Hong Kong House Tour


Today, I want you to sit back and enjoy as I take you inside an expat home in the heart of Hong Kong.

A house that looked nothing like this when its’ owners first laid hands on it !

Hong Kong is known to most as a concrete jungle with tall buildings on top of each other – and rightfully so if you look around you when first arriving at this apartment block in Mid-levels, Hong Kong.

The average size of a Hong Kong dwelling poses a tremendous challenge to any person who ever had the luxury of space before.

And it was no different for this family of four who once had exactly that in their home country, South Africa, that they loved but left, for work purposes – relocating to the UK initially.

When Leonie Roets, packed up her private law practise in Londen in 2007 to move to Hong Kong, they thought that they already know it all about giving up floorspace. After all, UK property comes with a huge premium on living space, so they had downsized once before.

Hong Kong however ranks right up there at the top – not only in size, but also with regards to price.

But stepping inside this home today, you will see that there is no need to compromise on style when you go small on space.

Looking at the outrageous prices of rental property, and the limited choice there was, they decided to buy instead of rent.

But in a market still priced beyond measure, a dingy dwelling still comes at a high price and a good chunk of money still only offers an uninspiring, often run-down space. And with a housing allowance that abruptly came to an end, having to pay for their own housing after living on an expat allowance on the southside of Hong Kong when they first arrived, they had to run wild and buy the most uninspiring place Leonie had ever come across.

Having these wonderful accent pieces is unfortunately not enough to light up any dark, awful apartment which had a toilet in the kitchen.

There was no way to go other than renovating before they could even set foot in here.

And as Leonie explains…. when asked by a friend back then “What is it that you like about the place you bought…..she cringed when she heard herself say “Nothing…absolutely Nothing !”.

Not the words you expect from somebody who just BOUGHT the place !!

It was all a fuzz….but this no-nonsense woman knew one thing for sure ! She had to knock down a few walls….. open up the space….. and she started with breaking down the walls in the kitchen, opening up the space to form part of the lounge area.

Going with neutrals – white, gray, stainless steel – is the way to go in small spaces. The kitchen feels light and open and airy.

Taking this neutral scheme through to the rest of the house, makes it feel uncluttered and cleverly spacious by tricking your eyes with its’ simplicity.

Keeping the floors, the wall colors, the gray doors consistent throughout definitely gives it a sense of cohesiveness and a calm, clean look from the back to the front end of the apartment, which is connected by this corridor.

There is an element of white and gray in every room…which keeps the undertone flowing….

but by adding a unique color scheme this clever woman made sure each room stayed fresh and interesting on its’ own.

A small space that invites you to stay and promise to keep you fascinated for hours and made me wish I was a little girl again !

Unfortunately I had to move on as there is so much more to this apartment that had to be renovated in a short timeframe where they had only 6 weeks to complete the job. This might sound do-able to some people, but in a place where they had to path their own way in finding contractors and dealing with a culture unknown to them, and with very different ideas as to what exactly the definition of a “Western-style” renovation is, this turned out to be quite a challenging endeavour. Especially where Leonie opted for removing beams, while the contractor insisted on covering them and installing a false ceiling in a place that was already a challenge for a 6 feet 3 ” tall husband.

But a woman with a passion makes sure that giving up her dayjob is not all in vain, and this proofed again to be true in her son’s room.

A boy is a boy and he needs a different space, but it still does not mean that it has to be boring.

Leonie says that the best part of the whole renovation was certainly the flooring that came at such a high cost at first, but the silky feel of the floors, makes it a pleasure to walk on and greatly reduce the need for rugs in every space. Carpeting tends to bring down a small space where you try to stretch your distance between floor and ceiling to the max. Reminder that homes in this part of the world has lower ceilings, if you did not know that.

Peeking outside however, the view suddenly was not so bad anymore and was enough to make any monkey happy to live in this type of jungle !!

Hong Kong has seasons and white and gray can tend to become cold and depressing when your mood needs to combat the gray skies when winter chills creep in.

Elements of gold, dark wood and candles combat all of the above by the warmth and ambience it provides all throughout the house.

These elements that you first met in the lounge were skillfully repeated in the Master Bedroom…

….and bathrooms. Even with no time to renovate the bathrooms, they were given some TLC by Leonie’s touch, sprayed white and changing just the critical items like the basin. (see photos on the flickr link below)

You can take away walls, but there is unfortunately no way of adding rooms in a space like this and Leonie had to make do by building in a cupboard that serves as an office space….yes, that is the reality of the Hong Kong Housing, but again – she added her personal touch to make it a fun area as it forms part of the general living space. And in this little space she married them all – white, gray, color and even the gold….

to not subtract from the beauty of the rest of the room that sits on the other end. All coming together beautifully where mixing the elements in her decor surely brings out the best of the renovated space.

