Marina Cove House: From a traditional townhouse to a contemporary family space

For those in search of sanctuary from central Hong Kong’s unceasing bustle, Sai Kung always looms large as the first port of call. Set at the easternmost point of the New Territories, this unspoilt peninsula boasts beautiful beaches and hiking trails, and even a discreet waterfall or two. Given its undoubted allure, it’s no surprise that many who come to visit often wonder if they could make this enchanting enclave their permanent home.

Marina Cove

It was the chance to occupy a traditional townhouse in such scenic setting that appealed to Dr Benny Liu when he purchased a 2,000sq.ft four-bedroom split-house in the Marina Cove development, seeing it as the perfect place for him and his wife to raise their two young daughters and, of course, a pet turtle. Built back in the ’80s, his chosen residence had sat unoccupied for several years, obliging him to invest in a little contemporary refurbishment.

Early in 2017, the family set about tweaking the townhouse in line with their personal preferences, but soon found themselves a little out of their depth. It was then that they called on the services of Clifton Leung Design Workshop, an award-winning Hong Kong-based specialist in interior design. No novice when it comes to refurbishing the perfect family-friendly space, Clifton Leung, the consultancy’s founder, saw creating a synergy with the nearby marina as one of his key priorities.

Marina Cove

With a surfeit of space to play around with, he and his team set out to deploy a natural look to every nook and corner of the home. Paying particular attention to the lighting – both natural and artificial – one of his priorities was to optimise the size of the windows, pairing them with bright white blinds to maximise the interior brilliance. Skylights were also installed at key family focal points.

A further family-friendly nexus was formulated in the kitchen, where a commodious island / breakfast bar dominates the central space. Commenting on the thinking behind this, Leung said: “A space for preparing and serving food is the natural heart of any home. In this instance, everyone loves the island feature and likes to hang out here even after meals.”

Overall, only two rooms are notable for their digression from the natural palette that typifies the rest of the residence – the sleeping spaces of the doctor’s two daughters. Choosing the decor themselves, the two girls – an eight-year-old and an 11-year-old – were delighted that their rooms were set side by side and linked by a secret passage.

Upstairs, the master bedroom for the parents is spread across the top two floors. Linked to this dominant sleeping space is a glass-walled en suite bathroom, complete with an extensive wet area, marble vanity and an egg-shaped bath. Within the connected study, the shelving feature is notably lofty, which craftily emphasises the ceiling height and renders what Leung terms a “cathedral roof”.

Marina Cove

The beauty of the home isn’t only found internally, however, with the beautifully landscaped rear garden occasioning a majestic and scenic view out across the harbour. This makes it just the perfect place to enjoy a family brunch, before tiptoeing down to the water’s edge along a series of artfully-contrived concrete steps.

It’s rare, indeed, to find a Hong Kong home so in tune with nature and the rawer elements of maritime living, yet the Marina Cove house succeeds in this magnificently. Somehow it manages to incorporate the natural beauty of its location, reflect it and magnify it, yielding an alluring blend of sea and shore, while embodying the kind of domestic bliss most of us can only dream of.

Text: Bailey Atkinson, Photos: Clifton Leung Design Workshop

Home Sweet Ho Man: Love the views, love the location, hate the interior decor? Who you gonna call?

“Ultima” is just a little short of ultimate, which makes it pretty much the perfect name for one of Ho Man Tin’s finest home complexes. Completed just three years ago, this sept-colonnaded residential block is family friendly to the nth and superbly positioned.

To the southeast, the development has truly splendid sea views out across both Kai Tak and Lei Yue Mun, while, in strict contrast, the southwest offers panoramic oversight of the urban sprawl that is Central / Wan Chai, with such international landmarks as the International Finance Centre and the International Commercial Centre clearly discernible. Given its geographical advantages and peerless connections, it’s small wonder that, last year, the complex also became home to the most expensive (per sq.m) parking space in the whole of Asia.

ultima apartment

This accolade came about when a second-floor parking space within the complex changed hands for HK$6 million (US$770,000). The space was sold on the second-hand market for 12 times its original price (HK$500,000) and easily outstrips the price paid for the previous record-holder – an 8.2sq.m space in Sai Ying Pun that had earlier fetched HK$5.18 million.

Despite being set in such a salubrious location, when one particular family chose to relocate to Ultima, not everything – initially at least – was entirely to their satisfaction. Indeed, when Zill Li – a husband and father to two kids – first settled upon one of the development’s larger apartments, he liked pretty much everything, except some aspects of the interior design, preferring a “more connected style” for what was destined to become the long-term family home.

ultima apartment

Realising the family needed a design team that shared its vision of just how the apartment could be judiciously reinvented, Li threw the net wide, determined to only work with a business he felt was truly simpatico. In the end, that search took him right to the doorstep of Clifton Leung Design Workshop, an award-winning Hong-Kong based specialist in interior decor.

