Tai Tam property showcase: Inside the apartment of Bowerbird Home's fashionable founder
By Brooke Chenoweth; photography by Ken Wong
26 January 2015
When I was invited to spend a day in Philippa Haydon’s home recently, I was curious but also a little intimidated – my own home being a mix of IKEA and other pieces that a friend lovingly describes as “shabby chic”. As the owner of furniture store, Bowerbird Home, Philippa is renowned for her fabulous style and great taste, so I was expecting a place filled with wonderful things that I could only ever dream of owning.
What I found instead was a home that we can all relate to: a warm and inviting space, where grown-ups and children are equally comfortable, and with a level of class and sophistication that we can all achieve with a little bit of imagination – and knowing where to shop!
Philippa, Damon, and children Oliver, 11, Alexandra, 10, Edward, 8, and six-year-old twins William and Claudine, have been in Hong Kong for eight years. The family are not strangers to change, having moved several times since arriving here, but they’ve been in their current apartment for three years, and Philippa hopes they have found a place that they can call home for a while.
Flip through the above gallery to check out how fashionable furniture shop owner Philippa decorates her home
The 2,800-square-foot apartment is high above Tai Tam bay in the towering Manhattan complex. With sweeping views to Shek O on the left, and Stanley Main Beach on the right, it feels a million miles away from downtown. The windows all face onto the sea, and Philippa says, “On a day when the sun is shining and the sky is blue, the water is teal – it’s exquisite.”
Living and dining rooms
Trying to accommodate five growing children, frequent relocation, and a business in homeware has given Philippa the perfect excuse to redecorate – regularly. “Some people follow fashion, and change their wardrobes as fashion changes. I am surrounded by home furnishings and am constantly falling in love with new things, so I change the look of our home. Moving several times in Hong Kong has also been the impetus to change things, as layouts are invariably different. We renewed our current lease knowing that we would make some radical changes in order to open up the space. This also meant I could redecorate.”
An example is the recently reconfigured first-floor living area – a beautiful open space that is instantly inviting. Philippa’s approach to decorating is as you’d expect from a mother of five – she favours function over aesthetic, but believes that functional rooms can be beautiful too. “In a family home, space needs to work for you. You can always make it look good later.”
The living room is the perfect example of how Philippa has made the space work. With a custom-made motorised cabinet housing the television, and a clear glass coffee table, the room is deceptively uncluttered. The sofas have slip-covers in durable fabrics like velvet and linen, indestructible textures that weather well and add a classic look to the room. The little touches of luxury in the room come from the cushions scattered about the sofas, and the striking pieces of art on every wall.
Living in a rental can be restrictive but it hasn’t held Philippa back. “You just need to be creative. Lighting, rugs and curtains are the key to warming up a room and making it work.” These elements have been used well. It’s open and spacious yet maintains a warm and cosy feel – the perfect balance between grown-up sophistication and family-friendly practicality.
A bench in the adjoining dining room doubles as extra seating, and provides a storage area for books underneath. The marble dining table and velvet upholstered dining chairs look quite formal, but as Philippa explains how well they have held up to countless family dinners, it becomes obvious that her choice of materials is as much about durability as it is about luxury. These were designed for Bowerbird in association with an interior designer, and that attention to details shows.
Philippa’s favourite piece in the house is also in the dining room: a bespoke console custom made for the family by Natalie Edwards. The dark black wood with gold trim is the focal point of the room, tying in with the gold accents on the chairs, table, and light fitting, while the black matches the framed mirror above it. It’s all well-thought out and subtly coordinated.
With such a large family, privacy is almost as essential as practicality, which lead to the second stage of the home’s recent makeover. “We realised we were never getting to listen to our music, or watch what we wanted to on TV. We were desperate for a quiet grown-up space.” Philippa and Damon also wanted their brood to be able to run around and play in the house, but without a backyard they often found themselves in the midst of whatever games were being played at the time. Their solution was to knock out a wall upstairs to create a mezzanine, which now houses a second living area. Philippa says, “At the end of the day it is a family home, and we wanted the kids to enjoy being at home too.”
The upstairs bedrooms are cosy, restful spaces, with practical, solid furnishings, mixed in with some classy accessories that are typical of Philippa’s style. The master bedroom is in serene shades of white and grey. The Bowerbird headboard presides over a Westin Heavenly bed. The bedsides complement the mirrored antique Canton armoire, which cleverly hides a television, and the armchair beside the window creates a quiet corner for grown-up contemplation or a cup of tea.
The two children’s bedrooms again make clever use of the space, with three boys in one room and two girls in the other. The furniture and beds, from ASPACE and Bowerbird, are practical and will grow with the kids, but the accents Philippa has chosen add an element of individuality and playfulness to each. The red chest in the boys’ room holds dress-ups, and there’s room for all manner of toys and keepsakes on solid white shelves.
Bowerbird is not only the store that Philippa Haydon owns, it’s also an appropriate title for a woman who has spent a lifetime collecting beautiful furniture and accessories for her home. “I seem to be forever changing our home and collating new pieces, predominantly art.” Indeed, art features heavily throughout the house, with each piece carrying some meaning. The large, bold abstract work over the sofa was commissioned after the family fell in love with a similar piece on holiday in Barcelona – creating a Parisian salon feel in the room. On the adjoining wall, a framed Damien Hirst for Alexander McQueen scarf is a collector’s item.
Beside some of the high-end pieces are treasures that hold more sentimental value than anything. Philippa’s grandmother’s chest of drawers and silver tea set take pride of place in the mezzanine area, and two framed prints in the girls’ bedroom are from the Jade Markets. Luxe and local sit happily side by side in other areas, and there is a welcome mix of authentic and affordable. In the dining room, a Bowerbird gold-trim dinner set sits atop placemats from Stanley Market. Stunning displays of silk flowers, handmade in Holland and France, are arranged around the apartment – an easy way, says Philippa, to freshen a home without spending a fortune on fresh flowers that don’t last.
Philippa’s love of homeware started early in life. “My father was a furniture designer and manufacturer; I think being visual and growing up surrounded by his work and the various books and magazines that lay around the house meant it was unavoidable. I had a glory box at the end of my bed and it wasn’t uncommon for me to request homeware for a birthday or Christmas gift from an early age.”
But after years of changes, and carefully selecting and collecting unique pieces, Philippa says she feels like the apartment is now complete. It would seem that the family has finally found a place they can enjoy coming home to.
The Bowerbird's Phillippa Haydon recommends:
You can find more of Phillippa Haydon's home decor inspirations at Bowerbird.
Bowerbird Home, Unit 5, Level 2, 2 Lee Lok Street, Ap Lei Chau, 2552 2727
Tags : Hong Kong: Tai Tam
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