Design ideas can come from anywhere – a stay in an exotic hotel, a favourite colour, the latest trends. For Hong Kong-born Willy Fung, interior inspiration comes from the property itself, no matter what state it is in. Now retired, the former strategic planner likes nothing more than finding an old property and turning what might be perceived as “trash” into something special.
“Renovation is my hobby and I love finding a property and unlocking its character,” says Fung, who has designed and renovated more than 20, for himself and for friends. “I try to tap into a home’s potential and find ways to bring out its best features. Every place is different so what works for a city apartment might look strange in a rural house.”
When he first viewed his current home two years ago, the 2,100 sq ft village house in Sai Kung was so rundown it was bordering on derelict. Although he was living in Mid-Levels at the time, he felt the 30-year-old house would be somewhere he’d like to live and was worth his time, effort and money.
Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.
Once purchased, the house was taken back to its bare bones – walls gutted, windows replaced – by Fung and his contractor. It took a year to rebuild and the result is spectacular.
There’s something different about this Hong Kong village house
On the ground floor, equal space has been allocated to the living room and kitchen but there the similarities end. The former is opulent, with plush furniture, a grand piano (which his 18-year-old daughter plays), and two attention-grabbing pendant lights, one of which is made out of brass trumpets.
The more muted contemporary kitchen/dining room, with its pretty, patterned floor tiles, expanses of white cabinetry and black-framed bifold doors, contrasts in colour and style but is no less arresting.
“The living room is dominated by furniture and fittings that I already had so I balanced it with a light and airy kitchen,” he explains. “It is rare for Hong Kong homes to devote so much space to the kitchen but I wanted a large island and somewhere spacious to sit down and eat.”
Fung says each time he renovates a property he tries to create a new theme for it. For this house, he settled on olive green as the colour for feature walls in the living room and main bedroom to link the indoors with the nature outside.
On the first floor, a family den is sandwiched by a pretty en suite bedroom for Fung’s daughter and a multi-purpose room housing his impressive collection of guitars, gym weights and a guest bed. The top storey houses the spacious main bedroom, complete with study area that leads to a walk-in wardrobe and a luxurious bathroom, which echoes the colour scheme in the kitchen.
As the property didn’t have many windows, he added two pairs of French doors to each of the three storeys, making the front of the house perfectly symmetrical. To keep the look clean, he relocated all the air-conditioning units and pipes from the facade to a concealed wall.
A Hong Kong apartment with a mini golf course – it’s tee time in the city
“Most people care more about the inside than the outside,” he says. “For me, that first impression is key and I spent a lot of effort on the exterior.”
With windows ticked off, the house now needed a view. It initially overlooked a walled car park so Fung rolled up his sleeves and created a spectacular split-level garden.
He constructed a barbecue and dining area amid the tropical foliage, using a row of planters to partition it off from a smaller deck immediately outside the house. He also fashioned an alfresco breakfast nook leading off the kitchen and a sun terrace on the rooftop.
“We don’t have sea views but the beautiful trees and all the plants make for some fabulous green views, which are more than good enough,” Fung says. “And it’s lovely sitting outside for breakfast, especially when the humidity drops.”
Living room The 1920s French chandelier (HK$25,000/US$3,225) and replica 1920s curved French sofa (HK$25,000) both came from L’s Where. The coffee table (HK$15,000) was made by homeowner Willy Fung’s contractor, Lead Faith Design and Engineering (3A On Wah Industrial Building, 41 Au Pui Wan Street, Fo Tan, tel: 9657 9448).
The antique carpet (HK$76,000) was bought on a trip to Turkey. The Botti brass chandelier featuring trumpets (HK$110,000) and the wall-mounted Coltrane lights (HK$15,000 each) were from Delightfull. The oil painting on the far left, titled Looking Out The Door, is by New York-based artist Malcolm Liepke and was purchased from P&C Art in Washington.
The black stone sculpture was by 2B Square. The brown leather armchair cost HK$25,000 from Ital Designs (Happy Mansion, 39 Wong Nai Chung Road, Happy Valley, tel: 2892 1339). The blue armchair was HK$10,000 from Natuzzi. The oil painting above it is Love Song by Lorraine Christie and came from Gallerie Amsterdam in California.
The grand piano (HK$125,000) was from Tom Lee. On the right, next to a pastel artwork titled New Day, by Deborah Bays, is a display cabinet from Ikea (HK$6,000).
Dining area The dining chairs were HK$2,700 each from JG Casa and the dining table was HK$5,000 from Taobao. The antique pendant lights, bought a long time ago, were about HK$5,000 each from Style 50s. The charcoal drawing is by local artist Oscar Law and was purchased at the annual Affordable Art Fair in Hong Kong.
Front garden Fung bought the outdoor furniture set second-hand for HK$1,500. “I hate waste and always try to help others give a new lease of life to old stuff,” he says. He designed the garden himself, sourcing plants from Sai Kung shops Lap Shun Garden (Tai Mong Tsai Road, tel: 2792 5596) and Tung Wai Garden Horticulture.
Kitchen The kitchen, which cost about HK$150,000, was built by Lead Faith Design and Engineering. The floor tiles (about HK$160 per square foot) came from Pacific Lifestyle.
Stairwell The black-and-white prints were picked up in Vietnam while Washington-based artist Jack Brubaker painted The Gentle Hands artwork. The handholds are coat hooks by Muuto, which sell for HK$1,090 for a set of five (various sizes) at Homeless.
Main bedroom The main bedroom opens onto a small study nook and walk-in wardrobe and from there leads into the bathroom. The bed (HK$12,500) and bedside tables (HK$6,500) were by JG Casa. The footstools were bought second-hand. The artwork above the bed was picked up in Virginia, in the United States.
Bathroom The multi-circle mirror was HK$10,000 from TREE. The round mirror (HK$3,000), vanity unit and cabinets were all designed by Fung and built by Lead Faith Design and Engineering. The stools cost a couple of hundred dollars each from Ikea.
Daughter’s bedroom The bed (HK$2,000), bedside table (HK$1,000), desk chair (HK$1,000) and shelves were all from Ikea. The desk was bought years ago for about HK$20,000 from Lane Crawford.
Tried + tested
Double duty Willy Fung says having family and friends to stay is the exception rather than the rule and he didn’t want to waste space by having a dedicated guest room that was rarely used.
Mirrored doors in this multi-purpose room slide open to reveal a pull-down double bed, instantly creating a third bedroom when the need arises. The pull-down bed was HK$15,000, designed and built by Lead Faith Design and Engineering. The Eames lounge chair and ottoman were bought long ago. The charcoal artwork is by Oscar Law from the Affordable Art Fair.
This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.
Copyright (c) 2020. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.