How does a family of seven turn a three-bedroom apartment on Po Shan Road into a stylish, bright and workable space? By de-cluttering, knowing what they like best and focusing on the subtle power of statement pieces.
Di and Mike Maiers arrived in Hong Kong eight years ago from Sydney, realising quickly that Mid-Levels was where they wanted to be.
But at the time, they only had two dogs. Now, they have five children (and, sadly, only one dog).
Di, a banker, and Mike, a personal trainer who runs his new fitness business, Body Balance, from home, had three children. Then Di fell pregnant – with twins – now six months old. (Di’s family has a history of twins.)
Prior to their birth, Mike and Di decided to not only make more room for the new twosome, but create the interiors of a home they intended on living in for some time. This meant firstly enlisting designer Nathalie Weston to spruce up the fourth-floor apartment.
“We’d been in France and I’d been really inspired by seeing so many beautiful things for the home,” says Di in between business meetings. “I came back and said to Mike, ‘We can’t keep living here like we don’t really live here’. So we hired Nathalie and she did the living room and dining area for us.”
Di says Nathalie encouraged her to think of the style she associated with the most, and the result is a retro, art deco look merged with colourful, Asian-inspired pieces.
“I’d been putting together a scrapbook for years and it became apparent that a nostalgia feel was dominant.”
In the living/dining area, just a handful of intriguing artworks from Australian and European artists enliven the walls, simply elegant white cotton curtains provide a calming backdrop, and a distinct lack of knickknacks means the carefully chosen furnishings can speak for themselves.
“We can’t have clutter,” says Mike, an avid competitive cyclist and former track runner in Sydney. “We just had to avoid that with five kids.”
Thank goodness, as now the main areas and kitchen have plenty of breathing space while providing something for everyone – a quiet corner for the baby’s playpen, a window-side area for a children’s table, as well as a slightly removed corner in the kitchen that features incredible space-saving bicycle storage poles for several of Mike’s bikes.
Visitors, of course, will initially see the fine touches of mid-20th-century-style furniture and blue-grey feature walls, but the practicality of de-cluttering also rules, ensuring busy family life can function without compromise.
Entrance and living room
Two long, soft-grey sofas square-off the living room, an area that exemplifies the approach to art deco finery, thanks to two silver and black floor lamps with oval-shaped shades that echo the period, a low and long timber cabinet under the television that has a distinct, quirky 1950s feel to it and a gold wall clock in the shape of a spiked sun – pure homage to the ‘50s and a real statement on the blue-grey wall as one enters the apartment.
Di had most items in this room brought over from the furniture markets in China and she can’t recommend its spaciousness and choice highly enough. Other items are from Indigo or Offspring, but the larger, most striking pieces (the broad natural timber dining table and polished timber boxes) are all China-made.
A gold-leaf wallpaper bought in Holland that appears as a single broad strip down one side of the living room wall gives a single burst of brightness, an addition that doesn’t detract from the more muted tones of the room but instead brings the wall to life.
The same goes for the bright yellow and aqua Chinese-style cabinets on either side of the simple timber dining table, above one of which hangs an Australian artwork splashed with hot pinks and bright blues. The contrast of shots of colour with the white and grey makes the room friendly and removes any doubt that more decorative additions could make it seem sparse.
Again, Di and Mike’s busy family and work life has resulted in a kitchen that many would love to replicate: no fuss, lots of bench space, white, bright and light and everything in its place, allowing for room to move.
At the far end is a storage room that has been opened up for Mike’s clever bike pole racks, and unlike many functional areas inhabited by the male species, this is in ship-shape order, with every tyre and bike accessory in its place.
Down the hallway, the three older Maiers children – two boys and a girl – share a spacious room with a lush green backdrop outside the window, simply decorated with IKEA rugs, well-proportioned white furniture that fits perfectly into each corner and allows for storage as well as space to play a bit of Lego. Touches of pink and blue also add a playful feel.
The twins are in the room opposite, which has the same white backdrop and small doses of bright colour, topped off with delicate artworks above their cots by Melanie Cosgrave who now lives in Dubai but was previously resident in Hong Kong. A small print from Mirth – one of Di’s favourite stores – also hangs at the entrance to their room.
Master bedroom and ensuite
If the children’s rooms are a master class in how to ensure comfort, practicality and understated childhood touches, then the master bedroom is a lesson in subtle shades and mature elegance.
The use of grey – from the curtains to the bed to the chairs and Red Cabinet furniture – conveys a soft warmth without relying on feminine tones or complex decorative touches. Again, storage and clutter-free benches make the room seem infinitely more spacious than perhaps the reality, with the ensuite bathroom no exception.
Every room has a ceiling fan, installed by Di and Mike for energy efficiency.
A wide timber desk at the far end of the living room serves as the family computer station. Yet while this desk houses a Mac desktop, it does not come replete with reams of paper work, piles of pens and receipts, nor even an organised version of that. It is simply a desk with a computer on it – minimalist bliss, and the only way to place a desk in a stylish living room corner and keep the room staying that way.
The small timber children’s table and chairs facing the balcony doors (which overlook the harbour to ICC). It’s just a corner spot, but perfectly positioned for little ones to keep busy while being slightly out of the way of kitchen and living room traffic.
The apartment’s interior design aside, how does the couple balance five children with such busy work schedules and finding time to see friends?
“What social life?” jokes Mike.
“It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible,” Di says. “I just don’t take anything too seriously; I don’t sweat the small stuff. And I spend most of my free time with the kids. But we haven’t totally given up on a social life. It’s still alive and kicking.”
For now, at least, home time rules, which is lucky, as their private space is ideal for winding down in a harmonious environment.
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