Tatler’s man about town shares the trusted names you should turn to when sprucing up home or office
For more than a year now, our homes have been our safe havens. You have probably tried having a Marie Kondo-inspired clear-out, ticked off those niggling small repairs and finally learnt how to use those appliances that, in a bygone era, gathered dust while you partied.
As spring approaches, so does the need to change things up in the home—from adding finishing details to a full renovation. DIY can be daunting but fear not: here are my trusted friends and sources—from those who have a natural eye for design to leading professionals—sharing insights to inspire.
Out of this world style
Despite graduating from London’s Inchbald School of Design, Michelle Yue is not a professional designer. However, she has the ultimate taste and instinct for her own homes’ design. “Over the past 25 years, I have built or renovated more than 10 properties in Hong Kong, Canada and London,” says the vice chairwoman of trustees for Women for Women International. “I have lived in my current, Grade-II-listed South Kensington home since 2008. It was previously offices for a glassware company so it needed gutting.” My friend’s advice on collecting is: “I only buy things I love, not just to fit a space. Objects should have meaning and the most interesting homes have a collection that reveals different facets of the owner’s life.”
Since I was a teenager, I’ve looked up to Nissim Tse. Dramatic, bold, colourful and daring, he always has the most stylish clothes, cars, cooking and home design. The hedge fund director is not afraid to change his style or the layout of his home. His current abode, shared with his wife Sharie Ross-Tse and their two teenage children, typifies his taste.
“I love to mix textures and colours—lots of wood, metal, stone and fabric—to create balance and scale. I like to use art, such as paintings and sculptures, for depth and drama. Good use of period furniture adds individuality and is more interesting than the usual designer pieces,” he says. “For inspiration, I look at fashion magazines for fabrics, spices for colours and even sci-fi movies for design concepts.” His top tip is this: “Just take your time and never rush when decorating your home.”
Watch and learn
As the executive director of PMQ and formerly senior project director for the Business of Design Week, William To knows everything about architecture, interiors and product design. After moving into a building that was more than 50 years old, he enlisted Judy Wong for a major renovation (shown above). A friend of To’s for more than 30 years, Wong co-founded Mes Amis Productions with renowned style master William Chang Suk-ping.
“My brief was that my home needed to be simple and understated, calm, peaceful and tranquil,” To says. The space’s layout had to be changed to suit his needs, adding ample storage. Wong has great contacts, including a contractor she has worked with for decades.
Home away from home
Gem Voyager’s founder, designer and gemologist Mara Hotung and I have been friends since we were kids. She, her husband IIyas Khan and their two boys moved into their 300-year-old Georgian home (above) in Surrey, England, 12 years ago. Khan, who only saw the interior once before its completion, handed Hotung the keys and said “Surprise me”.
The two-year overhaul was led by architect Peter Cave of Johnston Cave Associates while Vicky Parkinson of Vicky Parkinson Design helped Hotung with interiors. Her home had to be comfortable—yes, you can put your feet up on the coffee table—and blend the family’s Kashmiri, Chinese, American and English heritages. Hotung compares the project to having a facelift (not that she’s ever had one). “You know how it goes: first the eyes with a subtle touch-up, then the lips need enhancing, and before you know it, you have transformed your entire appearance.”
A dash of pizzazz
For my office, Johnny Li recommended interior stylist Esther van Wijck. She helps clients find the right combination of colours, textures, fabrics, furniture and accessories to bring spaces to life with distinctive detail, sense of scale and a warm, human touch. Based in Hong Kong, Van Wijck serves a global roster of award-winning clients, brand agencies, hospitality groups, property developers, retailers and private parties.
Send in the pros
When I opened my small office in 2015, I enlisted Johnny Li, my friend of 20 years. He founded Li&Co in 1998 with his partners David Gibb and Tommy Wong. He and I worked together on a project for L’École, the School of Jewelry Arts, whose mobile schools he designed. For my office (above), which also used furniture by his firm Yiline, Li created the warm and tranquil ambience of my dreams. He is now based in the US but continues to work with clients in Asia through Li&Co’s offices in Hong Kong and Taipei.
Not costing the Earth
Team HC, aka married couple Clarence Chiang Jr and Hannah Lee (below), are popular among my friends for their bespoke and understated designs, such as the home pictured on the right. Founded in 1998, Team HC is renowned for designs that personify clients’ characters, meticulous attention to craftsmanship and a strong sense of place. Lee focuses on fabrics, colours, finishes and details while Chiang handles the architectural planning.
They practise sustainable design and encourage clients to be environmentally responsible. “Like a Birkin bag, a home should have a sense of well-being and be able to withstand the test of time,” says Chiang, who stresses the value of investing in the home. “It costs less than a Birkin, too,” he adds.
Change it up
My friend Stanley Kwok, founder of architecture business Stanley KC, has a diverse portfolio, including bespoke homes (such as the one pictured left), hotels, shops and restaurants. What impresses me about British-trained Kwok is the variety of his projects—from small homes to large-scale creations.
“Designing a home for someone is about learning [their] habits, needs, hobbies, understanding perhaps intimate (or secret) details and making sure we accomplish a design that is beautiful and comfortable,” he says. “It’s a bit like speed dating: we ask everything from ‘What’s your favourite food?’ to how often you change your bath towels. By the end of the process, we have perhaps gained a new friend.”
Two of Cheung’s go-to locations for impeccable decorations
Lighting is important but shopping for it sometimes stresses me out. I have always gone to Flos lighting (previously in Central but now online), which is owned by my friend Winnie Ma. With so much designer lighting to choose from, a special mention goes to sales associate Dash, who patiently guided my shopping for more than 15 years.
I love home accessories stores and one that blew me away was Gump’s in San Francisco, which dates back 150 years. I stumbled across this amazing find on a trip a few years ago: I wasn’t on the lookout for housewares but ended up spending hours shopping. From china and crystal to jewellery and gifts, I bought several special pieces, including original fashion illustrations by Gladys Perint Palmer—which Gump’s had the artist sign the back of for me—and incredible decorative objects by Moulthrop Studios, a family of legendary woodturners.