Hidden Gems: Hong Kong’s Up and Coming Districts For Savvy Home Seekers

Posted in Ask An Estate Agent

The city’s luxury districts are well-documented, but when it comes to acquiring new residences, investors would do well to consider the unexpected.

When it comes to Hong Kong property in 2020, the adage of “nothing new under the sun” is a truthful one. The city’s geographical contraints mean there’s little chance for the birth of an entire district along the lines of King’s Cross in London, or New York’s Hudson Yards. The closest Hong Kong has to that kind of massive re-imagining is the ongoing development of the former Kai Tak airport. Stay tuned.

Hong Kong property
(Image credit: Kai Tak Oasis)

So when it comes to identifying Hong Kong’s most underrated, overlooked or emerging luxury districts, buyers and agents need to think creatively — and look to the future. That means considering where value can be found, and embracing the evolving definition of ‘luxury’ itself. Vibrant street life and walkability have become key considerations for buyers and tenants, neck-and-neck with the longstanding question of accessibility. With the prospect of periodic city-wide lockdowns increasingly becoming the norm, we’ll all be eyeing escapes at home — like those found in massive country parks and generous hiking trails on the western side of Hong Kong island and the water on all sides in the south. In 2020, such options on your doorstep are the definitive embodiment of luxury.

For decades, the Holy Trinity of premium living has been (and remains) The Peak, Repulse Bay and Mid-Levels, Central. These neighbourhoods are traditional bastions of space, setting and exclusivity. In recent years, Sai Kung, Clearwater Bay and, to an extent, Deepwater Bay have lobbied for a place on that list: Thanks to their close proximity to water, low housing density and increasing ease of access. But as buyers (and renters) get younger, and social habits evolve, the concept of what goes into a luxury home is morphing similarly into something more design-driven, sustainable, urban and authentic. No longer are marble bathrooms enough.

Hong Kong property
Repulse Bay

The first sign the tide was turning was the rush to Kennedy Town in 2009 (market watchers will recall the MTR Corporation announced a much-watched extension that same year). A few intrepid small investors and developers looking at the long view had already started making plans (The Merton was completed in 2005), and before long values were rising. People moved in and more elegant residential towers went up (Cadogan). Those were followed by innovative restaurateurs, cafés and retailers. Before long Kennedy Town had become gentrified and was bucking for luxury status.

Hong Kong property

There are plenty of corners in Hong Kong now flirting with a similar pattern: involving a mix of value, connectivity, and lifestyle. Lantau Island, now with sleek developments like Whitesands and Botanica Bay, is an overlooked luxury district — one which could garner fresh attention for the resort-like lifestyle it offers. For the adventurous, undervalued Aberdeen and its ingrained waterside community make for a smart long game investment — one that will mature when the South Island Line West connects it to the rest of the city. The direction Kai Tak heads in — on what will ultimately be the Tuen Mun MTR line — is anybody’s guess, though the Oasis development is a solid indication of what’s to come.

Hong Kong property
(Image credit: Regalia Bay)

Stanley, Mid-Levels West and Pok Fu Lam currently lead the pack on the value front. Prices in conventional high-end locations — the aforementioned trinity — have remained resilient (as is usually the case in times of geopolitical instability) but just a few steps away are pockets which offer tremendous value. In many cases, they’re even preferable. Stanley, for example, features beaches and greenery; a solid track record of lifestyle amenities; hip waterside dining; and a forthcoming bypass that puts it just 25 minutes away from Central — the same distance as nearby Repulse Bay. The difference being an approximate 10-15 discount on the former. Stanley flats in Regalia Bay or 22 Wong Ma Kok Road rival much of what’s available in Repulse Bay (and surpass them when you consider it’s not necessary to get in a car to run to 7-Eleven).

But Hong Kong’s real unsung hero could be Sham Shui Po. Mainly known once upon a time for pirated DVDs, fabric stores and the Golden Computer Arcade, it’s now emerging as an ultra-hip district — and doing so under the radar. Down the road, one MTR stop from re-energised Cheung Sha Wan, the streets there are now cluttered with restaurants, chic cafes, underground art spaces and young tech start-ups, many inspired by the (now-closed) Savannah College of Art and Design. As luxury continues to becoming increasingly design-led, regenerated flats in older buildings with personality are becoming more appealing to the modern, high-flying tenant. Sham Shui Po is at a similar point in its development curve as Kennedy Town 15 years ago, and the slow trickle of revitalised industrial buildings and residential towers — naturally, with a little boost from the Urban Renewal Authority — suggest the area is getting ready to kick-off its reinvention as a contemporary luxury hub.

Victoria Allan
Victoria Allan is the founder of Habitat Property, a real estate company specialising in the sale and leasing of luxury property in Hong Kong. Prior to establishing Habitat in 2001, Allan held the position of Commercial Leasing Director at Colliers Jardine. She has over 25 years experience in residential and commercial real estate across a variety of global markets — including Hong Kong, Australia, Canada and the US.

Mid-Levels Neighbourhood Guide: Prime Properties and Cultural Trails

Posted in Where to Live

Whether you’re looking to invest in a stable, proven district in the face of uncertainty, or looking to buy yourself a bolthole for premium living in Hong Kong, you’ll want to look to Hong Kong’s Mid-Levels. Here’s our beginner’s guide to the area.

Being infamous as the world’s priciest property market with an average housing price in the city clocked in at US$1.2 million (HK$9.3 million) according to CBRE’s 2020 Global Living Report, much of Hong Kong’s ultra-luxe homes belong to a trifecta of The Peak, Repulse Bay and Mid-Levels. High barrier to entry aside, these areas have traditionally offered the luxury of space, sumptuously appointed homes, and are known as the most exclusive areas to live in the city.

If you’re looking for a home with a view, there is no better place to admire the picture-perfect panorama of Victoria Harbour than the privileged vantage points offered by the Mid-Levels and The Peak. The Mid-Levels in particular stretches from the east overlooking Happy Valley, across Central and Western along the mid-ridges of Victoria Peak, whilst the Peak area itself sees standalone mansions and spacious condos dotted along the higher portion of the mountain.

