Expat Living (Hong Kong) - - Home & Property - BY MELISSA STEVENS PHO­TOG­RA­PHY HAY­LEY NASH

Aussie ex­pat VIC­TO­RIA AL­LAN has taken in­spi­ra­tion from her home­town in Western Aus­tralia in the de­sign of her Stan­ley home.

Luxur y prop­erty spe­cial­ist Vic­to­ria Al­lan, founder of Habi­tat Prop­erty, de­vel­oped such an af­fec­tion for one of the homes she listed in Stan­ley 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 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; 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.

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