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Hong Kong seaside living: it's all about the view

South China Morning Post

When a Clear Water Bay house was given a modern makeover, the key requirement was to make the most of the stunning vistas

Adele Brunner

Published: 9:45pm, 13 Dec, 2014

Text Adele Brunner | Styling Anji Connell | Photography John Butlin


Arriving at Agnes Barrufet's home in Clear Water Bay, it is hard to believe you're in Hong Kong. A narrow access path is all that separates her front door from the sea, and uninterrupted views of Shelter Island and Sai Kung in the distance are framed by green hills. Not a skyscraper or neon sign in sight!

Barrufet and her husband, Marc, who are from Catalonia, in Spain, have lived in this area for 16 years. Soon after purchasing their current house, the Barrufets, who have a 13-year-old daughter, Nati, engaged architect Richy Ng, of Box Design, to give it a complete makeover, to maximise its potential and stamp their own mark on the place.

The family's main requirement for their three-storey hybrid villa/village house, which is just under 2,100 square feet in size, was to open it up and make it as light as possible. Ng installed bifold glass doors on every floor and - at Barrufet's request - demolished a back wall in the kitchen, substituting it with floor-to-ceiling glass. He also transformed the concrete stairwell leading from the top floor to the rooftop terrace into a glass staircase and installed a skylight.

"The glass staircase is a feature of the house, as well as being practical," says Barrufet. "Some of our guests are a bit scared of walking up and down it because they think the steps will crack. They won't - it is very strong, reinforced glass - but it can be entertaining to see people's reactions."

It is the sea views that make the house special and Ng reconfigured rooms to showcase the vistas. He rotated the position of the kitchen, for example, so Barrufet, who enjoys cooking, could look up from her culinary activities to enjoy the outdoor panorama.

Ng turned three modest upstairs bedrooms into two large ones, both with en-suite bathrooms. And he installed bifold doors leading from the master bathroom to the balcony, creating a semi-alfresco shower room.

"The shower room has an amazing connection to the outdoors - it is almost like being in Bali," says Ng. "Because the master bathroom is on the second floor of the house and isn't at all overlooked, Agnes and Marc can shower with the doors open.

"However, we appreciate they might not want to do that every day, so we used translucent glass up to neck level and clear glass from there up, so they can still look out to sea when the doors are closed."

Shades of cream and sand dominate the home, echoing the beach on the doorstep, and the materials used are highly textured. In the master bathroom, for example, a countertop made from rugged black granite contrasts with smooth tiling while oak flooring throughout the home has a wonderful knotty grain that can be felt underfoot.

"It took eight months to renovate the house and it seemed to take us almost that long to choose the flooring," laughs Barrufet. "We had over 30 samples of wood to choose from but we're very happy with our selection. It has a warm colour and feels great on bare feet."

Moroccan wall treatment tadelakt is a central feature of the house: the durable plaster, which is commonly used in hammams, has been used from the ground floor to the rooftop.

"It's an amazing product and can be given a textured finish, as it has been here, or a more polished look," says Ng. "It is often used in bathrooms and shower rooms because it can withstand humidity and dries quickly if it gets wet. It doesn't have any joins, so is great for a feature wall. We've used it on the central column throughout the house as well as in the master bedroom as a connection between the rooms."

The simple furniture also reflects the laid-back, beachy feel of the house, with most of the pieces having been custom designed and made by Ng and his team to suit the dimensions and contemporary look of the home.

"The house is in a fantastic location and my favourite thing about it is the view," says Barrufet. "We have been here for about a year and I still haven't got tired of opening the doors and letting the outside in."


Family room The sofa was custom made by Thomas Li (tel: 6388 8080) and the cushions came from Inside (Prince’s Building, Central, tel: 2537 6298). The coffee table, from Ovo (16 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai, tel: 2526 7226), and the rug, from Orion (12/F, Horizon Plaza, 2 Lee Wing Street, Ap Lei Chau, tel: 2580 0699), were bought years ago. The chairs (HK$3,250 each), from the Vincent Sheppard collection, were from Tree (various locations; and the floor lamp came from Ligne Roset (16 Blue Pool Road, Happy Valley, tel: 2891 0913). The entertainment unit (about HK$45,000, including the French sandstone surface and biofuel fireplace; not pictured), the shelving above it (HK$35,000), the shelves behind the sofa (HK$45,000) and the side table in the foreground were all custom designed and made by Richy Ng, of Box Design (; tel: 2573 3323).


Rooftop The parasol (HK$4,000) came from Patio Mart (16/F, Horizon Plaza, tel: 2555 8988) and the sofa set from Everything Under The Sun (9/F, Horizon Plaza, tel: 2554 9088). The beanbag was HK$800 from a store in Horizon Plaza. The planter (HK$800) came from KK Horticulture (Tai Chung Hau Road, Sai Kung, tel: 2792 7440). The lanterns were picked up from Zara Home (Gateway Arcade, Harbour City, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 2880 5068) and the floor tiles (HK$75 per square foot) came from RBMS (284 Lockhart Road, tel: 2575 8181).


Living room The sofas (HK$20,000 each) and Tom Dixon pendant lights (HK$5,000 each) all came from Ovo. The sofa cushions (HK$500 each) came from Zara Home. The rug and coffee table were bought in Spain years ago. On the coffee table is a candleholder (HK$3,000) from Home Essentials (33 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central, tel: 2870 1400). The silver dish (HK$1,500) around the candleholder came from Alessi (Prince’s Building, tel: 2869 6377). The side table (HK$6,000) was also from Home Essentials and the lamp on it cost HK$1,500 at Tequila Kola (1/F, Horizon Plaza, tel: 2877 3295). The sideboard (HK$30,000) was custom designed and made by Box Design and the objects on it were all gifts. The dining table (HK$25,000) and chairs all came from Indigo Living (Prince’s Building, tel: 2523 5561). The tadelakt finish on the wall by the stairs runs through the entire house and cost HK$40,000 excluding application (Perfectino; The Admonter oak lapis wood flooring (HK$109 per square foot) was sourced from Cartina International (21/F, Lucky Plaza, 315 Lockhart Road, tel: 3105 0510). The pots under the stairs were bought in the mainland. The artwork throughout the house was bought at various times from galleries all over the world.

Stairwell The glass staircase, which cost HK$80,000 (including the steel structure concealed within the wall and the laminated and tempered glass treads and risers), was custom designed and made by Box Design.


Master bedroom The bed base was bought years ago and the bedside tables and lamps were all custom made by Box Design. The headboard was custom made by Li for about HK$6,000, including installation. The trunk was bought years ago from Indigo Living.


Bathroom The sinks (HK$15,000 each) came from Colourliving (333 Lockhart Road, tel: 2510 2666) and the black granite countertop was sanded down from a solid block (HK$30,000), purchased from Sing Fai Marble (242 Lockhart Road, tel: 2511 8375). The sink unit was custom designed and made by Box Design for HK$9,000. The bathmat and stool both came from Ikea (various locations;


Kitchen The kitchen units and cabinetry, including the island, with wine fridge, were custom designed and made by Box Design for HK$250,000. The bar stool came from Ikea.


Split personality A multi-purpose room off the main living area serves as a lounge, guest bedroom and office. The extendable desk can be pulled out further to seat two. The desk, cupboards and shelves were all custom designed and made by Box Design. The chair (HK$2,000) was from G.O.D. (various locations; and the desk lamp (HK$2,000) from Artemide (1/F, Ruttonjee Centre, 11 Duddell Street, Central, tel: 2523 0333). The rug (HK$5,000) and sofa bed (HK$18,000) both came from Ovo.

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