Originally from Melbourne, Allison and Simon Strapp have called Hong Kong home for more than four years. And while any move with five children is never going to be a skip in the park, at least they actually can skip in a park, right at the back of their own home, a luxury few in this crowded city get to experience – even, sadly, in a public outdoor area.
The 6,000-square-foot garden and timber terrace at the rear of their sea-view home takes the first-time visitor by surprise. Maybe because it’s that the house (or two houses – it is actually two villas joined together) is not a monolith, towering over the street, nor does it have a super-modern exterior that hints at a flashy jaw-dropper.
Instead, it sneaks up on you. Not long after you walk up the interior staircase, the eye is drawn to a lush green sloping lawn and manicured tropical garden, seen through floor to ceiling, timber-framed glass doors that fold back to open up the entire rear of the home, luckily on this day to a balmy summer morning.
That the garden and its adjoining terrace is the focal point is just fine for this busy family. Sure, they could have filled this 5,000-square-foot interior space with delicate fineries and endless trinkets on display in untouchable glass cabinets. But actually, the house instantly appears warm, friendly, natural and earthy, a mood enhanced by Allison herself.
“My style?” Allison has just walked in from Fit Camp, an outdoor exercise group in the Clearwater Bay hills, and looks fab in black lycra and no makeup at 43-years-young. “It has to fuss-free, and we like to entertain. The things I needed as an Aussie moving over were a bit of a garden and a need to see the water. Things need to flow, be comfortable and not be too precious.”
Even if Allison hadn’t explained that, it would have been obvious that she has a good way of making a room and its surrounds seem liveable, relaxing and welcoming. Perhaps it’s the blend of timber furniture she purchased from TREE not long after arriving, realising that pairing it with the marble flooring that the house came with would soften the harshness of this modular stone.
Or maybe it’s the neutral-toned sofas and tasteful yet understated side tables, the occasional glass and iron light fixtures or the white timber animal “horns” adorning the natural timber dining table – all distinct yet unfussy decorative touches. And of course, the comfortable wicker outdoor furniture and mini-marquees gazebo to watch over the lawns helps one think of lazy Sundays and a cold drink.
It also helps that speakers seemingly in every corner of the house are emanating her husband’s playlist, a fun mix of recent hits that give an insight into the kind of dance floor experience one might have here after a Saturday night barbecue (the timber dining area that opens on to the terrace is often used for dancing, she says).
No area seems so formal that you wouldn’t wander in to it to admire the view, and the fact that every item exudes quality and substance over glitzy show contributes to an atmosphere of unaffected charm.
It suits the Strapps just fine, now they have become accustomed to their new life in Asia.
“It took me about nine months to really settle into Hong Kong,” she says. “I didn’t know a soul when we arrived. But the kids came home from school (the Australian International) from day one, smiling…the school made us feel like family.
“So I realised, you have to put yourself out there a lot, go to things you normally wouldn’t (in your home town). Now, friends here are like family. We get a boat in summer and we all go out on the water. When we have friends and family here (from Australia), they’re blown away that this is how we live in Hong Kong.”
Living in Clearwater Bay also helped them continue their love of other outdoor pursuits – particularly hilly walks in the natural elements right on their doorstep.
In a nutshell, this house showcases the best Hong Kong has to offer, so luckily the Strapps have decorated it in a tranquil, entertainer-style perfectly suited to a modern life in the topics.