The timing couldn’t have been worse: starting a large-scale renovation as a pandemic was breaking out. But interior designer JENNY PERRY persisted with her project. The result? A classy and colourful new look for a Sai Kung village house – which also happens to be her own home!
When Jenny relocated from her native Shanghai to Hong Kong for work in 2007, she initially suggested to her husband that maybe it wasn’t the right move. In some ways, it felt like leaving one city of high-rises for another. However, once she discovered the fabulous outdoor lifestyle on offer – from hiking to beaches – she changed her mind.
Jenny’s career also began to flourish. After first studying fashion design at university in Shanghai, she then completed an interior design course, which she began to put into practice soon after the move to Hong Kong. “The first home I renovated was in 2009,” she says. “I hired a local contractor and sourced materials from Shenzhen. This was the start of my renovation business, Perry Contracting, and from there I went on to do four or five houses a year.”
Family and community
This time around, it would be her own home she’d be working on. The 2,100-square-foot village house is in the Jade Villa complex in Sai Kung; she lives there with her hubby, their three kids and two dogs, and Jenny’s mum.
“We brought it at the end of 2019, finalised the design and then started the renovation at the beginning of 2020 – just as the pandemic broke out!”
Jade Villa stood out for many reasons; the lovely family community vibe was one thing, and the easy proximity to Sai Kung town another. In fact, SK is only a 10-minute walk away, so there’s no need even to drive there on weekends. The kids can also walk to their school, Hong Kong Academy. Jenny adds, “There’s also an amazing swimming pool at Jade Villa – the kids are there every day. And they have lots of friends within the community, which has been great while they’ve been doing online learning.”
Proximity to some of Hong Kong’s best hiking trails is another big plus – Stage 4 of the Maclehose Trail is just 10 minutes away by foot.
There was another reason the Jade Villa house caught their attention. “When we viewed it, we could see the potential, so we bought it as a renovation project.” Jenny’s vision was to create a family home with plenty of social space; “but I also wanted private space for everyone to be able to close a door for work, school or sleep.”
Built in 1999, the property hadn’t had so much as a touch-up in all that time. So this would be a total renovation. “We did everything,” says Jenny. “We totally gutted the place, reconfigured it, rewired it and replaced the plumbing. It was a very dark house, with typically small Hong Kong windows. So we put in new tall ones to bring in the light. We also opened out the ground floor to create a family living space, with an open-plan kitchen.”
Behind that expansive area is a second kitchen, a bathroom and a helper’s area. Also on the ground floor is a huge Tequila Kola sofa, where everyone can sit together. The dining table is from TREE, and the plants are from local Sai Kung suppliers such as Wah King.
On the first floor of the new-look home is a family bathroom, with striking coloured tiles that are a signature of Jenny (some clients call it the “Jennybean” look!). This floor also has one of the daughters’ bedrooms and a big room that doubles as Jenny’s office and an arts-and-crafts haven for anyone who’d like to use it. The latter can be closed off by a show-stopping sliding door – this striking feature weighs a whopping 320kg and was hand-painted by Jenny. “I love painting and I love colour,” she says, “and I’m not afraid to use it!”
On the second floor is another bathroom, the second daughter’s bedroom, and the master bedroom and bathroom, the latter with more amazing tiles, this time in a herringbone pattern.
Jenny clearly knows what she’s doing with tiles, and she creates some striking feature pieces with them in many of her renovation projects. They’re sourced from a Shenzhen supplier who she’s used for 10 years. “Before COVID, I would take clients up there to choose tiles in person – it was such a nice day trip. And by going direct to the manufacturer you get great quality and a wide selection.”
The tiles are one quirky note in the design of the Jade Villa house; another is the bespoke “chandelier” – which is actually a series of 22 “microphone” lights that hang from the top floor. It gives off a fun karaoke vibe, while also hinting at entertaining times ahead when pandemic restrictions ease and more people can gather together.
Outside, Jenny originally found it hard to see any potential in the garden. “It was just so full of large trees and shrubs – you couldn’t actually see how big the space was.” At 3,000 square feet, it is indeed a big garden by Hong Kong standards; so it would’ve been a shame not to modernise it along with the rest of the house. Jenny arranged for all the older vegetation to be removed, keeping just one big mango tree (which the kids love to climb). She then added underground drainage, laid some lawn, and planted new shrubs and trees. Other additions include a fabulous outdoor kitchen (with pizza oven), a new flattened garden and perimeter lighting.
Challenges and results
Jenny was totally hands-on with the reno, managing the whole process with her own team from Perry Contracting. Yet, it wasn’t as smooth a start to the project as she’d hoped. At almost the exact same time as work got underway, the COVID crisis reared its ugly head. It would soon become clear that starting a major renovation as a global pandemic is developing provides a unique set of challenges!
One of the main issues, surprisingly, related to noise. When COVID restrictions hit, Jenny’s neighbours (everyone in Jade Villa, in fact) ended up working from home or doing online schooling. That meant the noisier renovation jobs – particularly drainage and wiring work between walls – that would otherwise have been done on weekdays with people away at school or the office, were suddenly a potential disturbance.
They managed to find solutions and compromises, though. One of these was an agreement with their neighbours that they wouldn’t do any work on Tuesday of each week.
So they battled through. In the end, the setbacks weren’t big enough to bring proceedings to a halt. In July 2020, despite the garden not being finished at that stage, the family moved in.
And they’re overjoyed with the results.
Pizza oven: umall.hk/en
This article first appeared in the Spring 2021 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.