The selected windows were chosen because they had very few panels/ sections, creating an illusion of more space, once again. They open up completely and the combination of stacking doors and double-glazed windows were one of the best decisions they made in terms of opening up and allowing the outside in.

A job that reflects attention to detail, reason and rhyme to changes that were made and an end result that makes you stand back with a feeling of wellbeing for the worth it brought with every wall broken down or window installed.

Asked about one of the hardest thing that a family experiences in Hong Kong, it definitely is the lack of a garden or outside space and as Leonie explains – there is no going around that. You have what you have…and there is no knocking down walls here…but adding flooring that matched the indoor flooring did help to make the spaces link up.

Leonie managed to make this house a HOME….as one last look at the kitchen reflects how this expat mom and wife successfully took a neutral scheme to maximise space but added fun and color to ensure life is anything but dull in this dwelling !

Leaving this house, with it’s DIY umbrella stand and coat hanger at the front door reminded me of the tranquil white and gray scheme inside, not forgetting the dash of color that brightened up every space without overpowering the overall scheme. And this Hong Kong postbox with its’ dash of red just confirmed that.

It made me want to go right back inside.

But in a world where Concrete RULES….

Creativity ROCKS !

So, I leave you with this….

If you wish to see more details in this beautiful home, you can find it here. 

All photos by Auburn and Blue. Please credit if you use them.



14 responses to Hong Kong House Tour

  • Even though the post was a long one, I really enjoyed reading through it and seeing all the beautiful pictures!

    • Ilze says:

      Hi Sharon… Yes, long….and I first started trimming it down, but then I realized that just putting a few images and not telling her story would never justify all her labour of love that went into this renovation project.
      And since she moved to a new place the day after we took the photos, we simply had to capture every tiny bit of detail as a memor ! Glad you enjoyed it though !!

  • Yvonne says:

    Oh Ilze!
    You did such a great job in transporting us into her lovely home!!! I love how she set everything up! And expat life is so visible in her beatiful and eclective style!
    Huge congrats to you and her both!!!

  • There really is a lot to admire here – both the creativity and the resilience. I think the little girl’s room is my favorite, you can’t have too much pretty pink in your life:)

  • Marianne says:

    Thank you for your sweet comment on my blog. I am glad it reminds you of your dear mom!
    Loved reading this article. You wrote that she moved after taking the photo’s. I am curious what her home looks like now.

  • Tina says:

    Hi Lize,

    I really enjoyed this post. I love to look inside the homes of others (this is something I do on my blog as well). It is always inspiring! I love the fact this is Hong Kong and I now have a better sense of what it is like to live there. Thanks! Tina, BYW

  • Grethe says:

    Looks like her house was made straight out of a magazine!! Beautiful interior. Except that I’m a Cath Kidston and Orla Kiely fan of course, I love how she has combined old, new, modern, classic to create her own style. The photo with her behind the postbox is my favourite!

  • Susanne says:

    Amazing that she did all this in just 6 weeks! It already took us 2 months to renovate our bathroom – finding the right contractor in HK is like winning the lottery 🙂

  • Ish says:

    Love, love the contrast of the modern, warm interior interior with the hyper urban view/exterior. I never really liked gray as a neutral until two years ago when I suddenly understood all the possibilities it held. Thank you so much for sharing one woman’s journey to creating a spectacular home and all the lessons that came along with it.

  • Sarah York says:

    What a delightful blog you have! This home is lovely, thank you for sharing! It doesn’t look that small, so she must really have thought the space through well. I love the chandelier in the living room, and those windows make it seem so open. Hong Kong seems like such an exciting city to live in! I would love to visit some day…

  • Anna says:

    WOW! A great post and a great example of making the best out of what you have. I really enjoyed seeing inside her home and how she made it work, a tough job but from the looks of things a job she excelled in.

  • Mel says:

    What a great house tour Ilze and what an inspiration Leonie is. I’ve renovated in my home town and that was tough, I can’t imagine arriving in HK and trying to figure it out. Excellent read and love you blog:) Mel

  • Grace says:

    I lived in Hong Kong for two years so I really appreciate how this family got creative with their space and made it their own. The space looks amazing!

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