Situated in the midst of abundant greenery with walking trails, historic sites, high-end restaurants and tranquil cafes all at arm’s reach, the Mid-Levels is also easily accessible to the shopping and business areas of Central, Wan Chai and Causeway Bay — all just a quick drive or walk away. It’s also well connected to a network of prestigious local and international schools, attended by the children of some of Hong Kong’s more affluent families.

If money is no object, there are many pluses to obtaining a luxurious pied-à-terre in the most traditionally affluent part of Hong Kong — though thankfully, there are also a growing number of accessible entry price points — particularly scattered around Mid-Levels West — that make it feasible for young professionals and small families. We outline the perks of the Mid-Levels below.

Residences to know

With high-rise buildings cutting through the mountains, Mid-Levels residences all boast grandstanding panoramic views of the city and the Victoria Harbour — with equally impressive price tags to match.

The Opus, 53 Stubbs Road
(Image credit: Wiki Commons)

For a glimpse of what is synonymous with the opulence of the area, look to The Mayfair, one of the most well known developments in the area, just 10 minutes away from Central and the Peak. Completed in 1998, the 30-storey property looms large in the heart of Mid-Levels with units sized from about 2,100 to 4,500 sq.ft. and equipped with harbour-facing balconies. Its last transaction was in 2016, where a 2,838 sq.ft. apartment sold for HK$155 million.

Mid-Levels is also home to residences that spotlight incredible architectural craftsmanship. Look to The Opus and The Morgan. The Opus was Frank Gehry‘s first residential project in Asia in collaboration with Ronald Lu & Partners. The 12-storey building is located on Stubbs Road on the east side of Victoria Peak, with comfortably sized units ranging from 6,000-6,900 sq.ft., including two duplexes with pools.

The Morgan is equally if not even more impressive, high above Mid-Levels with stunning views of the city, the Robert A. M. Stern Architects-designed tower has scored multiple accolades since the building’s completion in 2016. Featuring 34 duplexes and a penthouse on the 30th floor, it exemplifies the epitome of contemporary luxury living within our concrete jungle.

The Morgan Sky Duplex - terrace
The Morgan on 31 Conduit Road
(Image credit: Lit Ma Common Studio Ltd.)

Nevertheless, the Mid-Levels also offers small to mid-sized homes. Slated for completion in March 2021 is Central 8: Located in Mid-Levels West with 99 units ranging from 181 to 491 sq. ft, it plans to offer both studios or one- to two-bedroom apartments for singles and young families.

Education

St. Paul’s Co-educational College

The Mid-Levels boasts some of the most prestigious schools in Hong Kong, ranging from preschool level to higher education. To the west, the Mid-Levels is home to the esteemed University of Hong Kong. Some of the finest secondary schools also loom large in the Mid-Levels, including St. Paul’s Co-Educational College, St. Paul’s College for boys, St. Stephen’s Girls’ College as well as international schools under the English Schools Foundation such as Island School. For kindergartens, the International Montessori School of Hong Kong and the Woodland Montessori Academy both offer competitive advantage to fledgling leaders of the future.

Around the Neighbourhood

A predominantly residential neighbourhood, the Mid-Levels is interspersed with small businesses catered towards families such as tutoring centres and mom-and-pop diners, all steps away from leafy walking trails, parks and cultural sites showcasing some of Hong Kong’s British colonial past.

Ohel Leah Synagogue

(Image credit: Avi Alpert/Flickr)

Neighbouring the Jewish Community Center and Jewish Recreation Club, Hong Kong’s Modern Orthodox Synagogue has been the nucleus for the social and religious activities of the Jewish population in Hong Kong for over a century. Established in 1901–1902, the Ohel Leah Synagogue commemorates Leah Sassoon, the mother Sassoon brothers Jacob, Edward and Meyer — part of a wealthy merchant family often referred to as ‘the Rothchilds of the east’ — who donated the land on which the Synagogue stands. Nearby, check out Sabra at the Jewish Community Center, which serves kosher international dishes and traditional Jewish deli favourites. The restaurant also offers a full Shabbat dinner, which requires advanced booking (note that Sabra is currently closed until August 2020).

Ohel Leah Synagogue, 70 Robinson Road, Mid-Levels, Hong Kong, +852 2589 2621

Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences

(Image credit: Ystsoi/Flickr)

Hong Kong’s resilience in the fight against infectious diseases dates back hundreds of years, and this history is succinctly showcased at the Hong Kong Museum of Medicinal Sciences. It was formerly a Bacteriological Institute built in response to the 1894 Plague outbreak. These days, it’s an informative museum that outlines the scientific discoveries across Chinese and Western medicine throughout the years, as well as a shining example of built-heritage conservation.

Hong Kong Museum of Medicinal Sciences, 2 Caine Road, Mid-Levels, Hong Kong, +852 2549 5123

Dr. Sun Yat-sen Museum

(Image credit: Edwin.11/Flickr)

As the name suggests, this museum is dedicated to Dr. Sun Yat-sen, influential philosopher, politician and physician, and the founding father of the Republic of China. As the place where Sun was educated for his secondary and tertiary education, Hong Kong is considered the bedrock of his early revolutionary thought, and traces his activities in Hong Kong from establishing the Xing Zhong Hui (Revive China Society) in 1894 to the founding of the Republic of China in 1912. Housed in the historic Kom Tong Hall — the original residence of local businessman Ho Kom-tong, half-brother to Sir Robert Ho Tung — the museum opened in 2006 to commemorate the 140th birthday of the icon. The museum is located just a hop and skip away from the Sun Yat-sen Historical Trail.

Dr. Sun Yat-sen Museum, 7 Castle Road, Mid-Levels, Hong Kong, +852 2367 6373

Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware

Dating back to 1846, Flagstaff House is considered the oldest surviving example of Western architecture in the city. It used to be the residence of the commander of the British forces during Hong Kong’s years under colonial rule. Eventually it was converted into a museum dedicated to the art of tea appreciation and ceramics. Aside from a permanent collection and revolving special exhibition, don’t miss the opportunity for a meal at Lock Cha Tea House — at one of the city’s most picturesque locations of the venerated tea brand — where you can step back into the past and sample delicious dim sum and a wide selection of freshly brewed teas.

Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware, 10 Cotton Tree Drive, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2869 0690

Bowen Road Fitness Trail

(Image credit: Marc van der Chijs/Flickr)

Running along the lower slopes of Victoria Peak is the Bowen Road Fitness Trail, which is popular with runners and dog walkers in the area. Breathe in the fresh air provided by the lush foliage of palm, vine and bamboo as you go on your daily jog, whilst taking in the view of the streets of Wan Chai far below. Although a manageable 2.5km route, the fitness trail is paved, and fully equipped with restrooms, playgrounds, park benches and emergency phones. Looking for a date idea with your other half? Find the stairs to Lover’s Rock above the trail — dubbed the ‘Bowen Road Lover’s Stone Garden,’ tradition has it that women go up to pray for fortune in love and marriage. Whether you’re superstitious or not, the landmark is still worth a visit for its incredible vista over the city.

Bowen Road Fitness Trail, Bowen Road, Mid-Levels, Hong Kong

The Central–Mid-Levels Escalator

(Image credit: Wiki Commons)

Being the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world, the escalator conveniently links the Mid-Levels to the main shopping and dining areas in SoHo and Central. On a cooler day, try hopping on the escalator from start to finish — discovering SoHo’s different restaurants and bars, upstairs pampering destinations, heritage sites and hidden alleys up and down each lane.

Central–Mid-Levels Escalator, Central, Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens

(Image credits: Michael Neil Thomas/Shutterstock)

With over 300 animals residing here including orangutans and flamingoes, Hong Kong’s Zoological and Botanical Gardens provides a fun-filled day for families with young kids. Interact with birds and mammals at a tour through its aviaries, greenhouse and the fountain terrace garden. Guided tours about primate and bird care and conservation efforts are also available.

The Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, Albany Road, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2530 0154

Staff Writer

Q&A: Award-winning interior designer Fiona Barratt Campbell

Posted in Interior Design

Though most design boffins will recognise her considerable body of work throughout Europe, Fiona Barratt Campbell is making rapid headway here in Asia. The Northumbrian designer — who has headed her own interiors firm in London for well over a decade — is best known locally for collaborating with The Upper House, and recently completed work on one of K11 Artus’s 3,703 sq. ft. penthouses — bastions of stylish living, nestled high above the revitalised Victoria Dockside development. With her first regional project in the bag, we thought now would be the perfect time to grab Barratt’s hot takes on all things design: from her love of historic architecture to challenges facing the industry in 2020.

First up, tell us how you got into the industry — it’s well-known that you initially studied at the Chelsea College of Art and Parsons School of Design. Did you always suspect you would end up designing interiors?

Fiona Barratt Campbell

As a child I enjoyed creating and building things. I’d originally planned to study architecture at university, however I quickly realised that my passion lay within the home. After graduation, my first job was for a well-known design firm in London. I gained about three years of invaluable experience there, before going on to establish my own firm — that was 14 years ago now. I’m very much a people person, so the main object of my practice as a designer is to understand and interpret someone else’s vision. The personal journey and evolutionary process you go through with each project is something that I’ll never tire of — every client is unique.

You always credit Sir Lawrie Barratt as a significant mentor and influence on your work. Tell us a little about how he nurtured your talent and/or supported you when you made the decision to start your own studio in 2006?

My grandfather [founder of Barratt Homes] was a major inspiration. I always enjoyed the fact that his job yielded something physical, and that he was creating opportunities for people to actually own a home (he was instrumental in creating the first affordable housing of its time). He was incredibly supportive of my passion for design. Point in fact: he helped me secure placement for work experience at a London-based architecture firm. That said, he had a pretty tough philosophy that every generation of our family must begin their own business without help — as he had done.

You often speak about how historic and naturally occurring phenomena has been a strong theme throughout much of your work. What about it speaks to you?

Fiona Barratt Campbell

I grew up in Northern England — where we’re fortunate to be surrounded by a variety of wonderful, very inspiring World Heritage sites that can be dated to the Roman era. I was fascinated by how progressive their building style was for their time period. That inspiration is everywhere: from the shape and pattern of their drinking vessels to the columns they used in temples and choice in building materials. In particular, I gravitate to how the Romans used natural wood. It’s a material that’s in a state of constant evolution and there are an abundance of different textures, colours and materiality — often within a single species. There’s also something very comforting about it: wood is literally grounded in nature, so there’s some aspect that’s relatable to everyone.

As somebody who works on numerous residential projects, what’s your biggest challenge when it comes to practically realising the desires of a client?

The first rule of thumb is always to foster a strong sense of mutual trust: the client has agreed to let you create their home; and so it has to reflect their own ideas and living requirements. That’s not to say there’s no underlying philosophy threading its way through every project: it’s just manifested in a unique way depending on the client. A ‘good’ interior is one that enhances, not dictates, the way in which you live. For the K11 Penthouse, I worked closely with Adrian [Cheng] to deliver on his vision for a showcase that was very artisanal, yet at the same time, capable of co-existing alongside all the unique artwork he’d sourced for K11. So the challenge was to tell the story of British craft in Hong Kong, albeit through my own philosophy of design and experience.

Just expanding on that: what were some of the unique challenges and advantages associated with the K11 Penthouse project?

Actually, the main challenge associated emerged right at the beginning. We took several months to do spatial planning, as K11 were highly specific about what amenities — storage being a key one — needed to be incorporated within the space. We managed to create a fantastic fluid layout, incorporating a view from every room. For me, the latter element was fundamental to the project because its location is so unique. On the one hand, you’re basically on the water but also have unbelievable views of Central and lush green mountains beyond. As [Fiona Barrett Interiors] are known for our unique use of texture, it was obviously crucial to include a selection of specialist finishes within the space too.

