Edging up the steep, winding road in a taxi is a journey in itself, but climbing a flight of metal stairs on an unmarked path through dense trees and wild foliage makes getting to this home a true adventure.
As soon as we arrive at the wrought iron gates, however, we’re greeted with fertile gardens and an ancient banyan tree that frames an impressive two-storey building – and we immediately understand this house’s secluded, otherworldly appeal. On a sunny day, the heritage home looks out onto the entire city, yet it feels about as far away from Hong Kong as one can get.
This home is original in every way, and the family of three feels fortunate to be able to live here. Most standalone homes on The Peak are reserved for a privileged few and this home was no different – it was built for British diplomats in the 1920s and is among the exclusive portfolio of heritage houses returned to the government following the 1997 handover. While it was intended for high-ranking officials, this particular property sat in neglect for more than a year before being offered up for lease to the public.
For the tenant, who was 33 weeks pregnant when she first laid eyes on the home, it wasn’t an ideal time to move. But the couple took a leap of faith nonetheless – and it’s a decision that’s paid off, as the house has become an integral part of their growing family. There’s a clear design direction as soon as we step into the foyer. The soft batik-patterned carpet underfoot, the carved wooden screens and the Chinese antiques throughout allude to a distinctive sense of place.
They’re among the many pieces the tenant acquired from The Birdcage, her trusted Chinese antiques purveyor and restorer in Ap Lei Chau; the rest of the home’s comfortable, oversized furniture was shipped over from the US. To the left of the entrance is the spacious living room, where plush American-style furnishings in a palette of beige and moss green embody a cosy feeling that’s further amplified by the log-burning fireplace and the expansive views.
The tenant fostered a love of design early on from her mother. Both mother and daughter may bond over a similar aesthetic – surely the brightly patterned fabrics and bed valances originate from the former – but the tenant has updated the look to match her own tastes, as seen in the delicate gold-tinted étagères from Bowerbird Home and upholstered furnishings from Altfield Interiors. "My mom had a classic English country house type of style," the tenant notes. "My style is more relaxed. When I was growing up, we had a sitting room where us kids would never go into because it was so fancy – whereas, in my house, I want my dogs and my kid to be able to go into every room. And I want to have nice things, but not so nice that if it broke I’d be upset about it."
Every seat in the home is comfortable despite a rather formal appearance. It’s quite possible to spend hours on the upholstered chairs in the dining area, where the family starts their day over breakfast and entertains numerous friends on weekends. During a typical gathering, guests tuck into a sumptuous meal in the dining room, later spilling out into the living area, then onto the grassy backyard and along the ample wraparound terrace the couple have outfitted with comfortable sofas and loungers in vivid hues.
Apart from hosting large parties, the abode’s core remains a functional family home. "I love that I can wake up and let the dogs run outside, and my son can be on the grass and chase frogs," says the tenant. "I grew up in the countryside, so living in apartments with elevators is normal for my husband – but not for me. It’s really nice here."
Photography by Edgar Tapan
Styling by David Roden
See also: The Resplendent Home of de Gournay's Successors
A version of this article originally appeared in our August 2016 issue.