Hong Kong homes: Living in Stanley neighbourhood beachfront apartment by EL Reader Cathering Taylor
26 July 2013
Sitting in the sun-drenched living room of Catherine Taylor’s beachfront apartment in Stanley, it’s obvious that I am in the home of a native Scot. Not only is Catherine a typically welcoming and enthusiastic host, there are also reminders of her Celtic roots everywhere from the Scottish art auction catalogues on the side table, to the hand-printed thistle cushions on the sofas, to the copy of The Old Man of Lochnagar (the children’s book set in Scotland written by Prince Charles) on the bookcase.
Catherine and her husband are both long-term expats having moved to Hong Kong from the UK, via a short stint in Singapore, in 2001. Both were building their careers in finance at the time and were drawn to the city from the moment they touched down in Asia. “I had a regional role as a tax specialist at ABN Amro so I knew Hong Kong from my business trips,” explains Catherine. “We both loved the buzz of the place and the energy so we asked to be transferred here from Singapore in 2001.”
Seven busy years building their careers, two children and two Hong Kong homes later, expat life came to an end when they decided to return to Scotland in 2008. “We are both from the west coast of Scotland and we wanted to be close to family and friends and for our girls, Georgie and Annabelle, who were both born in Hong Kong, to discover their roots.” For nearly three years, the family settled into life in Edinburgh, with Catherine putting all her energy into renovating and decorating a four-storey Georgian townhouse; a far cry from their former family home on Magazine Gap Road.
Catherine combined the best of Hong Kong interiors, including curtains from Cotton House and Chinese wedding cabinets and altar tables from Altfield Gallery in her new family home, but she also took great pleasure in discovering new European designers that she wasn’t aware of after living overseas for so long. “I really enjoyed the creative process and sourcing new and quirky designers, so different to the ones we have access to in Hong Kong,” she recalls.
The couple’s taste of Scotland was short-lived, however, as her husband Robin was keen to accept the opportunity of a transfer back to Hong Kong in 2010. Home then became a fabulous beachfront apartment in Stanley and Catherine embraced being a stay-at-home mum for the first time.
“We were back in our comfort zone,” admits Catherine. “Lots of our friends from our early days were here and we loved living on the Southside for the first time. The girls had the beach on their doorstep and being from the country it was great seeing them having the freedom to climb trees, go hiking with us at weekends and swim to the pontoons in the bay.”
Despite this charmed life, Catherine admits that she went to bed every night with her head buzzing with business ideas. She had grown up in a family that ran their own enterprise and knew that she always wanted to do something for herself. Her brief stint as self-employed interior designer in Edinburgh was to be the catalyst for realising her dreams. She became aware that more and more often she was sourcing homeware on her visits back home or online, and although all the major designers were represented in Hong Kong, smaller, more artisan producers with limited production runs offering quirky, unique and individual pieces just didn’t have any outlets here.
Grange Interiors opened its doors in May directly opposite Flex Studios in One Island South, Wong Chuk Hang. The minimalist polished concrete walls and floors designed by Catherine’s Italian store designer, Stefano Tordiglione, works as the perfect backdrop to the carefully curated collection of exclusive soft furnishings wallpaper, table decorations and gifts that Catherine has sourced from France, Italy and the UK including, of course, Scotland.
Her apartment is also a fantastic place to experiment with and showcase her range of products. The cream upholstered sofas in the living room are now piled high with velvet hand-printed cushions from Glasgow-based design house Timorous Beasties, best known for their quirky and contemporary take on traditional toile de Jouy wallpapers. The linen ottoman and button-back chair are from Derbyshire-based John Sankey.
In the dining room, the table has been laid in typical Grange Interiors-style with French crystal glasses, printed linen by Thornback & Peel, and an exquisite hand-painted Limoges dinner service by Marie Daâge.
Along with sourcing new designers, Catherine is also permanently treasure-hunting for original antiques on her trips to Europe. “I think antique pieces individualise your house and it’s something we have always bought on our travels. Robin loves being involved in this side of the business.”
This love of mixing old and new is most evident in the bedroom where a lime-green and purple upholstered chair from Designers Guild sits next to an antique French desk decorated with a collection of silver perfume bottles and an Edwardian silver biscuit jar now used to store jewellery.
In the kitchen, Catherine was given an opportunity to create her own space when, unusually, her Hong Kong landlord allowed her to get involved in the design of the kitchen refurbishment at the start of their tenancy. The result is a dream for any domestic goddess with white floor-to-ceiling units, glass splashbacks, marble work surfaces and a display cabinet housing an impressive collection of coloured glassware, crystal and Catherine’s own much-loved Limoges dinner service. There are also some platters from Jersey Pottery’s Fruits de Mer range that Catherine now stocks exclusively at Grange. “We live on a island surrounded by water so I thought, why not.”
When she’s not building her new business, Catherine enjoys the unique family lifestyle available in Stanley. Weekends are spent on the beach or hiking the Dragon’s Back, and Robin and Catherine are toying with taking up paddle boarding at the watersports centre on Stanley Main Beach. Although the buzz of Central is still an attraction, their favourite restaurant is Lucy’s in Stanley where Catherine admits she has been going since Georgie was three months old and where the family have celebrated almost every special occasion.
Catherine may still hanker after her Scottish roots, but her mini “European Tour” as she calls it made her realise that the grass is not always greener. Scotland, like every place in the world, has its pros and cons, as does Hong Kong, but she admits that Asia has so much energy and so much still to be enjoyed that, for now, she is very happy to call this little piece of Stanley home.
Tags : Hong Kong: Stanley
Enjoy this? Get stuck into more Readers' Homes
A veteran expat, Saskia Bowers knows the secrets to making a house a home
There's more than a hint of the Hamptons in this stylish Sai Kung home
A designers small but eclectically furnished flat is an interiors treasure trove.
An interior designer shares tips on how to make your rented apartment feel like a proper home
We catch up with two of our readers in their beautiful home after moving islands to find that much-needed garden