We take a peek round Tamsin’s gorgeous newly renovated apartment, get the scoop on the best homeware stores in HK plus all the upcoming design trends and brands to look out for in 2013, and find out how she manages the work-life balance (hint: lots of chocolate!).
Fill us in on your background and how your family ended up in HK?
I was born in Hong Kong and raised here. My mum is Aussie and my dad is Kiwi… they actually met in London, and like everyone else, moved here for two years and ended up staying for 35! I went to Sydney when I was 12, and stayed there for 12 years for school and university. I have been living in HK again for five years now, and I’ve been with Home Journal for 4.5 years. I am married and have a Burmese cat called Homer!
Where do you live? How have you made your home your own?
I live in Pok Fu Lam. We just finished a pretty major renovation – we tore down every wall and rebuilt it! So I feel like I’ve had a lot of license to make it my own. We have made it a mix of industrial and raw, and classic European and refined. I like the balance of raw and refined, modern and vintage, and light and dark, so I’d like to say that it’s quite a dynamic space.
It’s been an interesting project, seeing the other side of design rather than always interviewing homeowners and designers. It’s helped me understand the process in a different way.
How do you describe your personal style? How does it evolve and change?
My personal style is a bit quirky. Sometimes I’ll wear super-bright colours, other times almost all black. I also love pattern and stripes (a little too much!). The same goes for my home; I think there are some quirky touches in there, and both my husband’s and my taste in art is quirky, so we love really bright pop art.
In terms of how my style has evolved… so far it’s become a bit more grown-up. In my 20s, I wore a lot of cute dresses to work but in my 30s, I tend towards nice blazers, black jeans, smart trousers, maybe a splash of colour in the form of a bright orange or Majorelle blue top. It’s partly the result of my mother telling me that in my role as editor, I couldn’t get away with looking like I was 21 anymore!
As for my home, I think my design style has also grown up. These days, I’m interested in mid-century modern pieces and vintage. I’m interested mostly in pieces that are timeless and that will last, but I still love that quirky touch. This might be in the form of a chair with a looped leg, or a funky peacock chair – my recent splurge from B&B Italia!
Where do you shop in Hong Kong? Any secret finds you can let us in on?
For homeware, I could go on and on and on! I especially like shopping at Eclectic Cool, DeeM and The General Store. They have that particular mix of vintage and modern that I love, along with brass, copper and Scandinavian designs.
My new favourite is Casa Capriz in Chai Wan [Unit 8D, Reality Tower, No. 4 Sun On Street]. Irene has some amazing utterly unique vintage pieces – I could buy the whole store! WD-SG has a super-cool St Francis Street space with vintage and vintage-inspired items at very accessible prices; I love the bare hanging bulbs and typographic decorations, plus the brick-clad space is awesome in itself. I also love Offspring – the store is slightly tucked away on the 15th floor of Horizon Plaza and it has such lovely things that you might not find elsewhere, like quirky cockatoo lamps, gorgeous raw wood tables from France and cosy Chesterfield-style armchairs.
I also like what brands like HC28 are doing; they’re mixing a contemporary approach with Chinese design for a super-cool “Asia Rocks” look. GOD‘s another one that does this well, as is Forbidden City.
What are your must-have beauty products? Where do you go for hair/nails/maintenance?
I go to Salon Chandler for my hair. I have blonde hair and it’s hard to find people who can manage this in Hong Kong but Shayne at Chandler is fantastic!
For maintenance, I go to Om Day Spa – my therapist Kalla is a whiz with a wax strip. For real indulgence, I go to the Four Seasons Spa for a deep tissue massage; it’s worth it every now and then… the best way to relax in the city!
What is your favourite thing to do at the weekend?
Go for a hike. Now that we’re living in Pok Fu Lam, I’m enjoying hiking up to The Peak and then running down again with friends, maybe stopping for lunch at The Peak Lookout or for a coffee. I also like doing The Twins trail early on a Saturday morning, so that you have the rest of the day to do whatever you like – which in an ideal world would be sitting at home and reading a book… But there never seems to be time for that!
What is your favourite restaurant in Hong Kong?
If I’m taking friends from out of town, I like the China Club or Bistro Manchu. If it’s for a romantic date, I like Otto e Mezzo. If it’s for lunch with my family, Gaia, and if it’s for a lunch in the workweek, Din Tai Fung for dim sum or Fiat Caffe for delicious reasonably-priced Italian and a great coffee. I love a well-made coffee.
VERO at The Landmark does one of the best coffees in HK in my humble opinion. They have the Lavazza franchise, and also they train baristas, so their staff knows how to make a perfectly creamy espresso. It’s never burnt, which is the problem so many other Hong Kong coffee joints seem to have.
How did you get into journalism?
