Finding the perfect house is rarely as simple and clear-cut. For some lucky souls, it might be an easy instant connection, while for others, it could take more than 60 rejections before chancing upon the one that is right for you. “Home is where you make it” goes the old adage, but in the case of the Stanley beach house owned by Victoria Allan, founder of real-estate agency Habitat Property, home is actually how you make it.
The late, renowned interior designer Albert Hadley once said, “The essence of interior design will always be about people and how they live. It is about the realities of what makes for an attractive, civilised, meaningful environment, not about fashion or what’s in or what’s out.” That is definitely the impression we have while touring this three-storey abode.
Being so close to the seashore, it has all the staples of a beach house, but none of the conventional layout. As you enter the home, a master bedroom with an en suite lies where you might expect the living room to be, while the sitting-cum-dining room and kitchen are located upstairs below the roof terrace. “I was initially trying to sell the house for the owner, but because it was small and closed off, nobody was really interested in it or saw its potential,” says Allan. “I must have shown the property to about 60 different clients before I realised that I actually really liked the place – so I bought it!”
The neighbourhood proffers a lovely lifestyle. With the beach just minutes away, there are plenty of restaurants and a shop across the street that rents out kayaks, windsurfers and paddle boards. “I hike a lot and take my boys swimming nearly every morning before they walk to school. There’s nowhere else in Hong Kong that you can do that,” says the happy homeowner.
Driven by the ocean view and inspired by Australian home design, Allan reimagined the interiors so each area would serve a functional purpose. Instead of the standard flow of hallway to sitting room to dining room and kitchen, then bedroom, her convivial open-plan concept provides a refreshing perspective on Hong Kong homes – a relief from formalities that bound personal and shared space. This home is completely approachable and relaxing, befitting the character and personality of the immediate environment and its occupants.
“What’s unique about this property is that it’s quite small for a house. It’s 3,000sq.ft across three storeys and has only two bedrooms, so I really had to optimise the space by mapping out an open layout,” explains Allan. The ocean was not visible from the original living room of the low-rise building, which meant their living space had to be elevated – literally.
“I converted the [living room] into a master bedroom, and I moved the sitting and dining area to the level above. But since the windows were so small and the stairway was closed off, it was quite dark. We had to change the way the light worked in the house by tearing down the wall, then repositioning the stairway to create a flow throughout the home while allowing light to spill generously into the room. Especially with low ceilings like ours, [bringing in light] is a good trick to give the illusion of higher ceilings and bigger spaces,” she shares. While it’s unusual to have bedrooms beside the main entrance, Allan argues that you can’t be too formal or fancy with a beach house. “It has to be casual, inviting and with an open plan that encourages you to relax, especially when you’re so close to the beach.”
“The ocean was not visible from the original living room , which meant their living space had to be elevated – literally”
At first glance, the master bedroom reminds of a cosy loft, with a large floor-to-ceiling bookcase occupying the entire wall facing the bed. The shelves are filled with books and framed artworks by her sons; there’s a mounted television with bean bags placed beside the console, a glass door that leads out to a small patio, and at the other end, a work by her favourite artist, Tracey Emin. “My bedroom is my favourite room in the house”, she enthuses. “I really like that it doubles as an extended sitting area for the family to spend time in. I often watch movies with my kids on the bed, and they can use it to do likewise with their friends.”
In the bathroom, it’s hard to miss the natural light that spills through the shower in what used to be an enclosed stairway. The glass panel above forms a skylight to illuminate the room. It’s a sophisticated bathroom layout, with a large double vanity corner accented with geometric tiles by Academy Tiles, a walk-in closet and a hidden toilet. During the day, the bedroom en suite are seamlessly connected, but as evening settles in, a large sliding door slips into play to form a wall between the two.
The second bedroom, located closer to the main entrance, is shared by Allan’s two boys. A full-sized mirror on the opposite wall instantly expands the perceived space in the narrow hall as you make your way to the repositioned stairs. Reach the first floor and an impressive view of Tai Tam Bay and a varied collection of art acquired over the years are revealed.
The property’s extensive remodelling took just eight months with the assistance of Hong Kong-based designer and architect Alec Stuart. The design-oriented Allan had a clear vision of how her house should look and Stuart was “great at working with me on that. Since he’s very good at spatial planning, he helped me execute what I wanted and gave me a blank canvas to put the right artwork and furniture in place.”
“There’s actually not a lot of wall space to hang art, but if you take, for example, this painting by [London-based artist and fashion illustrator] Tanya Ling” – which faces the dining table and the open view – “it really works because it is a statement piece. It’s quite big and it really anchors the living space, and because its blue, it reflects the sea perfectly,” says Allan, whose aim was to extend the living space by bringing the outside in. An understated, neutral-toned backdrop of bleached lime-wood floor panels and white painted walls allows the vibrant paintings, striking sculptural artworks and modern décor to shine through.
A compact kitchen inspired by the galley in a boat is situated just before the steps leading to the roof level, its convenient position compensating for the tightness of space. Up top is a magnificent roof terrace distinguished by a pergola that shades a lounge area, a farm table that stretches out towards the bay and the forested hills in the distance, it’s no stretch to learn that this is the part of the house where Allan most enjoys entertaining guests.
The peak of this three-storey home offers a stunning panoramic view of Southern District’s natural beauty, all just a seashell’s throw away. From the modest spills of light that ascend into the expanse of calm sea framing the first-floor sitting area, to the bright intensity of a roof overlooking Stanley village’s extensive blue and green vistas, this is a gorgeous beach home: cooly contemporary, splashed with colours and exuding an airy spaciousness that belies its modest proportions.