Although it seems counterintuitive to spend money on improving something that isn’t yours, Lucia Tait Tolani believes in giving rental properties a bit of TLC to make them beautiful individual spaces. “Hongkongers pay some of the highest rents in the world so I get it that you might not want to spend more money on improvements,” says the American interior decorator and personal stylist. “I always say you should treat a rental property as if you own it but make design choices that are movable and flexible.” Asked by a friend to help personalise this 2,300 sq ft, three-bedroom, two-bathroom Mid-Levels flat for her family of five, Tait Tolani began with colour, wherein her true passion lies. However, she let her clients lead the way and the soft blues, creamy pale yellows and soothing greens they gravitated towards were the hues on which she based her design vision. “Living with colour is very important. It makes a big impact on mood so it has to come from the client and strike the right balance between harmony and contrast,” she says. “What I might love in my home might affect someone else in a totally different way.” Because the family hail from Britain, they wanted a classic English feel for their home. Tait Tolani stuck to their preferred aesthetic but managed to inject quirky elements, such as the harlequin-patterned pastel wallpaper on the nursery ceiling, to make the apartment original and fun. Mixing vintage with modern pieces, she sourced light fittings and furniture that she felt would make a statement in Hong Kong but would equally suit their native country should they ever decide to move back. She custom designed bookshelves in the living-room nook that look as though they are built in but come apart in five pieces and can be reassembled in different configurations. A faux mantelpiece, with a black-painted centre, gives the illusion of depth and looks solid, but can be easily removed. “I wanted to make the here-and-now matter but also think about how everything would translate if they moved elsewhere,” she says. Although unable to make any structural changes, Tait Tolani was permitted to paint the rooms. Once the palette was set, she had paints custom blended at eicó, modifying each shade by tiny increments until the desired hue was reached. Knowing her client loves fabrics and upholstery, she incorporated an assortment of textures, from velvet sofas with contrasting fringing, to delicate Chinoiserie panels and a riot of geometrics including hexagonal, diamond, striped and gingham patterns. Comfort was key so Tait Tolani created an environment simultaneously stylish and family friendly, featuring plush rugs, oversized slipper chairs and deep love seats. With the main bedroom and nursery dedicated to the oldest and youngest members of the family, respectively, Tait Tolani had to come up with a unisex solution for the third bedroom, which was to be shared by the family’s son and daughter. Keeping the main colour the same soothing blue as the baby’s room, she teamed it with coral and embroidered elements to make it more feminine without being too girly. How a stylist tailored an outdated Singapore home for the 21st century “I’m not of the ‘blue for boys, pink for girls’ school of thought,” says Tait Tolani. “This room feels light and fresh and works for both sexes.” She worked her magic on the balcony, too. What had been a fairly nondescript space was transformed by the introduction of inexpensive wooden decking interspersed with squares of artificial grass, elegant rattan furniture and large plants. “I always cover up typical Hong Kong balcony tiles because they tend to be quite boring,” says Tait Tolani. “I’d seen a picture of decking with real moss and slate so wanted that look and feel. It was a high idea but we recreated it with Ikea [products] and it was very therapeutic slotting all the tiles together myself.” Not so relaxing for her was the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic. She had sourced a lot of furniture from abroad and with many of her suppliers halting business, the delays had a domino effect on her timeline. “Luckily, it all came together just as my clients arrived back from overseas,” she says. “Having a gorgeous new apartment to quarantine in really softened the blow.” Living room The daughter of a lighting designer, Lucia Tait Tolani believes in having lighting sources at every level and has furnished the living room with chandeliers, wall lights and table lamps. One of a pair of Murano glass chandeliers (the other is in the dining area), by Toni Zuccheri for Venini, came from 1stDibs . The custom-made floral love seat was upholstered in Marchwood linen by Colefax and Fowler and the green sofas were upholstered in velvet from Art Draperies (112 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai, tel: 2136 1588), with a Barcelona Ombré fringe from Samuel & Sons . Tait Tolani created the vintage-inspired coffee table, which was made by Artura Ficus . She also transformed a round Ikea side table by adding a custom glass top and table skirt made from Ariana handwoven silk by Jim Thompson Fabrics . The accent rug was from Stark Carpet . Dining room Tait Tolani’s clients kept their old dining table and the designer had chairs custom made to match and upholstered them in Coquille fabric in Dark Forest from Chelsea Textiles , echoing the greenery outdoors. The sisal rug came from Overstock (overstock.com) and the velvet window seat cushions were from Art Draperies. The Plank Top console came from Altfield Gallery and on it sits a small wicker planter from Blue Carreon containing a preserved boxwood topiary from Amazon . The ceramic stool came from Taobao . The artwork is by David Yarrow . Living room nook English library meets African safari in this corner of the living room. Tait Tolani decorated it entirely in custom-blended paint from eicó and framed pages taken from a reprint of the 18th century book Cabinet of Natural Curiosities , by Albertus Seba, in Aerin gilded bamboo gallery frames from Williams Sonoma . She also custom designed the bookshelves and had them made at Artura Ficus. The Payson wall sconce and Serengeti Linen Zebra cushion were from Ralph Lauren Home , and the Céline Ombré Brush fringe on the cushion came from Samuel & Sons. The sofa came from Bowerbird Home and was reupholstered in Selma fabric in Chamois by Manuel Canovas . Living room detail What looks like a quintessentially English mantelpiece is actually a faux display. The mirror came from Altfield Gallery and the Fontaine sconces in gilded plaster are by Aerin . The vases were bought in the Prince Edward Flower Market. Custom-made slipper chairs, designed by Tait Tolani, have been upholstered in Scrolling Fern Silhouette in Ochre Ivory linen from Soane Britain and the Giacometti side table in Versailles gold came from Porta Romana Furniture . Balcony Tait Tolani transformed an ordinary-looking balcony by laying Runnen wooden decking and artificial grass floor tiles from Ikea . The Absolute rattan sofa, which was upholstered in Dupione Cornsilk fabric by Sunbrella, and Congo tables/stools all came from Blume Living . Main bedroom Stealing the show in the main bedroom is a piece of hand-painted Chinoiserie wallpaper by de Gournay , which was framed by Zetter Picture Framer . The handcrafted Savoir bed was upholstered in velvet from Dedar and the bedside table was inspired by a vintage design and custom made by Artura Ficus. The brass Positano Alabaster lamp came from Vaughan Designs . Children’s bedroom The Oeuf Perch bunk bed from Petit Bazaar was originally white. Tait Tolani painted it blue to match the children’s bedroom. She designed the bookshelves and had them custom made by Artura Ficus. The printed window-seat cushions were custom made in Carmen fabric from Colefax and Fowler and the plain linen base fabric was from Altfield’s own line. The large rug was found on Overstock while the smaller one is a dhurrie custom made by Maya Rugs . Tried + tested Above and beyond Lucia Tait Tolani says that when decorated, ceilings can add a striking design element to any room. She wallpapered the nursery ceiling with Punchinello wallpaper in Powder Blue and Seafoam on Chalk from Cole & Son to give the room character and the baby something interesting to look at overhead. The set of five Bumblebee Hexagon Art prints came from Scout Design Studio and the fabrics used for the Eaton Check blinds and Laurie window seat cushions were from Colefax and Fowler. The Vimle sofa bed from Ikea and the Cornelia sofa cushions were made out of fabrics by Jane Churchill , with trim and fringing from Samuel & Sons.