There’s no denying the allure of vibrant colour, particularly when it comes to making an interior statement. But it takes confidence, careful planning and a real eye for design to make a dramatic palette work. Step forward husband-and-wife team Frederic and Catherine Bourquin, of Atelier B, who were commissioned in 2013 to renovate a 2,450 sq ft company-owned weekend house on Lantau Island.
Although their budget was minimal, the Bourquins, who have lived in Hong Kong for 22 years, were given free rein to come up with a fresh, fun and functional concept for the four-bedroom, four-bathroom house. The result is a riot of strong, bright colours most people would shy away from but which works perfectly here.
“We love colour and find it very difficult to live in or create very neutral environments,” says Catherine, originally from England. “A holiday house is the perfect opportunity to do something a bit bolder than, say, for a regular family home.”
Complemented by pale French oak vinyl flooring and white detailing, shades of blue dominate – from the almost life-sized, azure ceramic hippo that greets visitors at the Bleu de France front door to the cobalt ceramic tiles in the outdoor kitchen. A sky-blue feature wall is paired with a hot-pink sideboard and dining chairs while, in the living area, the same shade of blue acts as a backdrop for buttercup-yellow cupboards.
Upstairs, the base and half the posts of the four-poster bed in the master bedroom have been painted a slightly brighter blue, giving the traditionally shaped piece of furniture a contemporary twist. And how else to get from ground to first floor in this fairy tale house than via a spiral staircase coloured a gorgeous turquoise?
“Although we bought a few pieces of furniture for the house, we mostly made do with what was already there and repainted it to give it a new lease of life,” says Swiss-born architect Frederic. “The staircase was already spiral but we completely refurbished it to make it look fresh and attractive, and built in a cupboard under the stairs to make use of otherwise wasted space.”
The Bourquins wanted to give the house a distinct identity. Traditional Chinese features that have been given a new slant are a particularly prominent theme, helping to tie the rooms together.
Many design elements were inspired by the original moongates in the terraced garden – most obviously, the circular entrance to the master bedroom (see Tried + Tested). Its shape is echoed by a pair of arched French windows on the other side of the bed and by the round window looking into the master bathroom. In some areas, such as the living room and second guest bedroom, where the square windows couldn’t be changed, Frederic designed and installed semi-circular panels in front of them to disguise their contours. A sliding door dividing the children’s rooms has been decorated with a turquoise circle on one side, an orange one on the other.
Other classic details include fretwork and relief patterns repeated on cupboards, doors and bedheads, chinoiserie wallpaper and double ceramic sinks and shower tiles painted with navy flowers.
“The house already had an Asian flair, which we took a bit further and then added the bold colours. These were inspired by holidays by the sea, sunshine, and with a nod to the 1960s and 70s,” says Catherine.
Complete with built-in bunk beds, the children’s rooms are resplendent in wide stripes – turquoise and orange in one; orange and pale purple in the other. The sliding door between the rooms can be opened to create a space that is perfect for games and sleepovers.
“I changed the upstairs layout considerably, to allow for more rooms, and made everything more user friendly. I still love the functionality of the two connecting spaces,” says Frederic.
You might imagine that in a company holiday home artwork would be of minor importance, but not so here. Catherine sourced pieces that would fit perfectly into the house and reflect its character.
Wall-mounted Chinese-style plates in the dining area flank a piece of framed Jim Thompson fabric, depicting a pink dragon, while elsewhere in the house are photographs of Lantau taken by a friend, Mareike Von Engelbrechten (www.pomelorice.etsy.com).
“Artwork can be cheap or expensive but it has to have a relationship with the house,” says Frederic.
“We put a lot of love and energy into this project and, in return, it gave us a great opportunity to go a little bit wild and have some fun. I’m very proud of what we have done here.”
The Bourquins agree that spending weekends in such a colourful environment is one thing but living with such intensity on a daily basis is quite another. But, then, this is a house created to make people smile and remember it long after they’ve left, which is what holidays are all about.
Living room The yellow cabinets were designed by Atelier B and built by Namxing Construction (contact Jackson Chiu, tel: 2756 3318). The side table (HK$2,990), blue armchair (HK$8,490) and yellow ceramic stool (HK$1,290) all came from Indigo Living . The floor lamp was HK$750 from Ikea. On the wall is an original lithographic print by Bernard Buffet, from the Saint-Ouen flea market in Paris, France. Brass studs were attached to the existing fireplace. The black-and-white Delft wallpaper, by Braquenié, came from Altfield Interiors. Most other items had been in the house for years and were given a makeover. A natural-wood coffee table was painted blue by Namxing Construction. Existing sofas and ottomans were re-covered. The lamp base (on the side table) was repainted and topped with a new shade (HK$99) from Ikea.
Dining room The dining table and chairs had been in the house for years and were repainted by Namxing Construction. A piece of Enter The Dragons fabric by Jim Thompson, from Altfield Interiors, was stretched and framed. The wall-mounted blue-and-white antique Chinese plates came from Mountain Folkcraft. The pink sideboard was designed by Atelier B and built by Namxing Construction.
Landing with second guest room The double bed, already in the house, was repainted by Namxing Construction. The paint used throughout the house was from Dulux.
Tried + Tested
Through the round window To emulate the moongate feature in the garden and create a strong sense of China, Frederic Bourquin knocked an existing window and wall in the master bedroom into a large circular entrance. He made full-scale templates of the design and worked with local carpenters to mould the French oak into the required shape. There is no door although storage space is concealed on both sides.