In the master bedroom, the wall flanking the steam room/shower was actually clad in antique barn wood that’s 100 years old. The wood has been tinted with silver paint that is then coated in resin, in order to make it waterproof. Whenever we sample wall finishes or joinery, we work very closely with local craftsmen — communication at every level is really key whenever you’re translating such a meticulous detail into reality.  

If we can get overly critical for a moment, what are some of the biggest challenges that have developed in the design industry over these past few years?

For me, it’s the blatant plagiarism of a brand’s products — typically furniture pieces and lighting. I have my own furniture brand [FBC London] and we’ve seen many of our own designs plagiarised in other projects. Also, in a way the deluge of information on the internet (e.g. Pinterest, Instagram) that we’re exposed to on a daily basis has made it increasingly difficult for clients to be decisive — they’ve been overexposed to so much choice.

You’ve described the object of your design philosophy as being “to enhance, not dictate, the way [clients] live”. Care to expand on that?

Homes are one of the most important spaces you’ll inhabit throughout your life. They are shelter; comfort; and an incubator of memories made amongst family and friends. Ultimately, home should be a place where you can recuperate from the toil of everyday life. So naturally, there are a lot of factors that go into creating a unique living space. I firmly believe that the interior should always enhance a building’s external elements and take the surrounding location, heritage and materiality into account. In a previous project in Mallorca — a private villa — we took some of the sand and small stones from the surrounding beach and incorporated them into a specialised plaster that we used to finish the walls of the home. We also used woods like iroko and teak, selecting those materials for their suitability and relevance to the project.

Now for something a bit more personal: what’s one indispensable trick/tool that you use to boost productivity during your work day?

I don’t eat breakfast. Everyday I fast until lunchtime and that keeps my mind sharp (along with several cups of black coffee). I also allocate blocks of time to the completion of specific tasks and try to stay vigilant about these.

Finally, if you could travel back in time and give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would that be?

Fiona Barratt Campbell

I’m reminded of Oscar Wilde. “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” That advice is particularly resonant for this day and age — when everyone and everything’s business is so very visible. Better to stay true to your core beliefs and vision.

Randy Lai

Building Spotlight: Tai O Heritage Hotel, Hong Kong

Posted in What to Buy

Far from Hong Kong island’s maddening crowds, overlooking rustic stilt houses and agile fishing craft to and fro across Lantau, travellers will uncover glimmers of Hong Kong’s colonial past — lovingly restored, beautifully preserved and worthy of an extended residence. In our latest instalment of Building Spotlight — a monthly series spotlighting the structures which have come to define the city’s cultural legacy — we retreat to Tai O Heritage Hotel, a Grade II historic building set against the most westerly point in Hong Kong.

QUICK FACTS
  • Address: Shek Tsai Po Street, Tai O, Lantau Island
  • Built: 1902
  • Site Area: N/A
  • Gross Floor Area: 1,000 sq. mtr.
  • Price per square foot: N/A

The Tai O Heritage Hotel is perched atop a hilly outcrop overlooking the village of the same name: a historic Hong Kong fishing community that has populated western Lantau for over three centuries. Managed by the Hong Kong Heritage Conservation Foundation (HKHCF), the property consists of 9 rooms which occupy the site of the former Tai O police station. The original station was built in 1902 — among the first of its kind to be set up in the New Territories. Over the centuries, this expanse of coastline was a frequent target for pirates conducting smuggling runs in and out of Mainland China, making it a point of sustained interest for British naval forces, and later, Hong Kong’s colonial-era police force.

Tai O Heritage Hotel

For much of the 19th century, the station was only minimally staffed, yet during the 80s the total number of police posted here grew to 180 (due to increasing triad activity across the westerly part of Lantau). By 1996, a significant decrease in crime across the HKSAR resulted in the station being downgraded to a patrol post, before it was eventually vacated in 2002. In 2008, the HKHCF earmarked the complex as one of seven buildings that would be adapted for commercial reuse under the ‘Revitalising Historic Buildings through Partnership’ scheme. An estimated HK$64.9 million was allocated to the station’s redevelopment: as a boutique hotel that opened to the public in late 2011.

Tai O Heritage Hotel

Within the hotel grounds, the two structures originally housing the Tai O police station have been preserved: there is a main black and an outhouse, both two stories high, connected by an overhead footbridge on the first floor. The main block meshes traditional Chinese building techniques with Western architecture, illustrated in a tiled ‘pan-and-roll’ roof, cantilevered eaves and large, airy French windows punctuating the building’s facade. The outhouse was added in the 60s to enhance the station’s self-sufficiency: outfitted with multiple kitchens, a drying room and an interpreter’s office. To capitalise on the station’s hilltop location, a watchtower was constructed at one end of the outhouse.

Today, these historic spaces have mostly been converted into a handful of tastefully appointed spaces. Suites and guestrooms all bear the name of a vessel or rank used in the marine police. ‘The Commissioner’, formerly the station’s charge room and armoury, has been rebuilt as a suite with two vanities and a private terrace; while the ‘Eagle’s Point’ takes the on-site canteen and transforms it into a roomy, 375 sq. ft. abode — ample space for two intrepid vacationers and their children.

Tai O Heritage Hotel

In a city prone to incessant commercial redevelopment, the Tai O Heritage Hotel stands out for its rare blend of significant cultural heritage and commercial viability. But don’t take our word for it: in 2013, UNESCO conferred the coveted Award of Merit on the property, citing an “extensive cultural mapping effort that has greatly informed the restoration work and…enhanced social and economic opportunities provided by the building’s new use”. Now that’s the tagline to a hotel getaway that we can really get behind.

To learn more about the property or make a booking, visit Tai O Heritage Hotel online.

Randy Lai

Building Spotlight: Blue House, Hong Kong

Posted in What to Buy

With skyscraper upon skyscraper sweeping the skyline of Hong Kong, it’s not unusual to overlook the far and few historical and cultural buildings that have survived over the decades. For the first instalment of our monthly series, Building Spotlight, we take a closer look at one of the city’s most illustrious houses – the Blue House. 

