It took Andrew and Susan Sams seven years of searching to find their Sai Kung house, and just minutes to decide to buy it.
“My son, Reilly, walked in and said, ‘It looks like Australia,’” says Susan Sams. “It’s the view of the sea through the eucalyptus trees. We call it our little slice of Sydney in Hong Kong.”
When they found it 10 years ago, the 2,100-sq-ft house was a shell. The previous owner had stopped midway through a renovation. None of the walls had plaster, the floor had been ripped up and, in the living space, the external wall to the garden was missing entirely. And that was what sold them on it.
“It was a blank canvas. All that was here were some mood boards – all yin-yang and marble – and the pool, which was under tarpaulin. The contractors refused to show it to us, so we weren’t entirely sure what was under there,” Sams recalls. “But we liked the view through the open wall – the trees were smaller then – so we decided to make that wall purely glass.”
WATCH: Inside Andrew and Susan Sams’ Sai Kung house
Getting the huge panes into place was not easy. With no rear access, a crane had to be brought in to lift the glass panels over the roof of the three-storey terraced house and lower them gently into the garden. It was a heart-stopping process, but the result is a light-filled, double-height space that really does feel antipodean. With the television banished to another room, the split-level living space is an oasis of relaxed, sunlit calm.
Working with a contractor and piles of interiors magazines, Sams designed the house herself. She kept the overall look minimalist, choosing natural materials – walnut and slate floors, wood-veneer kitchen cabinets – neutral colours and white walls. And to maximise the sea views, she put in glass walls not only on the ground floor but on the upper levels as well.
There were a few hiccups. Installing the glamorous resin bath imported from Bali, Indonesia, for the master en-suite proved difficult.
“It was a case of ‘let’s build around it’,” says Sams. “It was so big and heavy the contractors had to bring it in through Reilly’s bedroom window and build a sort of Flintstones trolley inside the house to move it. It’s not going anywhere.”
The Samses are, however. With both children now at university in Britain, they have decided to up sticks for Pok Fu Lam, closer to Susan’s job at Lane Crawford, in Wong Chuk Hang. When we visit, the packing has begun, although some favourite pieces are to remain for tenants moving into the four-bedroom house.
“The dining table is antique, but it’s so huge it won’t fit anywhere else. The [overhead] lamp is staying, too – it needs the double-height ceiling,” she says, with some regret.
After a decade of looking for the perfect lamp to hang over the dining table, Susan finally found it in an interiors magazine last year. It’s an elegant, wide-brimmed concoction of polyurethane ribbon and ultra-light fibreglass with contours reminiscent of the black-and-white chapeau worn by Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady (1964).
“The lamp was made by a French company, which wanted me to go to their store in London, then in Beijing,” says Sams. “I finally persuaded them to take my credit-card details after eight weeks of trying to buy it.”
Also too big to move is a giant multimedia triptych artwork by their daughter, Siena.
“It was the piece that got her into Central Saint Martins [the London art school]. We have a lot of her art on display; we’re proud parents!”
Among the pieces that will be going to their new nest is a beloved collection of mid-century modern furniture, much of it from Lane Crawford Home.
“I get a staff discount, although my husband won’t let me do much with it,” says Sams.
Pieces scattered through the house bear familiar names, including Fritz Hansen chairs and side table “genuine, not fakes”, a vintage Le Corbusier chaise longue and a Herman Miller desk.
Other pieces have been picked up overseas, including rugs from Istanbul, Turkey, tagines from Fez, Morocco, art from Bali and ceramics from Australia.
“We like to shop when we travel,” says Sams. “The house has evolved over the years but I like it fairly minimalist, with just a few breakout displays, like the shelves in the dining room. We’re moving to an older property so we won’t go for the same look … we’ll go mid-century cool.”
With that, she gets back to the packing.
Living room Frankie the dog takes a stroll through the double-height living room. The custom-made sofas came from Attitude (7/F, Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau) years ago. The Italian glass coffee table was about HK$20,000 from Lane Crawford. The painting was bought in Bali, Indonesia. The Little Friend walnut side table (€1,143/HK$9,370) is by Fritz Hansen and the monkey lamp (€250) by Seletti.
Garden The poolside deck has a distinctly Aussie vibe, even if the water twinkling through the trees is the South China Sea. The sofa, dining table and chairs were imported from Bali years ago, and the firepit came from Australia. The sunlounger and umbrella were from Everything Under the Sun.
Dining area Most of the pieces in the dining area were bought specifically to fit the space, including the oversized antique English dining table. The table (HK$22,000), Fritz Hansen Series 7 chairs (HK$5,500 each) and bookcase (HK$6,000) were all from Lane Crawford. The copper Vertigo pendant lamp (€835) was from Petite Friture. The multimedia triptych is by Siena Sams.
Kitchen The whole kitchen – including the walnut veneer cabinets, Corian countertop and stainless-steel splashback – came from Kuchen. The transparent chair was bought years ago on Lockhart Road, in Wan Chai.
Study The study area in the master bedroom overlooks a sundeck. The Herman Miller Airia desk (HK$22,000) and Bestlite floor lamp, bought years ago, were from Lane Crawford. The leather and chrome chair is a discontinued item from FrancFranc. The curtains were custom made by Kai Ying Curtain Craft (Hiram’s Highway, Sai Kung, tel: 2791 4796). The sunlounger came from Everything Under the Sun years ago.
Bathroom The master en-suite bathroom was built around the large resin bathtub handmade in Java and imported from Bali. The Hansgrohe shower and glass shelves came from ColourLiving years ago.
Bedroom The bed and bedside lamp, from Ikea, are years old, as are the ottomans, which were picked up in Shenzhen. The vintage Le Corbusier chaise longue was bought a long time ago in Australia. The curtains were custom made by Ka Ying Curtain Craft. The multimedia painting is by Siena Sams.
TRIED & TESTED
The long view Throughout the house, the overriding design principle was to maximise the views of the sea at the front and the mountains at the back. On the landing, this frameless glass panel gives a helicopter view of the living room and garden and beyond. “[It’s] like a bird’s nest, allowing you to see through to the garden from the kitchen at the back of the house. It’s the perfect place for a desk, but ended up being the preferred play area for the kids and dog,” says Susan Sams.