We meet the style maven Maria Estrada Gallardo who is the co-founder of home-grown womenswear brand, What The Frock?!, and get a look at her gorgeous home office in her Old Peak Road apartment.
What originally brought you to Hong Kong?
I was born and raised in Mexico City, a place I love. After graduating and working in my home country for a while, I decided to move to London to study for a Masters in Fashion Business Management. When an opportunity came up to move to Hong Kong, I grabbed it, packed my bags and moved here. Hong Kong has been my home for the past eight years, and I still can’t get enough of this city – it’s just so dynamic. I never feel like I’m in a routine, and there is always something happening, whether it’s an event to attend or playing tour guide to someone visiting town!
Where do you live in Hong Kong?
My husband Naveen and I live in a 1,000-square-foot, two bedroom apartment on Old Peak Road. We love it – it’s such a convenient location; you’re close to Central, but a little bit removed from all the chaos and noise, which we like. Of course, sometimes I wish we had a bigger space, but for the location, convenience and facilities of the building I would say this is a pretty good spot.
Your home has some unusual decorative features; tell us about them.
I work from a home office, and so our collection of dresses has pretty much become part of the apartment’s décor! In Hong Kong, you have to be creative in your use of space; so, sometimes the apartment has to double as my showroom.
That sounds like a lot to squeeze into a typical HK-sized apartment?
It’s true! Working from a home office can get quite messy, especially when you’re dealing with so many pieces of clothing. However, having girls over quite frequently to browse the collection and try on dresses pushes me to keep the apartment organised and tidy, which I’m thankful for as it makes me work more efficiently. Tidy home, tidy mind!
Has the dual use of your home with a home office proved challenging?
In Hong Kong, you learn to be creative with the use of space, and even more so when you have to store so many dresses! I’m always on the lookout for storage ideas, such as my jewellery plates, shoe cabinets and boxes, and these days, the furniture that we buy not only has to be decorative, but also practical. For example, we like the look of our smooth leather trunk coffee table, but when you open it, you have a decent amount of storage space inside. I’ve learned to de-clutter constantly, and to not buy anything unless we absolutely love it or really need it. Hong Kong is not for hoarders – despite my husband’s best efforts to the contrary.
You clearly love colour, both at work and at home! Was the bright décor deliberate?
To be honest, I didn’t have a particular theme in mind when I started decorating our place; it was a very organic process. I started buying pieces that I liked and from there I just kind of chose things that in my mind went well together. As you can see, it’s a very colourful and eclectic place. I love buying quirky pieces, especially while travelling, that add more character to our place and reflect our personalities. Since my expertise has more to do with fashion than with home interiors, I tend to approach décor as I would when I design or style an outfit. I know it sounds strange but in my opinion it works in the same way!
Are there any pieces that reflect your Mexican heritage?
In the dining room, we have two ceramic female skeleton figures dressed in Mexican-style clothes. They are called “Catrinas” and are a symbol of the Day of the Dead, which is a very important Mexican festival. Some people may find them a little creepy, but in Mexico we don’t see them in a morbid way – it feels normal to have them in your home. They are definitely a great conversation starter when we have guests over for dinner!
What else do you love in your home?
An amazing local Hong Kong artist created the artwork for our living room. He is deaf and doesn’t understand a word of English, which certainly made the communication between us more challenging! We relied heavily on Google Translate throughout our discussion, but even so, I couldn’t have been happier with the result. It’s definitely the focal point of our living room and a conversation starter, and it feels extra special after having met and worked together with the artist.
If you had to pick a favourite spot in your home, where would it be?
The living room. The big bay window allows for lots of light, and it’s where we spend most of the time when we’re at home, watching TV, reading and, of course, working.
Ahoy Trader | ahoytrader.com
Etsy | etsy.com
Fenton & Fenton | fentonandfenton.com.au
Taobao | taobao.com
Target | intl.target.com
In Hong Kong
iDecorate | Shop 926, Times Square Causeway Bay | idecorateshop.com
Indigo Living | 221-224 Landmark Prince’s Building, Central | indigo-living.com
Thorn and Burrow | 1/F, 30 High Street, Sai Ying Pun | thornandburrow.com
TREE | 28/F, Horizon Plaza 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau | tree.com.hk
This article first appeared in the June/July edition of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue!
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