We get a glimpse inside an interior designer’s home in Hong Kong that’s close to the markets and sea in Stanley.
Born and raised mostly in the United States (with a few years here and there in Germany), BRITTA BUTLER has been living in Hong Kong for 15 years. She left a design position at an architecture firm in Boston to move here in 2007, after a job opportunity arose for her spouse.
But Britta wasn’t done with the career path she’d embarked on. In 2014, she founded interior design studio B Squared Design after seeing a gap in the market for a full-service, boutique, residential firm that could handle an entire project from conceptual design through to construction administration.
The notable thing about B Squared, according to Britta, is that it offers not only interior design services but architectural services as well. “We are truly a ‘one-stop shop’ – and I think we stand out from other companies in the industry for that reason.”
Customers clearly agree; the B Squared Design team is – in her own words – “extremely busy” at the moment. “It’s a blessing, as COVID really took its toll on the industry. I suppose a silver lining with everyone spending so much time at home over the past two years is that people are ready and willing now to renovate their spaces.”
Britta’s own home has had the renovation treatment (of course!), and – as she explains here – the result is a calm and comfy duplex with sea views and plenty of charm in a location that would be the envy of every market shopping enthusiast.
Tell us a bit about your little patch of Hong Kong.
I’ve been in Stanley now for the past five years (albeit in three different flats!). I first moved here to be close to my kids’ school, but I’ve stayed because of the ease of being able to walk to restaurants, shops and grocery stores, and also because of the surrounding natural beauty and proximity to the water. This current flat is also great because it has room for all of us: my two kids Didi (16) and Gavin (12), my helper Leah and my dogs Simba and Nala.
What’s best about the location?
The thing that’s really wonderful about my location is that I am literally in Stanley Market. I feel like my place is a hidden jewel – you would never know it was there unless you knew exactly where to go; the door is nestled amongst the stalls and shops. I love that I know all my downstairs “neighbours” at the frame shop, the local grocery and so on; we stop and chat with each other. It actually feels like a little community, which you don’t always find in Hong Kong.
Has the area changed since you first moved in?
Stanley Market has gone through a downturn due to the pandemic and lack of tourists, but it appears to be having a bit of a rebirth in the past few months. New coffee and gelato shops have opened, as well as several fresh fruit and vegetable stands. There are good restaurants in Stanley now as well – many more than when I first moved in, which is nice. You don’t have to travel to Central every time anymore for a delicious meal.
What are some of the key features of the home?
It’s a duplex, which makes it feel larger than it really is. It’s approximately 650 square feet, so if it were all on one level it would have the potential to feel quite tight with two teenagers, two adults and two dogs; however, because we have two floors, everyone can spread out and feel relaxed. It has fabulous views of the water as well, which helps to increase the feeling of openness; I spend a lot of my time sitting on the sofa reading and looking out at the ocean.
Is there a spot in the home that you enjoy the most?
My favourite spot in the home is definitely the spiral staircase. When I was a child, a good friend of mine had one in her house, and I promised myself that “when I grow up” I would have one too. I’ve made it a focal point of the apartment by removing the fussy details and painting it a bold pink shade. It’s fun and makes me smile every day.
Tell us about the recent renovations you’ve done.
When I first saw the apartment, it was extremely dark and cluttered, with a very old kitchen and no character to speak of. Underneath it all, however, I could tell that it had real potential and that space-wise (with a few tweaks) it could work for my family. So I decided to take the plunge and renovate.
I’m lucky that residential design is my specialty, and I also have a fabulous construction manager (Tina Mak from Beehive) who kept everything on track and on budget. I only had one month to do the renovation before I had to move in with the kids, so this had to be a simple new layout, and the materials all needed to be in stock and available in Hong Kong.
I also try to upcycle as much as I can in all my projects at B Squared Design, and this one was not an exception: I took the existing lower cabinets (that I removed from one area of the kitchen to create a helper’s room) and reused them as the base for the new kitchen island. I refurbished and painted it, and chose a beautiful piece of stone for the countertop. The island is such a useful spot now for cooking and is a wonderful zone for hanging out and eating as a family.
Do you have a particular home décor style?
My style varies according to my clients’ needs and dreams, but in general I prefer clean lines, no clutter and lots of layering of materials such as stone, leather and fur (faux, of course). This is what gives a space dimension and character. For my current home, I also experimented with more pops of colour than I typically have in the past in my own spaces; I wasn’t afraid to try something new, and I wanted my home to feel vibrant and happy.
Tell us about a particular item in your home that has an interesting background or story behind it?
One of my favourite art pieces is in my bedroom. Entitled “Love”, it’s by a Vietnamese artist and it reminds me of spending time with my children when they were little and also when we used to travel to so many wonderful places together. I like to be surrounded by artwork; especially images of strong women and women of colour.
What’s your favourite thing about living where you do in Stanley Hong Kong?
I don’t have to drive anywhere to get everything that I need. I love that my kids can walk to meet their friends, and I really enjoy sitting at a coffee shop or restaurant and watching the world go by. After a busy day at work in the city, it truly feels like an oasis of calm.
64 Stanley Main Street, Stanley
This article first appeared in the Autumn 2021 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.