QUICK FACTS

  • Address: 72, 72A, 74, 74A Stone Nullah Lane, Wan Chai
  • Built: 1922
  • Site Area: 808 sq. mtr.
  • Gross Floor Area: 2,323 sq. mtr.
  • Price per square feet: N/A

Tucked away from the busy street of Queen’s Road East in Wan Chai, and nestled quietly off the adjacent little path, Stone Nullah Lane is the Blue House. It’s hard to miss as it stands boldly with neighbouring buildings in 1920s heritage style architecture painted in vibrant blue, yellow and orange against the ashy tone buildings we’ve grown accustomed to around town. Known as the Blue House Cluster, the brightly painted façade of the three buildings has long been a tourist (and social media) attraction for its vibrant hues. 

Stone Nullah Lane, Wan Chai | Photo: Public Records Office

Back in the 1870s when the Blue House was built, it blended in with its surrounding buildings seamlessly. For one, the structural style of the construction was very much of its time, and secondly and more surprisingly, the building itself wore a slightly bleaker hue.

Built in the 1870s, the four-storey building was known as Wan Chai Kai Fong Hospital or Wah To Hospital, named after the God of Medicine from the Three Kingdoms period. As the first hospital of its district, it provided locals with Chinese medical services. The centre closed in 1886, and became a temple dedicated to worshipping Wah To. 

Stone Nullah Lane, 1915

Fast forward to the 1920s, where four four-storey tenement blocks were built and the structure was simply named 72-74 Stone Nullah Lane. The ground floor remained as a shrine, while upper storeys were repurposed as residential dwellings for lower income families. The temple remained until the 1950s when it was subsequently replaced by a martial arts studio and Teet Da clinic opened by Kung Fu master Wong Fei Hung’s protégé, Lam Sai Wing and nephew Lam Cho. About a decade later, it had undergone several changes including an osteopathy clinic, a grocery store, a Chinese wine shop and even a school that offered free education to children within the neighbourhood. It was also home to the first and only English school in the district before WWII as well as a committee hall for the Chamber of Commerce for Fishmongers. 

Stone Nullah Lane, 1963 | Photo: Information Services Department

In 1978, 72, 72A an 74 Stone Nullah Lane was surrendered to the Hong Kong Government. It wasn’t until 1997 that the building was repainted blue– the distinctive colour that earned the house its name. The iconic hue that has made the Blue House so recognisable and given it much of its charm, came as an accidental coincidence when the decorators at the time covered the exterior in remaining excess paint from the Water Supplies Department. In 2009 74A Stone Nullah Lane, which was previously privately owned, also surrendered to the government, the same year Blue House earned its Grade 1 Historic Buildings status. 

In 2006, the government announced its plans for renovations at the Blue House and its adjacent buildings. All historical features have been preserved including its timber staircase between the two blocks serving the flats in the upper floors, old patterned tile flooring and ornamental ironwork railings. Units were also given cantilevered balconies that overlooked the streets below. Inside, the 20 apartments were given a much-needed revamp with modifications to include bathrooms and flushing toilets, kitchens and air-conditioning. A courtyard area in the middle of the block was also converted into a public gathering space. 

The Blue House today | Photo: Development Bureau Hong Kong

Cultivating and preserving culture, the Blue House is Hong Kong’s architectural treasure. The house is partially open to public for viewing and regularly hosts events and art exhibitions that touch on Hong Kong history and development. 

Dara Chau

6 Luxury Properties to Purchase in Hong Kong Right Now

Posted in What to Buy

Whether a townhouse by the seaside or a penthouse on The Peak, Hong Kong boasts a number of desirable luxury properties. Below, we round up six prestigious residences to consider if you’re house hunting in Hong Kong.

Poggibonsi

Conveniently located in the heart of Discovery Bay, the new Poggibonsi offers stunning sea views, striking architectural design and a choice of layouts from studios to four-bedroom residences. Its three towers, with a total of 196 units, sit on a hill above the bays of Yi Pak Wan and Sam Pak Wan and provide views extending from Discovery College to Victoria Harbour to Hong Kong Disneyland. Inside, each luxurious unit has been designed to maximise natural light and comes equipped with premium fixtures and appliances from leading brands such as De Dietrich. poggibonsi.com.hk

Mont Rouge

Kerry Properties’ latest prestigious residential development at Beacon Hill is a private sanctuary nestled among natural greenery at 9 Lung Kui Road. Mont Rouge comprises five villas, 14 detached houses and two towers with 26 apartments. Unit sizes range from 1,700 to 7,100 square feet. Its elevated hillside location provides spectacular south-facing views of Kowloon Peninsula, Victoria Harbour and The Peak, while Festival Walk and Kowloon Tong MTR station are just 10 minutes’ travel time away.
themontrouge.com.hk

Mount Nicholson

Taking pride of place atop The Peak in the west of Hong Kong Island, Mount Nicholson is a gated community of 19 unique detached houses and 48 spacious apartment units with saleable areas that range from 4,186 to 9,950 square feet. The top-quality design and construction is the result of collaborations among world-leading architects and designers including Robert A.M. Stern Architects, Yabu Pushelberg, Wong & Ouyang and LWK + Partners. Amenities and services include a large-scale clubhouse, ballroom, theatre and SAS-trained security guards.
mountnicholson.com.hk

The Carmel

Situated against a lush hillside in Tai Lam, Wing Tai Properties’ townhouse project The Carmel comprises individual townhouses (most with private gardens and garages) as well as 130 residential units from studio to four-suite penthouses. Renowned landscape architect Jean Mus has created three spectacular vertical gardens that blend seamlessly with the development’s graceful design.
thecarmel.com

8 Deep Water Bay Drive

Luxury residential development 8 Deep Water Bay Drive is built along the contours of prestigious Shouson Hill. Typical apartments range from three to four en-suite bedroom units with saleable areas of 2,865 to 4,214 square feet, while the state-of-the-art clubhouse facilities include an interconnected 20-metre indoor pool and 25-metre outdoor pool. The private enclave also features a 22,000-square-foot garden.
8deepwaterbaydrive.com

Grand Homm

Unveiled in September, Goldin Group’s first luxury property development in Hong Kong, Grand Homm, aims to redefine opulence in the residential market. The Ho Man Tin project comprises six towers with a total of 401 spacious apartments, each accessed via a private lift lobby. The complex also features 284 parking spaces, a four-storey clubhouse and lush tropical landscaping. Amenities include indoor and outdoor pools, and an indoor clay tennis court.
grandhomm.com

Staff Writer

10 Ultra-luxe Homes in Asia to Buy This January

Posted in What to Buy

As the new year begins, so do our endeavours to find the ultimate dream home. The target? Only the most luxurious, biggest, or stunning homes across Asia will do. From Taiwanese mansions to penthouses in Singapore and townhouses on The Peak in Hong Kong, here are the properties that made it onto our top ten ultra luxe list.

