Showcase: Take a peek inside actress Tracy Griffith's California-chic home in Southside, Hong Kong - Expat Living Hong Kong

Showcase: Take a peek inside actress Tracy Griffith's California-chic home in Southside, Hong Kong

Perched atop a sideboard in a corner of Tracy Griffith's Southside home is a curious piece of art; a three-dimensional tangled bird’s nest with speckled eggs, preserved in a block of chunky, shiny resin. It’s not what you might expect to find adorning a wall but, like everything in Tracy’s light-filled, California-chic home, it carries a quirky and charming story. “The nest fell out of a big tree at our ranch in Napa. We put our wedding rings in it, and my little nephew carried them down the aisle at our ceremony,” she explains. And what a ceremony it was – a rustic Napa vineyard setting; the bride in vintage Ralph Lauren lace; guests in fringed skirts and cowboy boots; delightfully funky wedding photos astride a Victory Vegas Jackpot motorbike; and a host of other quirky creative touches.

It’s clear Tracy doesn’t do anything by halves. Naturally exuberant, with flame-red hair and an infectious enthusiasm for life, creativity oozes out of her every pore. Her current passion is resin art. Her own pieces – beguilingly glossy, abstract images in vibrant colours gleaming beneath blocks of clear epoxy resin – are scattered around the house, and her first exhibition opened in Seoul in October. “You actually paint, then pour the resin on, then paint again,” explains Tracy. “Before it hardens, the resin is toxic, so I have to put on the whole hazmat gear – you should see me in my goggles and gloves!” She’s always loved painting, but her career as an artist only really got going three years ago, when a chef friend asked her to paint a mural on the wall of his wine bar. Courses in painting and drawing followed, and then Tracy came across works by resin artist Andrea Dasha Reich while walking down a street in New York and was hooked.

 

“I love colour, and I’m usually inspired by a particular shade; blue and sea colours are a particular passion,” she says. It’s easy to see why this particular house appealed to her. With its 180-degree deck overlooking Deep Water Bay, it’s a little like being aboard a ship, and the house is full of reflected sparkling light from the sea. Tracy has brought that shimmering cerulean blue into the majority of her soft furnishings, mixing the colour with a host of different textures to add quirky interest. The curtain material has a parchment-like effect, and contrasts beautifully with the plush, velvety Tequila Kola sofa. The living room rug – purchased from Yarns Wool Carpets at Horizon Plaza – has a swirling design reminiscent of coral. Tracy’s a big fan of bespoke furnishings and the Chinese can-do mentality, and commissioned most of her furniture from local outfits like Tequila Kola and Rimba Rhyme, carefully choosing fabrics and finishes. She went a step further with her unusual dining table, commissioning the structure and dimensions from an individual craftsman, then painting and resining it herself, so the top resembles gently ageing driftwood. She’s matched it with modern, colourful chairs from TREE, then thrown in one of her trademark quirky touches by hanging antique lights low over the table. “We got these lights in a Paris market; they’re from the 1960s,” says Tracy. “They used to hang in the lobby of a hotel in Italy.”

Amazing sea views provide the palette for this richly coloured living room

Amazing sea views provide the palette for this richly coloured living room

 

There’s another resin-topped table on the deck, but it’s a slightly different colour: “It started blue but it’s been outside in typhoons and the rain for eight months, and the resin has turned a very mellow yellow. It actually began raining while I was painting it, creating these big spots, and I thought, that’s cool, I’ll leave it,” she says. The outdoor table and chairs have been teamed with a modern, comfortable L-shaped sofa from Everything Under The Sun; husband Mark likes to sit and smoke cigars on the deck when he’s in Hong Kong. As Group President of Ralph Lauren Asia and responsible for 14 countries, however, that isn’t too often, and the couple divide their time between Deep Water Bay, a newly purchased family home in Portland, Oregon, and a rented pied-à-terre in New York.

 

Tracy met Mark in the Big Apple as a direct result of her other great passion – food. “I’ve been a foodie since I was born; the only thing I wanted to read when I was eight years old was Gourmet magazine,” she jokes. An actress in Los Angeles for 12 years, Tracy was looking for a new direction when she saw a sign being erected for the new California Sushi Academy. “I drove straight in and schooled there for six months; everyone else was male and Japanese – aside from a couple of Mexican guys. My teacher said it would ruin his reputation and career if his friends found out he was teaching a girl. I was like, dude, you’re in LA and it is 2002!” The academy’s first female graduate, Tracy opened two successful restaurants in LA and had begun to develop her own unique, American take on the Japanese staple when she was asked to consult for Dean & DeLuca. During the process she met and fell in love with then Dean & DeLuca CEO Mark Daley and the rest is history.

