There’s no doubt about it: Aviva Duncan is a force of nature, both creatively and in person, where her statuesque frame fills the room with an unapologetic warmth and her effervescent, quickfire manner of speech.
Naturally, the Australian interior designer’s home – which she shares with daughters Lucy, 9, and Mia, 14 – is every bit a reflection of her personality, with its riotous prints, colour blocking, and outsized artworks.
Despite the surface details, however, the 2,800sqft apartment on Po Shan Road is a practical environment within which Aviva realises her mantra of ‘form follows function.’
Given the family’s love of entertaining, the dining room serves as the focus of the house, where guests settle around a 2.5-metre-long solid wood table that is often found decked out with various culinary delights, thanks to Aviva’s penchant (she is also a trained chef) for cooking up sumptuous feasts.
Visitors are free to wander around the apartment’s open plan. “I don’t do things like close off little areas – I try to keep it an open flow just because we have so many people passing through,” says Aviva. There’s another benefit to the wide interior: her itch to experiment and redecorate the abode is more easily satisfied, and marks from her frenetic creative energy are abundant.
“Personally, I also love the feeling of a high ceiling, so I experimented with the walls where I painted the bottom half of the wall a darker tone and the top half a lighter tone. It makes the ceiling feel higher.”
Sometimes art is not even about how it looks – it’s about how it speaks to you.
Meanwhile, the floor is largely covered in an assortment of statement-making rugs. The most prominent design in the living area – a geometric monochrome graphic pattern – is of Aviva’s own creation, serving not only to dazzle guests upon arrival but also to cover up the old-fashioned parquet floor of the rental, and to add a general softness to the space.
The versatility of a good rug shouldn’t be understated, Aviva emphasises: “A rug is something you take with you, so it’s not a waste since you don’t even leave it behind! Even if you move somewhere smaller, you can just have them recut.”
Aviva’s focus on walls and flooring come together in her office, from where she runs her interior design consultancy. “I experimented doing the wall the same tone as the carpet to make it a bubble. I hate to think that I’m savvy or fashionable, but it’s a very modern thing. I really like that deep raspberry shade, so I used it for my office and carried it through to [the sofa] in the lounge room.”
Art plays a major role in the Duncan household, even more so since Aviva completed a fine arts degree at the local campus of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). From the entrance foyer, the eye passes by a pop-art canvas by Australian artist Paul Davis (“I love LA and mid-century design, so the whole aesthetic just spoke to me about Hollywood Hills”), and a monochrome painting of an owl by Josh Yeldham, before settling on Aviva’s favourite piece hanging above an Eames lounge chair and ottoman – a photograph of a desolate church and a lone piano, by Hong Kong-based photographer Denice Hough.
The art collection, Aviva says, will be her gift to her daughters and, she hopes, from her daughters to their grandchildren. “It reminds me of how important it is to grow up surrounded by visual [cues] and how it shapes you. Sometimes art is not even about how it looks. It’s about how it speaks to you, so a lot of those pieces are quite personal.”
With an eye on the future, and a hand in the immediate present in a constant cycle of aesthetic trial and error, Aviva’s home is sure to witness many more design revelations in the years to come.
This story was originally published in our September 2018 issue as ‘Tale of Two Tones.’ For more glamorous homes in Hong Kong and abroad, grab a copy of our September issue, on newsstands now.
Photography: Mitchell Geng
Art direction: May Lau
Production: Emily Leung