37 Island Road in Deep Water Bay, Hong Kong

For an easy HK$1,800,000,000, this stunning detached house in Hong Kong’s prestigious address in Deep Water Bay could be your new home. The townhouse has a phenomenal view of the sea and holds four sumptuous bedrooms and five bathrooms across an expansive 5,276 sq. ft. area. A spacious private garden, balcony and covered car park also add to the privacy of this property. Its close proximity to country parks, golf course, yacht club and international schools doesn’t hurt either.

The Harbour View House in Sentosa, Singapore

As 12,500-sq.-ft. harbour view houses go, this extraordinary property in Singapore is really quite spectacular. Selling for HK$449,548,024, this two-floor modern-style seaside house is located on the northern side of Sentosa Cove, which lends a great view across the sea. Two wings are connected by an entry pavilion and centres around a lush courtyard. The east wing offers two floors of living space with six bedrooms and seven bathrooms, while the one-floor west wing holds the home office and has been designed to entertain. Other highlights include an outdoor pool, garden space and a jacuzzi.

98 Wireless Road in Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok’s thriving property market has meant a wide array of prime real estate on offer. One such investment includes a luxury duplex in Sansiri’s flagship condominium, 98 Wireless. It’s been dubbed the Fifth Avenue of Bangkok and features an elegant space with three bedrooms and bathrooms. The stylish 2,691 sq. ft. space is worth HK$47,451,35 and is what luxury homes are made of. The property is also furnished with a salon, fitness, playroom, spa room and swimming pool. 

Mountain Peak Mansion in Taipei, Taiwan

Perched on the peak of Yangming Mountain, this mansion is conveniently located near downtown Taipei and yet still benefits from endless greenery. It really is the best of both worlds. The property itself is designed with minimal Japanese style in mind and features floor to ceiling windows to fully show off the natural surroundings. It also has expansive space for a garden, along with a terrace and farm land which welcomes horses too. Price is available upon request.

Galleria Costa in Kanagawa, Japan

This estate is not only uniquely designed so that all rooms face the coast of Manazuru peninsula, but it’s also huge. It holds over 13,000 sq. ft. of space which includes one master bedroom, three guest rooms, an outdoor pool, two outdoor baths, mist sauna, stone sauna, treatment room, fitness room, jacuzzi, tennis court, golf simulator, home theatre with karaoke system, library, wine cellar, massage room, and much, much more. Price is available upon request.

17 Bluff Path at The Peak, Hong Kong

Sitting above the rest of Hong Kong, this luxury townhouse features five bedrooms and six bathrooms. Inside, modern design elements blend seamlessly with a classic style to ensure timelessness. The sophisticated 4,559 sq. ft. home is a cool HK$1,200,000,000 investment that offers both mountain and sea views, while a garden and terrace provide more private space within to enjoy. The partially furnished property also includes a fully equipped kitchen as well as six covered car park spots to protect your cars from natural elements.

Penthouse in Reflections at Keppel Bay, Singapore

Luxury waterfront property Reflections at Keppel Bay was designed by renowned architect Daniel Libeskind and features the iconic and impressive double curvature towers with alternating heights. At the very top, this 13,309 sq. ft. penthouse showcases some of Singapore’s most jaw-dropping vistas from above. It also spans three floors and features six bedrooms, a spacious living and dining area, and a contemporary party zone on the top floor for elegant entertaining.

Veyla Natai Beach House in Phuket, Thailand

For those seeking sun, sand and sea in privacy, this secluded beach house on Natai beach in Phang Nga is just the place. There are only thirty units available on the property, and only seven facing the unobstructed views of the pristine Andaman sea, making beach vacationing ultra exclusive. The 7,792 sq. ft. villa comes fully furnished with custom furniture and state-of-the-art technology. It’s also equipped with three beds, three baths, a private beach front, fitness centre and private swimming pool. This holiday home will set you back approximately HK$25,500,000.

Cemagi Villa in Bali, Indonesia

This seaside villa is situated on the coast of Batu Bolong Beach in Cemagi village and is, for want of a more elaborate word — paradise. It’s one part contemporary, one part luxury and just a stone’s throw away from the beach, lush tropical gardens and ocean views. The12,900 sq. ft. five bedroom villa asks for HK$25,260,000 and inside the Balinese oasis, you’ll find floor-to-ceiling windows and glass doors that flood the space with light. Upstairs, there are dual master suites with open air bathrooms and sea-view balconies, private guest suites, and terraces. The most spectacular feature however is the sunken 98 ft. pool with an alfresco dining lounge against enchanted tropical landscaping.

Taiwan Villa in New Taipei City, Taiwan

A rare gem (one of five to be exact) by Seattle architect Jim Olson is a masterpiece property embodying art, architecture and nature. Located in the gated community in Great Taipei New Town for the highest levels of privacy and security, the 7,484 sq. ft. three-floor home holds a perfect balance of indoor and outdoor spaces, spacious interiors, private gardens and outside terraces. The three bed and bath is within close proximity to prestigious schools, special amenities and the famous Wulai Hot Springs. It also has its own private pool overlooking the rolling hills of Taipei City. Price is available upon request.

As of the publishing date of this article, any aforementioned properties were available for sale. We cannot guarantee that these properties will be available for sale indefinitely, so please check the respective listings for the most up-to-date information.