 

Still very much involved with the world of sushi, Tracy continues to consult on a global stage and is busy developing her California-based Origami product range – 100-percent-natural gluten-free wraps made from fruit and vegetable purees. She has just launched a book of healthy gluten-free recipes for children’s lunchboxes, and she’s also thinking about opening a private kitchen here in Hong Kong. “I’m currently in talks with people,” she admits. “I’m happiest working with my hands and maybe it’s related to the painting, but I love how every piece of sushi is like a little mini-sculpture; the colours, the textures.”

 

Three-dimensional sculptures in some form or other scatter the surfaces of her Deep Water Bay house, many of them glass: “Glass fascinates me. It’s so dynamic and vibrant; every angle is different and beautiful” says Tracy. One particularly unusual twisted glass sculpture looks a little like waving coral; of course, there’s a quirky story attached. “My brother is a production designer who makes magic for Hollywood movie sets. When lightning hits the sand it makes glass, so he had this made specially for me – my own piece of lightning glass.” There are exquisite glass bowls from Murano, candy-coloured glass balls that originally hung on Italian fishing nets in the 1950s, and dozens of delicate, wildly coloured Italian drinking glasses purchased from Lane Crawford. There’s a pair of extravagant, outsized, 1950s Austrian red goblets Tracy found at Artek, and standout artworks by New York-based Dustin Yellin, who paints on individual panes of glass, then sticks them together to make incredible 3D structures. These jostle for attention with a couple of African horned skulls mounted on the walls and an iron elephant sculpture, also from Artek, mounted in a glass case. “We had a feng shui guy here and he said we had to have something taking away the energy coming in from the open bay, so we put him in front of the window” explains Tracy.

 

Upstairs, past the antique bench from a monastery Tracy found at Arch Angel Antiques on Hollywood Road, a huge Art Deco bed dominates the master bedroom and looks out onto the expanse of blue sea. “I saw a picture of an old bed from Paris and got it replicated,” explains Tracy. She has matched it with a bespoke sofa covered in vibrant Designers Guild material from Tequila Kola (in fact, her design is currently gracing the company’s ads) and the cerulean/turquoise blue theme is very much in evidence here too. A couple of guitar cases lean against the corner of the room; their contents sit downstairs in special stands, ready to be picked up and strummed at will. Ask Tracy what’s her most prized possession and it’s an easy choice – her handmade Collings guitar: “The Cowboy”. “They only made 800 of them,” explains Tracy, cradling the instrument in her arms. “This guitar goes with me on vacation, and we all sit round a campfire and sing. It has an amazing sound. Instead of unwinding in front of the TV, I play.” She even produced a CD while living in LA. “I always loved folk music when I was little; Joni Mitchell, Dolly Parton, all the greats. My mother is Tennessean after all!”

 

“We have a few talented musicians in the Ralph Lauren group, and we’re going to have some jamming sessions down at Brickhouse in Soho. It’s such a cool spot and serves great Mexican food, which is hard to find here!” So how will she fit this in with her new career as a resin artist, consultancy work, her sushi company, promoting her new book and travelling, I wonder? “I’m happy when I’m busy; I’m never bored!” says Tracy. “I don’t see how people can be bored in life!” And with that, she’s back to the kitchen to whip up an incredible feast for the dinner party for ten she’s hosting that evening.

 

Tracy’s Recommendations

 

Dining

Brickhouse (Mexican)

G/F, 20A D’Aguilar Street

(via Brick Lane)

Central

facebook.com/brickhousehk

 

Chilli Fagara (Szechuan)

Shop E, G/F, 51A Graham Street

Soho

2893 3330 | chillifagara.com

 

Hutong (Chinese seafood)

28/F, 1 Peking Road

Tsim Sha Tsui

Kowloon

3428 8342 | aqua.com.hk

 

Ista (Indian)

2/F, Onfem Tower

29 Wyndham Street

Central

2530 5353 | ista.com.hk

 

Tim Ho Wan (dim sum)

Shop 8, Taui Yuen Mansion Phase 2

2-20 Kwong Wa Street

Mong Kok

 

Zuma (contemporary Japanese)

5/F, Landmark

15 Queens Road

Central

3657 6388 | zumarestaurant.com

 

Shopping

Artek

1208-1209, 12/F, Horizon Plaza

2 Lee Wing Street

Ap Lei Chau

2515 2333 | facebook.com/artekhk

 

Ralph Lauren

G/F and M/F, Prince’s Building

10 Charter Road

Central

2522 0701

 

Rimba Rhyme

5/F, Horizon Plaza

2 Lee Wing Street

Ap Lei Chau

2544 4011 | rimbarhyme.com

 

Tequila Kola

1/F, Horizon Plaza

2 Lee Wing Street

Ap Lei Chau

2877 3295 | tequilakola.com

 

Galleries

Arch Angel Art Gallery

G/F, 38 Peel Street

Central

2851 6882

 

Sundarum Tagore

57-59 Hollywood Road

Central

2581-9678 | sundaramtagore.com

 

Other

Chan Chi Kee Cutlery Company

G/F, 316-318 Shanghai Street

Yau Ma Tei

2385 0317 | chanchikee.com