When a modern-day renaissance man asked House of Beast design principal Louie Shum to design his holiday home, little did Louie know that the project would also come to be his own professional playground.
Clocking in at 6,000 sqft of space spread over two floors, this formidably-sized property was to be the client’s urban hideaway, where he would receive visiting friends, host parties, as well as escape to indulge in his hobbies of art and music appreciation. Befitting its purpose, the project was christened The Playhouse.
“This was a project that we don’t come across often where we could use such a free hand in designing it, so we really cherished the opportunity,” says Louie. That creative carte blanche – combined with the client’s briefing for a space that was, above all, fun – resulted in an entertainment hub that was parts private club and boutique hotel, combining an overarching New York-inspired industrial theme with Italian, Japanese and Moroccan influences, and finished with vibrant patterns and eclectic furniture.
All of this globe-trotting within one space might require a temporary suspension of disbelief, yet Louie’s attention to detail imbues a sense of authenticity to the proceedings. Take, for example, the brick wall behind the sectional which was assembled using bricks from Italy, failing any believably time-worn options that could be sourced within Hong Kong. However, Louie says, “Even these weren’t authentic enough when we got them, so our team of designers found some treatments that we tried ourselves to age the wall by hand. Only then did we achieve the effect we were looking for.”
This was a project that we don’t come across often where we could use such a free hand in designing it.
This all-or-nothing attitude continues in the ceiling, which utilises concrete laminate panels sourced from France that cleverly conceal the air conditioning and lighting, simultaneously accommodating for the service cavity required for electrical wiring and auxiliary pipes while maximising the already limited ceiling height. “You have to get the technical aspects right the first time around – if you skip some steps or make a mistake, there’s no going back. The technical and the creative must go hand in hand for a perfect outcome,” explains Louie.
Scale and proportion remain malleable throughout the apartment, from the oversized twin Tom Dixon chandeliers above the custom-made, ceramic tile-finished dining table, to the living room’s centrepiece coffee table composed of two overlapping triangular volumes, and the monolithic HK$3 million pair of speakers that flank it. Underneath the dining table, hand-crafted hexagonal tiles sourced from Morocco meet seamlessly with the wooden flooring in an act of aesthetic precision.
While the downstairs was specifically designed to resemble a gentleman’s club, the delineation is clear once we ascend the spiral staircase that leads to the upstairs private apartment, where cosiness and intimacy reign. The generous master bedroom takes up most of the floor space, and is anchored by a Nebula Five bed from Moroso that was designed in collaboration with Diesel and boasts a show-stopping addition: a massive headboard that is displayed akin to an art piece thanks to a freestanding steel frame fitted with floating bedside drawers on both sides.
Replete with a minibar, ethanol-burning fireplace, motorised blackout curtains and a large walk-in closet, the bedroom was conceived to cater to the client’s every conceivable need without his having to venture beyond its walls. Should the man of the house require a change of scenery, however, a tatami bedroom on the same floor would be more than sufficient in transporting him elsewhere.
The technical and the creative must go hand in hand for a perfect outcome.
No expense was spared in the adjoining bathroom either, given the homeowner’s unique demands on the shower area, which includes a rain shower, sauna, steam room, and water jet system. “[The client] is from a certain generation, so he referred to a scene in an old movie called Flash Dance where this female stage dancer gets doused in water,” recalls a somewhat amused Louie. “He said he wanted to have that exact same feeling. It ended up being the most gadgets I’ve ever put inside a shower!” Finally, a two-metre-long, two-person bathtub fitted with a jacuzzi system provides a rousing finale to this ablutionary orchestra.
Given the client’s cultural and financial wealth, Louie found the biggest challenge in creating a space that could constantly astonish him. The realisation he came to over the design process, however, was that the simple things – quality and comfort – remain paramount. “To declare a space as successful in terms of beauty is easy, but for the inhabitants to really appreciate the space, we need to spend much more additional effort in order to harmonise the design, functionality and creativity,” he says. “To surprise them, though, that is another matter entirely.”
Louie enlisted a tatami maker in Japan to craft the eye-catching mustard yellow tatami mats in this bedroom to add some zing. The raised platform conceals storage space underneath. The Spoke Chair by Kappei Toyoguchi inhabits a corner to the left.
This story was originally published in our July 2018 issue as “Man of Many Hats.” For more inspiring masculine homes, pick up a print or digital copy, on newsstands now.
Photography: Dennis Lo