Renowned for his ability to seamlessly fuse the functional and the stylish, the challenge for Clifton Leung, the eponymous founder of the design consultancy, was to reinvent the space as a commodious-enough environment for the day-to-day living of a family of four, while also ensuring there was enough storage space for their current and future needs. It was a challenge he savoured, saying: “I prefer to work within smaller spaces. It’s where I can really be challenged and where I can have more fun.”

ultima apartment

Designed to be a home away from home – with the family spending much of its time on the mainland – the brief was to create an apartment that had a hotel-like ambience – both modern and minimalist  in style – while remaining warm and welcoming. Another requirement that needed factoring in was the family’s love of art, particularly as they owned a highly-valuable collection of  their own, which they were keen to display and immerse themselves in on a day-to-day basis.

Thankfully, the design team proved capable of taking all of these requirements in its stride. The success of the minimalist approach, for instance, is now clearly apparent as soon as you set foot in the dining or the living rooms. With the physical barriers between these hub spaces eliminated, natural light flows between the two, while their open-ended continuity embodies both free-ranging warmth and room to flourish and indulge.

ultima apartment

The sheer capaciousness of this co-joined space makes it ideal for forefronting cherished artworks, allowing them to be suitably venerated without being obliged to jostle for wall real estate with consumer electronics items. Maximising the impact yet more, the family’s primary TV set has been recessed at ceiling level, with an adjunct projection facility allowing for programming to be viewed on a discreet drop-down screen.

The same love of flow-through space that characterises the dining / living area is again in evidence in the master bedroom, where a one-time dividing wall with the study has been dispensed with and succeeded by a slidable portal. This acts to unite the two spaces in both function and feel, while opening the area up to all family members.

ultima apartment

The same sense of spatial fluidity – although here mixed with a welcome playfulness – is again on show in the bespoke bedrooms created for the junior family members. Embodying a beguiling, covert clubhouse motif, the entrance to these particular sleeping spaces are secreted behind an unassuming cupboard fascia in the central living room. It’s a fine conceit with which to capture the affection of the younger householders.

The love and loyalty of the more senior stakeholders have, of course, already been secured by the myriad of subtle touches and knowing affectations that have made this transformation so satisfyingly complete and so completely satisfying.

Text: Bailey Atkinson
Photos: Clifton Leung Design Workshop

Scaled and polished: The Dragon Lake House is as beautiful as its namesake

To the minds of most, Guangzhou is not a city renowned for its high-class residences. It is somewhat overshadowed by the sheer style and scale of Hong Kong, its southerly neighbour, while the reputations of Shanghai and Beijing cast equally long shadows over its somewhat humble homesteads. However, there are one or two true gems to be found in Guangzhou – among them the Dragon Lake House. With a view that looks across the grounds of the Dragon Lake Golf Club – the glorious, international-standard green that the home shares its name with – this 15,000sq. ft residence is ideally appointed, with its setting the perfect perch for its eclectic mix of East and West design conceits. Officially part of the city’s Haudu district, it is close enough to the commercial centre to take the sting out of commuting, but far away enough to provide an oasis of calm for its residents.

Dragon Lake House

Its luxury interiors come courtesy of Clifton Leung, an award-winning Hong Kong-based designer. Explaining his approach, Leung said: “I like to say a house is very similar to a gallery. It’s not just about white walls – you have to bring your own favourite works of art, your cherished belongings, your much-loved sofa, your music… You have to transform it through your own very individual presence. Above all, a home should have its own character, and that character should reflect the unique personalities and interests of its residents.”

Dragon Lake House

Thoughtfully-crafted comfort aside, perhaps the most striking aspect of the Dragon Lake House is the very modern take it offers on a truly classic element of Chinese architecture – the siheyuan. Essentially a square courtyard, surrounded by residential structures, it was a common feature of many well-to-do Beijing homes, with the very first examples said to date back to the time of the Western Zhou Dynasty (1046-771 BC).

Dragon Lake House

As with any classic siheyuan, the Dragon Lake House is built around an inner courtyard, ringed with heritage-style, yet modern spaces. The spaciousness and the apt use of natural light that characterise the courtyard are motifs that are revisited throughout the home. The living room, for instance, spans two storeys vertically, bestowing upon it a high ceiling and an accompanying sense of freedom. This sensation has only been further enhanced by using crystal-clear glass windows, optimising the flow of natural light into the home.

Dragon Lake House

Another aspect of the Dragon Lake House to be cherished is its embrace of all things aquatic. As well as the aforementioned water garden, there is a recessed swimming area and a glittering water curtain. In keeping with the preferences of the current owners, the home’s water features are stocked with a beguiling array of fish, with some chosen solely on aesthetic grounds and others chosen to one day adorn the residence’s bespoke fine dining table.

Dragon Lake House

All in all, it’s a sumptuous residence, one that clearly stands apart from the many houses to be found throughout Guangzhou, homes where, all too frequently, pragmatic insensitivity and utility have triumphed over any truly aesthetic impulse. No such suggestions, however, could be made of the Dragon Lake House, a setting where the land, the layout and the luxury accoutrements are as one, rendering it almost as rare as the mystical creature it so aptly name-checks.

Text: Robert Blain; Photos: Clifton Leung Design Workshop