By: Melissa Stevens, Photography Hayley Nash
Aussie expat Victoria Allen has taken inspiration from her hometown in Western Australia in the design of her Stanley home.
In the course of her work as a luxury property specialist, and founder of Habitat Property, Victoria developed such an affection for one of the homes she listed in Stanley that she ended up buying the house herself! The home has proven to be a great choice for Victoria and her two sons, aged three and five, and their new dog, Spike. Since buying the house seven years ago, she has renovated the property, turning it into a functional, light-filled home.
Why did you come to Hong Kong from Western Australia?
I had a great friend from school who had been living here and she kept asking me to come and visit. Finally, I did, and when I was visiting I decided to do some job interviews. I was offered a job so I moved up three months later, and I’ve been here ever since! I’ve lived all around the world – during the five years before moving to HK, I lived in Vancouver, Chicago and Sydney.
I set up my business in 2001 as I saw there was a gap in the market to provide a boutique property service in Hong Kong – so few property agencies offer unique properties with interesting design features. When I’ve been looking to buy a home myself, these are always the type of properties that stand out to me.
How did you end up in your current Stanley home?
I had the house listed for sale, and probably showed it to around 40 different clients. No one liked it and they couldn’t see the potential. The more I went to the house, the more I liked it, and I started to visualise how I would refurbish it, if it were mine. Eventually I decided that enough was enough! I called the owner and offered to buy it at the price he wanted.
What inspired you to renovate?
The house was really ugly so it needed a total renovation. It was a terrible 1970s brown house with a spa bath on the roof – you truly needed vision to see the potential! It has great views over Tai Tam Bay, but the windows were small and so I moved the living room upstairs to connect with the water and I now have a window running all the way along the living space that opens everything up and gives us a great view out across Stanley. I pretty much turned the house inside out with a major renovation.
I spent a lot of time maximising space and ensuring everything was very efficient. There’s no wasted space – I have very effective storage and all the cupboard space was maximised. My kitchen is a really small space (it used to be the bathroom) but I viewed the layout like a kitchen on a boat and it’s super-efficient – you can still have three people in there comfortably. I also made the most of my rooftop and set it up with built-in furniture and a barbecue/bar area so it’s easy to use and is an extension of my living space. I entertain outside regularly
How long did the renovation take and how have you customised your home to suit your tastes?
It took seven months in total. My main goal was to make the house feel open and relaxed, like an Australian beach house – I took a lot of inspiration from Western Australian home design. I love to spend time outside, so we created a beautiful rooftop terrace with lots of space to have guests over and entertain – we have a barbecue area with big comfy sofas where friends and family can relax and admire the views across the bay.
I wanted my house to be different from everything you typically see in Hong Kong. It’s unusual to begin with, as it’s a small house, so I took a lot of inspiration from Australia – especially beach areas like Camp Cove and Byron Bay. I want to reflect a casual yet stylish interior. My outside space is very considered; everything is built-in, so it’s easy to use and a real extension of the living space. I moved the living space up to the first floor so that it connected better to the roof space and the kitchen was closer. I have a built-in bar area with barbecue, wine fridge and fridge. The seating is all built-in as well; it works really well and the whole space takes advantage of the view over Stanley Bay. I use it all the time for barbecues and I hold a big dragon-boating party every year.
Tell us a little bit about the art you’ve collected.
The large blue piece (opposite page) is by Tanya Ling who is London based and used to be a fashion illustrator. I love the depth of colour and the way it connects to the water outside. The photograph (first page) is by Dutch artist Berndnaut Smilde; it’s called “Nimbus Power Station” – he creates these amazing clouds in all sorts of spaces. I chose this work as it was done while he was an artist in residence in Perth (where I’m from), so I really like that connection to Western Australia. I also recently purchased a small light box by Shanghainese artist Yang Yongliang; his work is intricate and beautiful.
You obviously love mid-century furniture – is it easy to source in HK?
I’ve recently been able to source two Clam chairs from the 1940s that were designed by Danish architect Philip Arctander. They’re hard to find and I managed to find someone in Sweden who was restoring a pair so I grabbed them immediately. I love mid-century furniture and hunting down unusual pieces. It’s very hard to find in Hong Kong, though, so I generally source it from overseas. The Cherner dining chairs I purchased years ago in London and the Serge Mouille light is still in production; I bought this one in Paris.
You come from a part of the world with a lot of space and light; does this influence your taste?
Absolutely! This is clear not only in the design of the house but also all the furnishings, which I like to keep simple and relatively neutral in tone. My design choices are minimalist and you’ll notice a real lack of clutter in the rooms. I also make sure to let in as much natural light as possible; this is particularly important in the living/dining space. On the ground floor, the ceilings are 4.5 metres high – this is unusual for Hong Kong and also helps a great deal in keeping the house feeling light and airy!
Any advice for people who are renovating?
I think it’s important to keep renovations simple and not have too many built-in features as this tends to make space feel smaller and more cluttered. Also, I’ve really tried to maximise the outside space so that it’s connected to the house and set up to use easily.
Wine & Dine
• “I’m loving the new Tai Kwun development; it’s across from my office and I particularly like the bar and restaurant at Old Bailey. It’s a cool spot.” taikwun.hk
• “The bar at Otto e Mezzo is also good for meeting for drinks. I always book a table behind the bar and not in the restaurant.” ottoemezzobombana.com
• “Chino in Kennedy Town has fabulous food and great cocktails. Erik Ikos, the chef, is originally from LA and previously ran Nobu in HK, so the food quality and presentation are very good.” chinorestaurant.com
• “One of my favourite hidden spots is Ronin, run by Matt Abergel (also of Yardbird fame). It’s a small space but the food and drinks are fabulous.” roninhk.com
• Isabel Marant – Shop D, G/F, 42-48 Paterson Street, Fashion Walk, Causeway Bay
• Yves Saint Laurent – Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty
• J Crew – jcrew.com
See more in our home section
This article first appeared in the October/November 2018 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.