Our series of online people profiles covers a wide range of backgrounds, careers and personalities of individuals. In this instalment, we chat with EMMA HURLSTON-TSENG, a home interior designer in Hong Kong. Read on to find out more about her business Hurlston-Tseng Designs and what life is like beyond creating beautiful interior designs for homes across Hong Kong.
Where are you from originally and when did you come to Hong Kong?
I’m from London, but I’ve been here nearly 30 years, so I’m lucky to call two of the most inspiring places in the world my home. I studied Fashion Design at St. Martins School of Art, landing a great job before I graduated that saw me travelling the world for inspiration and development work. Luckily enough, Hong Kong was a frequent destination… and so began my love affair! It was an easy transition to finally move here when offered the opportunity by a London womenswear company.
Where is home in Hong Kong?
I live in Pok Fu Lam with my husband who is HK Chinese (hence the Tseng in my name) and our amazing helper of almost 19 years. Both my boys are now at uni in the UK. I have a soft spot for Happy Valley where I lived for many years; it has a neighbourhood feel like London. But we moved to Pok Fu Lam and renovated our home nearly 20 years ago – my first gut-and renovation, in fact. The expansive views of sea and sky sold it to us, and I would now struggle to live without them.
When did you launch your interior design business?
My move from fashion into interior design was gradual, starting with specifying new textiles, colours and prints for a retailer here and expanding into designing furniture in Asia and sourcing European brands. People began to ask me for interiors styling advice and help with small projects, so I took some specific courses to hone my skills. My first project under Hurlston-Tseng Designs was a large apartment in South Bay – it featured in Expat Living in 2016!
My aim was to address a gap in the market and use my background and contacts to bring some considered layering and individuality into the homes I created, as I felt too many looked “cookie cutter”.
What services do you provide?
Projects range from whole gut-and-renovations to furnishing owners’ homes and refurnishing rental homes. For the renovations, clients like that I can recommend and work with contractors I trust, and take the pain out of that for them. They also love that we plan the right layouts, furnishings and lighting from the outset – so many renovations aren’t thought through, resulting in unnecessary compromises.
The rentals are split between two types. Some need a breath of new life, others lack cohesion and direction. Many clients crave a sense of calmness – uncluttered but not minimalist, still with warmth and interest, and personal to them. This is Hong Kong, so clever ways with integrating storage are always on the list, of course. And almost all clients want to entertain at home and crave that visual impact when guests arrive. The other focus is clients relocating here and needing to furnish asap – not easy in HK as very few places carry stock.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I love sketching, painting and life drawing. As a teenager, I knew I had to choose a path that would combine arts with financial stability – if not for that, I definitely would have studied Fine Art. Almost every morning, come rain or shine, I hike up to The Peak and plan my schedule up there with a coffee overlooking the Hong Kong skyline.
What are you looking forward to in 2024?
On a personal front, it’s all about figuring out how to make the most of empty nesting – more time for getting back into the creative arts for me, and my husband and I love exploring the different neighbourhoods and photographing those fast-disappearing fragments of old Hong Kong.
Have a look at Emma’s interior designs at hurlston-tsengdesigns.com.
Enjoyed reading about a home interior designer in Hong Kong? See more in our Living in Hong Kong section.
This article first appeared in the Winter 2023/2024 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue!