Cynthia Breit was at home in Holland when she received an unexpected request to design a home in Hong Kong.
“I did the whole renovation from a distance,” says the founder of Bricks & Mortar Design, who splits her time between Hong Kong and her native Netherlands.
The eager client was Felicity Broadley, a South African who has lived in Discovery Bay for most of the past 12 years. Last year, she, her husband and their seven-year-old son, Conor, decided to leave their flat for a split-level townhouse nearby, and Broadley already knew she wanted Breit to design it.
“I saw her work in a magazine years ago, and I liked it so much I clipped it out and saved it,” says Broadley, who was charmed by Breit’s use of contrasting materials – red brick and wood, metal and cement – and wanted something similar for her new house, which has a sea view from both sides, a spacious terrace and a grassy garden. “It’s a casual, South African kind of home.”
With friends coming and going and her husband barbecuing nearly every weekend, she wanted the interior to reflect their easy-going lifestyle.
Though the house spans 1,564 square feet, it is spread over five storeys.
“The first month we were here, my legs were always sore,” says Broadley, with a laugh.
Broadley and Breit decided to divide the house into a private living area, which includes three bedrooms and a study nook on the top two floors, and a public “entertainment area” that flows from the kitchen to the living room, terrace and garden.
“If you stand in the living room you can see the entire space, from the terrace to the kitchen,” Breit says. “I wanted to tie these spaces together.”
She started with the materials, cladding pillars and a feature wall in the living room and kitchen with red brick.
“I always like to work with bricks,” she says. “It’s a bit unusual for Hong Kong but it gives a nice warmth to the space.”
It is also a useful tool to create contrast. Though Breit normally likes to use stainless steel, Broadley wasn’t keen on this, so they chose white cabinets, polished white-tile walls and a dark grey marble countertop for the kitchen.
With its narrow dimensions, there’s wasn’t much room to alter the house’s layout. The kitchen was the exception. Though it had an open layout, a counter separated the space from the adjacent dining area. Broadley wanted the two parts of the room to flow together. Breit’s solution was to design a large bar in the middle – not so much a kitchen island as a peninsula – that separated the space into two lanes leading into the dining area, which has a large wooden table and a bench nestled between two pillars.
“The layout is a bit unorthodox but it’s such a great space to talk, eat and cook,” says Broadley.
Breit calls it “the heart of the house”.
Upstairs, the palette has been kept light, with white walls and warm wood. Breit says she always warns clients not to put “too much colour in the base design of the apartment” because they might get tired of it. In this case, it sets the stage for flourishes such as Broadley’s collection of Persian rugs, or a mirror that looks like a red British phone booth – which is echoed by a similar display cabinet in the dining area.
Broadley’s son chose a vibrant shade of turquoise for a feature wall in his room, which he describes as a treehouse, because it looks out onto thick foliage.
The renovation was completed earlier this year and Broadley says that, sore legs aside, she is happy with how everything turned out.
“We built the place to be a long-term family home,” she says. “And it already feels like it.”
Dining area The Kotak dining table (HK$17,800) was from Tree and the chairs (HK$6,000 each) from Decor8. The red telephone box drinks cabinet was bought on sale at Tequila Kola. The shelves (HK$16,500) and bench (HK$4,700) were built by Erste (381 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2683 2030). The rug (HK$5,000) came from Shambala, which is closing on October 31. The Nordlux light fixture (HK$10,000), designed by Kaare Bækgaard, was from Future Lighting. The painting was purchased in South Africa.
Living area The painting is by South African artist Paul Munro. The sofa (HK$35,000) was custom made by Old Shanghai, with silk cushions (HK$3,000 in total) from Jim Thompson, in Bangkok, Thailand. The coffee table (HK$5,000) was from Shambala and the rug (HK$6,000) from rugman.com.
Living room detail The glass-topped Atlantic side table (HK$18,000) was from Tequila Kola. The Womb armchair and ottoman (HK$5,600) and Atlantic tripod light (HK$2,900) were both from Decor8. The teak Qubus side table (HK$4,500) was from Tree. The rug (HK$6,000) came from rugman.com.
Stairwell The glass desk (HK$4,500) and Bristol swivel chair (HK$8,400) were from Tequila Kola. The painting is by South African artist P. Malan.
Kitchen The Raskog stools (HK$499 each) came from Ikea. Everything else was custom built by Erste, including the wooden bar table (HK$18,000), cupboards (HK$140,000), marble countertops (HK$36,000), wood shelves (HK$4,500) and hanging shelf/oven hood (HK$3,250).
Bedroom The Marco Polo bed (discontinued) came from Tequila Kola.
Bathroom The cabinetry (HK$13,800) and wood-veneer countertop (HK$4,500) were built by Erste. The GSI Traccia basins (HK$7,400 for two) were from Pacific Lifestyle and the Axor Metris S mixer taps (HK$10,770 for two) were from E. Bon. The Heirloom Loft heated towel rack (HK$6,300) was from Vincent Sanitaryware (288 Lockhart Road, tel: 2511 2687).
TRIED + TESTED
Now you see it ... When Felicity Broadley saw the Duravit Open Space fold-away shower in a catalogue, she was smitten. “You use the shower for only 10 minutes a day, so why should it take up so much space?” she says. “This is perfect for Hong Kong.” When the shower is folded away, it functions as a full-length mirror. Pull out the mirror and another glass panel and they lock together with a magnet, creating a sealed shower stall. The unit cost HK$55,000 at E. Bon.