Fontaine Cheng
Born and bred in London, Fontaine is a self-proclaimed foodie with extensive experience in the luxury lifestyle landscape. When not exploring the world — discovering cultures and tasting new dishes — she can be found sipping a nice cup of tea (or G&T) hoping to adopt a puppy.

10 Ultra-luxe Homes in Asia to Buy This December

Posted in What to Buy

Following nearly a decade of unbroken expansion, Asia’s real estate markets are in for choppier waters. U.S.-China tensions, rising interest rates, expensive debt financing — the region has its fair share of challenges. Nevertheless, market fundamentals in 2019 remain solid: high-level acquisitions continue — backed by massive reserves of institutional capital — and, despite volatility, experts are predicting investment in the region will rise to US$108 billion. For now it seems, the cycle continues. To help you get the most out of it, we’ve curated a mixture of 10 ultra-luxe homes — both condo-style and freestanding. Located in mature and emerging Asian markets, these will make a welcome addition to any private portfolio (or at the very least, a stunning holiday home). Read on below.

YOO8 Residences, Kuala Lumpur

ultra-luxe homes in Asia

Located in the heart of the KL city centre, YOO8 sets a bold new benchmark for premium living in Southeast Asia. The apartments, designed by British interiors guru Kelly Hoppen and ranging in size between 705-1,328 sq ft, are part of the ambitious mixed-use development at 8 Conlay — local developer KSK’s answer to world-class dining, residences, and retail all rolled into one. 

Martin Modern, Singapore

ultra-luxe homes in Asia

Situated within earshot of the Singapore CBD, and 5 minutes walking distance from the Great World MRT line, it’s all ‘location location’ at Martin Modern — the newest addition to GuocoLand’s coterie of luxury residences. In the best tradition of Singaporean condos, the development makes ample use of the native landscape: residents have access to 15 different green spaces (e.g. forest trails, rain gardens, mazes), whilst 80 percent of the site has been intentionally earmarked for arboreal use.

28 Barker Road, Hong Kong

ultra-luxe homes in Asia

Located amidst the billionaire enclave of Barker Road, this 4-bedroom property — much like neighbouring addresses on the Peak — boasts uninterrupted views of Victoria Harbour. It’s part of an exclusive 7-house development, with all residents sharing a private clubhouse and indoor swimming pool. Each house features a private lift and includes two covered carports. 

ARNA Ekamai, Bangkok

ultra-luxe homes in Asia

Located at the intersection of Thong Lo, Ekamai and the upscale Emporium mall, ARNA is a relatively serene development consisting of 11 private residences. Homes are available in three configurations: all of which feature a 4-car garage, and a bare minimum of 3,710 sq ft interior space. Additionally, the development’s location (off of 65 Sukhumvit Road) gives residents unprecedented access to some of the best transport infrastructure in the capital.

Damansara Hilltop, Kuala Lumpur

ultra-luxe homes in Asia

Located in the Damansara township straddling the border of Petaling Jaya, this lofty 5-bedroom listing is an ideal base of operations for families — not to mention throngs of errant bachelors — but is still within driving distance of Malaysia’s capital. No expense was spared in the entertainment department, with the property boasting an infinity pool, gym, and purpose-built home cinema.

Siyut Villa, Bali

ultra-luxe homes in Asia

Quiet beachfront villas are something of a rarity in Bali nowadays yet this five-bedroom listing — at the centre of a sprawling 2.23 hectare estate — is a potent reminder of why holidaymakers fell in love with the province in the first place. A stone’s throw from the southeastern town of Sanur, this listing meshes airy modernist architecture with Balinese interiors à la Bill Bensley. Not to be missed: the jaw dropping pool-slash-courtyard.

Le Nouvel Ardmore, Singapore

ultra-luxe homes in Asia

WingTai’s latest luxe abode — overseen by Pritzker Prize winning architect Jean Nouvel — is set within the heart of Ardmore Park, boasting all of the bells & whistles one would normally associate with Singapore’s new wave of premiere condos. There’s a clubhouse, concierge service, even a full-size tennis court, but it’s the building’s facade — clad in a mesmerising grid of luminescent material — that proves the most striking.

15 Northcliffe Terrace, Gold Coast

ultra-luxe homes in Asia

Gilt with pristine ocean views as far as the eye can see, this 3-bedroom condo — at a covetable address in the heart of sunny Surfers Paradise — mixes Antipodean cool with the very best in modern living. The property is accessed via dedicated key-coded lift, and opens out onto a verdant living space which doubles as a jewel box of natural light.Finishes make ample use of premium timber and Carrara marble, whereas all kitchen appliances come courtesy of Gaggenau.

Majes Tower, Tokyo

Within earshot of retail/dining hotspots such as Tokyo Midtown and Roppongi Hills, Majes Tower is a fantastic option for residents who wish to explore Tokyo’s more cosmopolitan side. While the average floor plan here veers toward cosiness, Majes Tower’s location more than makes up for this — yielding excellent views (particularly at nighttime) of surrounding Minato-ku.

One Riverside, Taipei

Residents at this high-end development, pitched across the water from New Taipei City, enjoy panoramic vistas of the Taiwanese capital’s many landmarks. Taipei 101 and the Keelung River are all within sight, and for those who prefer exercising outdoors a 204-hectare public park — popular with Taipei locals — is within walkable distance. Residents also enjoy proximity to some of the city’s ‘it’ destinations, including Miramar Commercial Circle and The Mandarin Oriental.

Randy Lai

10 Hong Kong-Based Interior Designers and Design Firms You Should Know

Posted in Designers to Know

You can buy the perfect urban penthouse or three-storey villa by the beach, but until you find the right interior designer to properly outfit your abode, it’s never going to feel like the home of your dreams. Fortunately, Hong Kong has no shortage of independent designers and firms who can turn your space into something spectacular, whether you’re looking to furnish a new property or give your current residence a much-needed contemporary refresh. We’ve surveyed the landscape to handpick 10 interior designers and design firms that deserve to be on your radar. With impressive portfolios and a wide range of creative talents, there’s an option for every type of homeowner on this list.

