On their first night in their Lamma Island house, French expat Anne Jones and her Australian husband, Stephen, thought a removal man had left a tap on.
“We could hear water running but we didn’t know where it was coming from,” Jones recalls.
They searched the house, but soon realised it wasn’t a tap after all – it was the sound of the waves lapping against the shore just beneath their window.
Hidden in a remote corner of Lamma, the couple’s home is a traditional 2,100 sq ft, three-floor village house with terrace.
Jones trained as a graphic and interior designer before becoming a real-estate agent, and Stephen is the regional director of international architecture firm Woods Bagot. Despite both of them having a design background, they didn’t want the house to be complicated, Jones says.
“We wanted to do a liveable, comfortable beach house,” she adds.
When they bought the house seven years ago, there was an open-plan living and dining area on the ground floor, five bedrooms and a bathroom on the first floor and a master bedroom and bathroom on the top floor.
The couple cut the number of bedrooms on the first floor to three, creating one for each of their two daughters plus a guest room. They also wanted a more intimate family space than the large open-plan living room, so they rearranged the top floor to add a television room next to the master bedroom.
Jones chose hard-wearing, practical materials for the whole house.
“This house needed to be bulletproof,” she says. “In the summer, everyone’s in swimming costumes going in and out; there’s sand everywhere. And on weekends we have lots of big gatherings.”
Durable oak floorboards in the living room and light grey epoxy flooring on the other two storeys mean that any mess is easily cleaned up.
“The flooring is very easy to maintain and will last forever, basically,” Jones says.
She also custom-made several pieces of furniture, including sofas and the outdoor dining table, to ensure that they could endure some wear and tear.
“We made the coffee table ourselves,” she says. “We wanted a table that was [adaptable], so we designed one large coffee table that is made up of eight smaller tables, which can be pulled apart. We had the steel table stands made and then went to Reclamation Street and had rectangles of brass cut to use as the tabletop.”
Along one wall in the living room, the couple installed a raw concrete bench that stretches into the kitchen. Built-in storage neatly houses their extensive crockery collection while the countertop provides extra table space during parties. They also installed a similar bench beneath the fireplace.
For all the rooms, Jones stuck to a neutral palette dominated by greys.
“I love grey,” she says. “My neighbour said to me the other day, ‘You love grey so much that even your dog is grey!’ But we like it because we think it works very well with the green around the house.”
Jones was first drawn to the house by the surrounding forest, which is so dense, she says, living here is “like being in Avatar”.
“It feels like you’re in a tree house,” she adds. “Everyone’s always looking at the sea but I’m more touched by all the greenery.”
That explains why the windows consumed most of their budget. “It was a very cheap renovation compared to the size of the house; the windows were the most expensive part.”
But the investment was worth it. Large windows in every room and along the central staircase flood the house with light and provide striking views at every turn.
The house’s isolation may have been a huge part of its appeal, but it made the moving process incredibly stressful.
“It was a nightmare,” Jones says, explaining that all building materials and furniture had to be transported by sampan or a special freight boat, then pushed to the house on trolleys.
Now the family have settled in, though, “we’d never move back to the city,” she says. “We live outdoors here. We can have a party with 60 people and everyone can eat and drink and dance on the terrace. It’s exactly what we wanted.”
Living area The rug was picked up in China, the red-and-blue cushion was from Turkey and the two butterfly chairs were purchased years ago from muumuu, in Sydney, Australia. The couple designed the coffee table themselves. The wood-burning fireplace was from Stovax & Gazco.
Dining area The dining table is by Matthew Hilton and was bought at Lane Crawford years ago, as was the Artemide pendant light. The dining chairs were from a shop in Sydney that specialises in Scandinavian furniture. The couple found the daybed in an antiques market in Beijing 15 years ago. The sculptures were bought in an antiques shop in Ap Lei Chau that has since closed.
Stairs The couple used light grey epoxy flooring throughout the first and second floor because they wanted a hard-wearing surface. The horse sculpture was a gift.
Outdoor sitting area As in the living room, the butterfly chairs came from muumuu; in Hong Kong, the chairs can be bought at Aluminium. The coffee table was from Everything Under The Sun and the large pot was bought in Zhuhai.
Master bedroom The bed came from Artura Ficus. The dressing table and stool were bought years ago at an antiques market in Beijing. The armchair was purchased more than a decade ago, but similar ones can be found at Aluminium. The bedside light is by Artemide and was bought at Lane Crawford.
Younger daughter’s bedroomThe bed and bedside table came from Ikea. The antique Chinese console, bought years ago in Beijing, is used as a desk and a ladder bought from a store in Wan Chai is used as shelves for her knick-knacks. The chair was bought at Mr Blacksmith and the lampshade (HK$200) was picked up in Bali, Indonesia.
Terrace The tiles were picked up in Vietnam. The couple designed and built the dining table, welding the steel base and using concrete panels as the tabletop. The dining chairs were from Fermob. The bamboo awning (HK$450 for a 1.5-metre by three-metre panel) came from Wah King Garden Centre (907 Tai Chung Hau Road, Sai Kung, tel: 2792 7440).
Tried + tested
Steel the show Anne and Stephen Jones wanted to add a cosy family room next to the master bedroom on the top floor, but didn’t want to sacrifice privacy. However, the position of a built-in bookshelf meant that a swing door couldn’t be installed between the two rooms. As a compromise, the couple designed a steel sliding door to separate the spaces.
Made with a wide end panel that wraps neatly around the wall when the door is open and rests easily on the bookshelf when closed, the door is a tidy and practical solution to a tricky problem. Inspired by its success, they also installed a similar door between the kitchen and living room on the ground floor.