspired by its owner, fashionmarketing professional Anne McManus, and reflects her multicultural upbringing. With a Chinese mother and British father, she was raised in Hong Kong and Manchester and wanted her home to reflect both sides of her heritage.
“The brief was to make it light and airy,” Harris says. “We’ve also been friends for years, which always helps. I gave Annie a big stack of magazines and suggested a few things and she picked what she liked. She was very involved.”
A key element of the design was the apartment’s waterfront location and (almost) unobstructed views of the harbour. Harris aimed to bring the bright and breezy feeling of that sunlit watery view into the home, opening up the space and employing impressionistic pastel colours.
“We knocked out all the internal walls and replaced the old small-paned windows. We had six months before the work began to plan and to collect finishing touches such as artwork and furniture – everything is new apart from one chair in the bedroom, which Annie has had since childhood. We planned to repaint it, but it looked so good in there that we left it.”
Previously, Harris had designed McManus’ brother’s apartment upstairs, so both women were familiar with the space and had plenty of ideas for reconfiguring it. It was redesigned with an open-plan living room, kitchen and dining area, with a pair of blue, Chinese-style doors leading into the hallway to the bathroom and two bedrooms. They have a practical function as well as adding character.
“We had to install extra-strong magnets to keep Annie’s cats, Chris and Ron, out of the bedrooms at night – although it doesn’t stop them trying,” Harris says, polishing scratch marks out of the paintwork. “The doors used to be part of a wall display in a furniture store that was closing down. I customised them with solid panels on the lower halves to keep the cats out.”
Other Asian elements include antiquestyle furniture lacquered in distressed pale grey instead of the more traditional red, a gilt bamboo mirror, blue-and-white dragon cushions and a gas-flame hob for McManus’ wok. The inspiration for the kitchen and bathroom, however, was English.
“Annie wanted a Victorian-style bathroom with a proper bath – she was fed up with showers – and bronze fittings. She loves copper and bronze. The whole design started with the tap,” Harris says.
Likewise, the grey-and-white chequered floor and bevelled-edge brickshaped tiles could have come straight from a Victorian villa.
If the bathroom is burnished with bronze, the kitchen is characterised by copper. A swathe of copper splashback brings warmth and an Englishcountry vibe to the spacious kitchen.
Adding to the country style is a grey linen curtain hiding the washing machine.
The months of planning paid off in considered details such as a small tiled area for the cats’ food bowls – tucked out of sight around a corner of the kitchen – and above it a large blackboard for shopping and to-do lists.
“We kept the details simple with a copper kettle that Annie’s mum found at a Sainsbury’s supermarket and Shakerstyle doors with no handles. Annie loves to cook so the kitchen needed plenty of work space.”
A strip of pineapple wallpaper helps to define the dining area and complements the quirky mismatched colours of the bentwood chairs and bench.
“The custom-made dining table is a scaled-down version of one we found in a picture,” Harris says.
Other pieces that were custom made include the sofa, which was turned into an L-shape with the addition of an ottoman with built-in storage. The transparent Perspex coffee table was chosen because the living space was too small for a solid-looking piece, and it is in keeping with McManus’ request for “airiness”.
Creating space in the guestroom-study is an oversized sliding door, which makes the hallway feel larger and brighter. The daybed converts easily into a spare bed for guests and has plenty of built-in storage.
In the master bedroom, storage was also key.
“Being in fashion, Annie has a ridiculous amount of clothes,” Harris says.
“So we had to create lots of wardrobe space, as well as special storage solutions for accessories [see Tried + tested], and still keep the look neat.”
Living room The sofa (HK$22,000), ottoman (HK$6,000) and cushions (HK$400 each) were custom made by Louise Harris Interiors (www.lhi.com.hk). The transparent acrylic coffee table (HK$1,550) was from Muji (various locations; www.muji.com/hk). The television unit was designed by Louise Harris Interiors and made for HK$7,900 by Red Cabinet (2/F, One Island South, 2 Heung Yip Road, Wong Chuk Hang, tel: 2536 0123), which also made the wooden stool (HK$1,100). The rug was HK$900 from Ikea. The painting is based on a piece Anne McManus fell in love with at the Affordable Art Fair (affordableartfair.com/hongkong). The lamp with black base (about HK$1,900) is available from Crate & Barrel (www.crateandbarrel.com), in the United States. The Chinese screen came from a previous flat.
Living room detail (above left) Construction company Anzac (www.anzac.com.hk) restored the antique doors, which Harris rescued from a shop that was closing down. Anzac also installed the solid-wood floor and the display shelves above the bedroom door and antique doors. The gilt bamboo mirror (HK$2,400, including delivery) was ordered online from Crate & Barrel.
Guest room/study (above right) The desk (HK$11,000) was designed by Louise Harris Interiors. The side table (HK$1,800) was from Crate & Barrel. The daybed (HK$8,200, including mattress), dragon cushion (HK$680) and scallop cushion (HK$450) were custom made by Louise Harris Interiors. The wall lamp was HK$1,560 from Allure Living (www.facebook.com/allureliving). The table lamp was from Ikea and the vintage photograph from Art King Fine Art Framing (130 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai, tel: 2866 6685).
Dining area and kitchen The dining table (HK$9,000), step-ladder shelves (HK$2,400) and copper splashback (HK$12,500) were custom made by Louise Harris Interiors. The Vienna dining chairs (HK$900 each) and Sonny bench (HK$2,000) were from Crate & Barrel. The Pineapple (Sorbet) wallpaper was US$190 a roll from Rifle Paper (www.riflepaperco.com). The kitchen units and countertop (HK$120,000 in total) were from Kuchen (www.kuchen.com.hk).
Master bedroom The bespoke bed (HK$11,000, not including mattress) and blind (HK$3,400) were from Louise Harris Interiors. The grey lacquer bedside tables (HK$2,980 each) were from Red Cabinet and the fan was sourced by Anzac. The paintings above the bed are a mixture of the owners’ own art and pieces sourced online at Minted (www.minted.com).
Master bedroom detail (above left) McManus has owned the blue chair since childhood. The metal table (HK$199) was from Ikea and the blind (HK$2,800) was from Louise Harris Interiors. The picture was painted by McManus at an Art Jam event (artjamming.com).
Bathroom (above right) The bathroom was designed by Louise Harris Interiors and constructed by Anzac. The cabinetry cost HK$15,000 for built-in bath and sink unit. The copper tap (HK$1,680) was from Bowin Building Material Centre (283 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2824 2108).
TRIED + TESTED
Hang loose Working in fashion, Anne McManus has an abundance of clothes and accessories, so customised storage - and lots of it - was the order of the day in the bedroom. The handbag rail (right) was one solution, with bags looped over a sturdy rail for easy access. The rail (HK$55) was sourced and installed by Anzac.
Styling: David Roden