AB Concept

AB Concept

Founded in 1999 by the designer/architect duo of Ed Ng and Terence Ngan, AB Concept has spent two decades building an ever-expanding global portfolio of luxury design projects for residential and commercial properties, not to mention the worlds of hospitality, wellness and F&B. In Hong Kong, you’ll have seen their work at Central’s New World Tower, the new Victoria Dockside, and The Chinese Library at Tai Kwun. On the residential front, meanwhile, they’ve designed three-level penthouses dripping with understated luxury in both Kau To Shan and Homantin Hill, as well as a glittering private home in Repulse Bay.

AFSO

The name André Fu will be familiar to fans of high-end hotels in Asia: He’s the man responsible for the much-praised design at The Upper House, The St. Regis, and Kerry Hotel in Hong Kong; and the Waldorf Astoria Bangkok. Though he and his firm, AFSO, bear a strong association with the hospitality industry, their portfolio also includes art, retail, and restaurant projects. On the residential front, Fu and his team have brought contemporary elegance to a luxury condo in the Jean Nouvel-designed 52 W 53 tower in Manhattan, as well as 237 serviced residences at K11 Artus in Tsim Sha Shui.

Atelier Lane

After founding interior design firm Atelier Lane in Sydney in 2009, CEO and creative director Ellie Bradley spent two years in Singapore before relocating to Hong Kong in 2018. Since then, she’s been hired to oversee residential projects on Old Peak Road as well as in Jardine’s Lookout and Repulse Bay, where she’s consistently shown an affinity for neutral tones and natural light, creating calming, airy spaces that feel restrained and, ultimately, relaxing. Of particular note is her bold use of bathroom tiling, which wouldn’t look out of place in a hip boutique hotel in London.

Bean Buro

Lorène Faure and Kenny Kinugasa-Tsui met in Paris and worked together in London before creating the design studio Bean Buro in Hong Kong in 2013. Given their multicultural backgrounds—Faure is French, Kinugasa-Tsui is half-Chinese, half-Japanese—the notion of cultural exchange is a hallmark of their work. Though their aesthetic leans in a minimalistic direction, the designers aren’t afraid to employ sculptural centrepieces or curving walls for dramatic effect. Highlights from Bean Buro’s residential portfolio include the refurbishment of a 2,500-square-foot apartment at Piccadilly Mansion in Mid-Levels, and a 1,200-square-foot apartment overlooking the racecourse in Happy Valley dubbed “Urban Cocoon” for its calming nature.

Deborah Oppenheimer

South Africa-born designer Deborah Oppenheimer began her career as an art director in the advertising industry, later launched a fashion label, and then opened her interior design business in Hong Kong in 1993. Her residential projects span Asia, the US and the UK; in Hong Kong, her portfolio includes design for homes in Clearwater Bay, Deep Water Bay and Repulse Bay. Though she has a professed love for clean lines, open space and symmetry, her designs are anything but boring. Rather, they’re often punctuated with bold artwork and eclectic statement pieces that give each home a unique sense of character.

Grande Design 

Bright, clean, and contemporary are the first words that come to mind when surveying the work of multi-award-winning firm Grande Design, whose services encompass offices, retail spaces, visual merchandising and, most notably, homes. With a focus on maximising space efficiency, increasing storage space and creating customised furniture, this design juggernaut’s expansive portfolio includes residences in just about every corner of Hong Kong, from Park Island to Sha Tin. Recent highlights from Grande Design’s work include a multi-level high-rise apartment with a sky garden in Fo Tan and an apartment filled with plants and pops of colour at the Mount Pavilia development in Clearwater Bay.

hoo

After spending 11 years working in the advertising industry, Hong Kong-raised YC Chen created his own interior design company, hoo, in 2009. As creative director, he operates with the goal of creating one-of-a-kind haute couture homes for clients, adhering to a guiding principle that each person is unique and therefore each home should be equally original. Accordingly, no two hoo projects look the same, with a focus on even the smallest details to define each project’s character. Amongst their recent projects, a stylish 2,600-square-foot flat in Jardine’s Lookout designed for a stylish grandmother stands out with its French-style cupboard doors inlaid with mirrors.

JAAK

A homophone for the Cantonese word for home, JAAK has specialised in minimalist apartment design since it was founded by Calvin Cheng and Chau Wing Chung in 2013. The firm’s clients include cafes and design shops, and that Instagram-friendly aesthetic fortunately bleeds over into their residential projects as well. Rejecting historical notions of luxury design, JAAK takes a less-is-more approach to home design, with an emphasis on geometric forms, plants and, most important of all, comfort. That’s incredibly important if space is a concern, but JAAK has worked on projects as small as 350 square feet and as big as 2,500 square feet, and everything in between.

NCDA

Raised in Hong Kong and Canada, award-winning interior designer Nelson Chow studied men’s tailoring and worked for internationally renowned design firm AvroKO in New York City before establishing NCDA in 2011. It’s perhaps unsurprising, then, that his aesthetic gravitates towards the masculine, though he’s not afraid of whimsical flourishes. NCDA’s best-known work has been the interiors at F&B outlets like Foxglove, PDT, Dr. Fern’s Gin Parlour and Mak Mak, but the firm also garnered acclaim for its Treehouse project, which employed a split-level design to cleverly maximise the limited space (370 square feet) of an apartment in Ho Man Tin.

Peggy Bels Interior Design

While many of Hong Kong’s interior designers like to keep things looking light and bright, French expat Peggy Bels doesn’t shy away from the darker hues of the colour palette. Black, grey, charcoal and dark blue are commonly seen in her residential projects, as she believes in the ability of dark background to make light colours pop and the way that rough textures lend character to a space. Working in Hong Kong since 2008, many of her wonderfully moody projects tend to be in Central and Sheung Wan, though she has also worked for clients farther afield in Ap Lei Chau and Cheng Chau.

Michael Alan Connelly
A Chicagoan by birth and a New Yorker by habit, Michael has more than a decade of experience in digital publishing at leading titles in the U.S. and Asia. When he's not checking out Hong Kong's newest restaurants and bars or jet setting around the globe, you'll find him hanging out with his dog Buster and enjoying an Aperol Spritz.