I studied Arts & Law at university and worked in law for a few years before moving into editing. I always knew I was more into “communications” of some sort, and I did a lot of freelancing on the side before moving into the world of magazines on a full-time basis.
I really figured out I wanted to be an editor when I lived in Tokyo for two years. I wrote a lot for a local mag Metropolis and gradually the amount of work – locally and internationally – snowballed and it made sense to make the change when my husband and I moved back to Hong Kong.
Fill us in on an average working day at Home Journal…
It tends to start with green tea or an espresso. Then I answer some of the 300 emails that greet me each morning! I might spend the rest of the morning editing or writing stories for an upcoming issue, or I might attend a home shoot and talk to the designer and homeowner about their design ideas for the space. Then I’ll probably have a work lunch with someone in the industry, or a coffee with someone in the industry (designer, photographer, shop owner etc.). The afternoon could involve commissioning a story for another upcoming issue, talking to our designer about layouts and which pictures we should use for a story, and more writing and editing.
How do you manage the work-life balance?
Not very well these days! I’m working on it. The key thing for me is to be able to exercise. I like to run before I go to work, or to go to early morning yoga classes at Pure in Central. These things help me de-stress a lot.
Once I leave work at night, I don’t check my work email unless there’s something really important I need to keep an eye out for. Most things can be left till the next day really, and reading about them or responding when I’m tired only messes with my evening and my sleep – generally I find those responses are better left till the next day anyway. Basically I refuse to get a Blackberry! I manage stress by munching on chocolate too!
What interior trends do you think will be big in 2013? And what’s on the way out?
Pantone’s colour of the year is Emerald, so we’ll be seeing a lot of products and fabrics in that in the coming year. I recently went to Maison&Objet (a trade fair in Paris), and colour is definitely IN. I think people are brightening up; I saw a lot of rose, pale grey and mint green at the fair, plus plenty of earthy berry tones, combined with raw wood.
Personally, I think products that look good but that aren’t functional are on the way out. People aren’t as frivolous as they once were, so what they buy has to have purpose – and durability. They like products with a story, like vintage pieces, and products that will stand the test of time. Mass produced consumerism for the sake of it is something that has been on the way out for a while.
Are there any new international designers/brands we should be looking out for?
I met with the ibride guys at the fair and what those French designers are doing is really cool. They are creating new items with a story, and almost all their pieces have dual functionality, some “hidden” bonus function that might not be immediately obvious. I also think Singapore’s Fred Lives Here is doing cool things with graffiti (I LOVE graffiti) and other artists, putting their work onto chairs.
You’ve recently renovated your apartment – do you have any good tips for readers also thinking about doing a complete renovation?
Be willing to spend money on a good floor. I’ve seen so many homes and you can tell when someone has a quality floor or when someone has done their floor cheaply. The difference between real wood (engineered or full planks) and some veneers is quite obvious. I say some veneers because there are genuinely some really good ones out there. But if you want to do laminate/veneer, look long and hard for a high-quality one that actually resembles real wood.
Be prepared for it to take longer than you’d expect! Be prepared for a month on top of your original project deadline, possibly even two or three if issues arise while the project is underway. Also, if you buy products online, be prepared for problems – factor issues into your schedule. For example, if you order chairs from a UK site, you may find they send you the wrong colour, or that something’s missing from your order. This happens a lot!
Read a lot of magazines and blogs and pull out tear sheets so that you can figure out your style and find inspiration for certain areas of your home. I did a lot of this!
What are some of your favourite interior spaces in Hong Kong? Do you think the HK government should be doing more to preserve old buildings?
Yes I absolutely think HK’s government should be doing more to preserve old buildings. Look at Beijing, Shanghai and Singapore – they’ve done great things with old spaces, transforming them into new restaurants and bars… it may be a different use from what was originally intended, but at least it’s keeping the lovely old architecture in place.
As for favourite interior spaces… I love what Candace did with Heirloom. It’s such a fresh spring-like place to hang out; her style is fab. I think The Factory in Wong Chuk Hang is great, too – I love that industrial look and the graffiti on the exterior. In the same vein, I love the Lane Crawford furniture store in Wong Chuk Hang – a very cool space.
What are your most hated interior design sins?
The use of beige. So 20th century!
Mixing too many styles together. I think two or three work nicely together, but beyond this you have to be very careful – it can look like a bomb went off. You don’t know where to look.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given and why?
The advice my Dad gave me when I first started working: if you have to write a difficult email, draft it, walk away, look at it again. Sleep on it if you can. Don’t send it until you’ve read it with fresh eyes.
I guess the same goes for so many things in life… it’s often better to sleep on something and think about it fresh when a new days dawns. That goes for anything you are angry or upset about. It also applies to situations that frustrate you – writer’s block, and much more!
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