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Inside a masterpiece on Shouson Hill

Shouson Hill rises steadily from the beach at Deepwater Bay, stretching into Hong Kong’s blue skies in all its green glory. Named after a Qing Dynasty official, the hill played a role in protecting residents during the Battle of Hong Kong in 1941. More recently, it fetched a record-breaking real estate price of US$755 million for a luxury modern residential site. In short, this is a beautiful neighbourhood with a fascinating history.

Interesting past

That sentiment is directly transferred to this expat home, which is a stylish contemporary property with an interesting past. Looking around this modern space, it’s hard to imagine that a mere two years ago, it was a bona fide time capsule from the 1970s.

The current owners bought the home from the original owner who had lived on site since 1974. That family had maintained the property without renovating. The space remained virgin, with all its original 70s fixtures and fittings. It was a time-warp of tight rooms with small borrowed windows (to keep the monkeys out). The retro garden hosted a wooden bridge over a koi pond with a rock formation where 50-year-old bonsais nestled. What a glorious design delight it must have been to explore!

Shouson Hill

Changes galore

But all that 70s bliss was short-lived. A new era was about to dawn in this fabulous home, created under the tasteful eye of a new owner. Within a year, the site had been gutted down to the studs. What remains of the original structure is merely a two-storey box. Even the stairs were relocated from the centre of the home. A new, modern vision was created.

And it’s quite a vision. The home opens from a private gate onto a stark cement staircase that provides an immediate contemporary moment for guests. Turning a quick corner, you then land in a courtyard with the main residence to one side and the utilities and maids’ quarters on the other. The dramatic courtyard plays backdrop to a cluster of three enormous ginger jars in classic blue-and-white ceramic. They’re strikingly elegant and the perfect introduction to this poised Hong Kong home.

European feel

Despite the elegant Chinese welcome, there’s a distinct European feel to this space. French archways provide a refined and classic outline to the glass wall that backs the length of the house. They arch over and over, mirrored thrice in the outdoor veranda that affords a generous shaded area, ideal for entertaining or capturing a quiet moment.

Currently, Venetian plaster walls take centre stage throughout the home while new artwork is being seconded. In any other home, stark walls might feel empty; here, the textured, hand-plastered Venetian detail provides a forgivable distraction. Completed by a local French-trained artist, the walls feature three layers of plaster and a finishing wax, making them easy to clean and durable for the city’s high humidity.

Kitchen and entertaining

In contrast to the light walls is the dark and dramatic European kitchen, which is by Arclinea by Foster. The bench-tops are a foodie’s dream, made from husk that’s turned into a laminate, so budding chefs can prep straight on the surface. (Those who are heavy-handed with a knife needn’t fear; these bench tops can even be resurfaced if damaged.)

This kitchen is built for entertaining. There’s a double oven and warming draws, plus a deep sink and a large island with generous prep space. The owner reflects that the area has been a complete success; in her opinion, it’s because they took their time and created this space with absolute purpose. The thought has really paid off.

Marvelling at marble

The outdoor space is simply gorgeous. Stepped down from the rear of the main house, the pool and garden give the residence an illusion of height. The marble lattice design by the pool provides an exotic accent, which is framed by green hues and clean lines. It’s a calm area, albeit a child-free one on the day of our visit – one can imagine how very full of energy it is on weekends.

Marble by the pool is a bold choice in a family home, but this smart owner has had the material treated to provide a textured non-slip surface. It’s beautiful and functional. In fact, I’m told that this pool-side accent is crafted from a sizeable single marble block sourced to service the pool, bathrooms and maid’s quarters.

Garden glory

While the lawn is green and lush on the day we shoot the house, the grass has been a hard-fought battle. A word of advice from the owner: wait for your build to be completed before you lay any turf. The run off from their site killed the original lawn and they were forced to start again, despite the gardener’s gallant efforts.

Still, the gardener deserves full marks, as this garden feels very established. The banana shrubs are thriving and already producing banana-smelling flowers in the springtime. The lemon trees are abundant with fruit, ripe for a mid-afternoon G&T by the pool. And the bamboo wall upstairs provides a green screen of privacy and a serene visual for the terrace.

Family first

Upstairs is a family-focused space. The genius aspect of the design here is the way the sliding doors help to transition the three bedrooms and living space into one large family area. It’s the perfect stage for lazy Sunday mornings, with a communal lounge and TV for making everyone feel connected while still having their own space. For a family on the cusp of the teen years in Hong Kong, it’s a unique and smart design.

Owner Recommendations

Building contractor

Woody Corporation Limited | 6697 0011 “Our superstar Project Manager was Ringo Cheung. His team were responsible for the overall house, including doors and windows, master and kids’ bath cabinets, TV cabinets, desks and closets in the kids’ rooms, and the helper/ utility areas.”

Garden

Goodco Nursery Company Limited 2488 8228 “This father and son team will take care of you; Gilbert Hung (the son) was amazing with the grass and the trees outlining the garden, including sourcing and trimming – everything.”

Plaster walls

Elsa Jean Dedieu | elsajeandedieu.com “Elsa hand-crafted the Venetian plaster walls throughout the whole house; she’s lovely and a true talent trained in Paris.”

Marble

Jes Stone Marble Design & Engineering jesstone.com “Our agent was John Ng; he and his team did the pool in a non-slip marble pattern, plus the bar marble, powder room marble, and kids’ and master bath marble.”

Kitchen

Arclinea Italy (HK supplier: Essere) essereholdings.com/arclinea-en “I recommend our agent, Rafael Yeung.”

Taps

Colour Living | colourliving.com “You can order direct from Italy – and I suggest you always wait for the sales!”

Sliding doors

iLiving Hong Kong (Raumplus-Germany) iliving.hk “Our agent Michael Fung organised the dining area’s four panel doors with inside pantry shelves, plus the kitchen sliding doors, master bedroom sliding pocket door, and our daughter’s sliding glass wall.”

Building materials & tiles

Anta building material supplier | antahk.com “Andrew Wang was our contact; he sourced the upstairs wood tile (R-11 Europe, grade non-slip), the garden walls, front walls, master bathroom walls, kitchen walls and utility room splashback. Andrew is currently updating the stairs with tiles from Spain and Italy.”

Master bathroom sink

Neutra | neutradesign.it/en/neutra-bathroom “This was created from a single piece of marble and was the best price I could find.”


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This article first appeared in the Home Décor issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.