Hong Kong offers us a wealth of incredible homeware options, and we’re in love with decking out our homes (as teeny as they may be) with incredible one-off items and chic interiors. And one lady who has set the bar high for creating an incredible space is George Lyons, one of three brains behind coveted home décor brand, Apartment 49!
We’re adding her entire flat to our Christmas wish list this December as we chat to George about the inspiration behind her unique, shabby chic finds, gain some insider industry tips on styling our homes, making the most of flea markets and incorporating textiles to keep a room looking fresh.
Tell us about your background and where you’re from.
Leaving my corporate job when the kids were young, I got back into the workforce with online toy company Hocusadabra here in Hong Kong. This was a great introduction to my next role as buyer for Tiny Footprints before joining Apartment 49 in 2013!
Like many people in Hong Kong our “home” has changed a lot in the last 15 years. We have moved from London to Sydney back to London, onto New York and have called Hong Kong home for the past 6 years, but one day we’d like to end up back in Brisbane which was my last long term abode in Australia and much closer to our families.
Where do you live and why/how did you choose this flat as your Hong Kong home?
We live on Conduit Road in Mid Levels and moved into our current place a year ago. A friend told us about this apartment and we just came in for a look around the building as they don’t come up often.
It was a huge mess of workmen, concrete, dust and power tools everywhere, but I instantly had a soft spot for it. The layout was totally different to our previous place and the kids had so much room to run around both inside and out. My husband loves to barbecue so I think that got him over the line.
What are the best and worst things about living where you do? What makes the area that you live in different from other neighborhoods in Hong Kong?
We are fortunate enough to have lots of windows and a great outlook that makes our place feel more spacious. At night we love to sit on the balcony and watch the city lights, during the day I love the green outlook from the back windows especially when there is a big storm. There is a huge driveway where the kids can ride their bikes and a great “backyard” with space for them to run around and kick a ball and get dirty.
Mid Levels is so convenient – to my husband’s work in Central, the kids’ school Glenealy – which is just out the back gate, and the LRC, where I swim, play tennis and where we can often be found on weekend – in between kids sports! We are also minutes away from numerous hikes up to The Peak so it’s easy to surround yourself in green at a moments notice. The other night we went downstairs and saw a porcupine – which just made my day. A few weeks ago there was a snake in our stairwell – it’s amazing to think in such a bustling city there is still so much wildlife literally on your doorstep.
We never know how long we are going to live in a city for, so we like to be in the thick of the craziness. It’s not for everyone but we love it!
How would you describe your own personal style?
I don’t have a “style” that I follow as such, I just find pieces that I love and make them work. I love changing rooms around mixing things up. It’s not uncommon to see me pushing tables and cabinets around for a new look.
We have been fortunate enough to travel to some amazing places and I always make sure I bring back something so that each time I look at it, it brings back fond memories. My huge mirror from New York, a beautiful sea shell and brass bowls I bought recently in a dusty antique warehouse in Sri Lanka (sadly I couldn’t fit in the huge wood and brass tea wheel that I wanted!), my Juju Hats and a Cowhide from Africa and some really treasured pieces of furniture we picked up in a in a little village brocante in France years ago.
Where have you taken inspiration? Did you initially have a theme in mind?
I don’t have a theme as such but I love older shabby pieces and I’m not fazed by a bit of rust of a few chips or scratches, which is helpful with three children. I have however outlawed the playing of cricket and football in the living room since the treasures on my beloved bar cart have taken a beating lately…
I’ve always loved visiting brocantes, flea markets and little out of the way place. When we were kids, my Dad used to take us to clearing sales of farms near us and I used to find all sorts of things, so maybe that’s where it started?
Which room are you most proud of? Why?
I love our living area the most as it’s the hub of our home and where we spend most of our time together as a family. We have a huge comfy sofa we can all slouch on, the kids are always playing games and messing around on the rug and occasionally they will even give me a foot rub if I’ve had a long day on my feet and I beg them enough!
It’s home to lots of my favourite items from our travels and where I feel most relaxed.
What has been the biggest home improvement you’ve made/want to make? Any tips and tricks for easily updating the look of a room?
I’d love to open our dining room up more as it’s quite small and has this strange step up which makes me think it should be for Mahjong instead of my big round dining table.
Textiles are a great way to update the look of a room. Whether it’s window dressings or a rug, or even putting a throw, sheepskin or some cushions on the sofa, you can really change the look of a room inexpensively. Flowers and indoor plants are also a great way to keep a room looking fresh. I’ve just put an ivy plant in bathroom and it’s made such a difference. A beautiful shower curtain, some nice towels, candles and a beautiful handwash on the sink can help even the oldest bathrooms (like ours) look better.
Our kitchen is really old too so we put in a few cabinets to cover up some of the exposed pipes. The benches we have are disguised with nice appliances, and the wall tiles are hidden with chopping boards, jars and canisters. We have a nice green outlook from the windows so I try to focus on that.
What’s your favourite piece in your home?
There are so many but my current favourite piece is my Brass Bar Cart. I love changing it around with my ever growing collection of crystal and barware or adding fresh flowers or books. I really love my resin clam shell filled with lemons and obviously it also holds my favourite tipples too!
It sits under the window in our living room and always catches my eye when I walk in the room.
What about your choice of furniture? Why did you choose these pieces?
Running a small business, I spend a lot of time working at home so it’s nice to be surrounded with things that you love but are also functional.
I’ve always be drawn pieces that have multiple purposes or can be moved around when I need a new look. For example my Moroccan ottomans are stuffed professionally so they are great for extra seating for both kids and adults, you can add a tray and use them to put drinks or a cheese platter on or them or to put up your feet!
Probably my most prized passion is my Tempurpedic Bed. It is THE most comfortable bed and topped with my Pure Linen Bed Sheets, it’s the perfect place to get some much needed sleep.
Where is your favourite place to shop for homeware in Hong Kong?
Shopping for homewares in Hong Kong is not easy as there is a lot of the same look or it seems hugely overpriced, but I am fortunate enough to have Apartment 49 at my finger tips so I do source a lot of my own homewares from around the globe. I always love a trip out to Mirth or Bowerbird and I have a good collection from both stores.
Describe your dream flat.
More space! Doesn’t everyone want this in Hong Kong? We really love where we live; it’s an older style building but has a good feel to it. I love how in Hong Kong, the buildings can look old and dilapidated but inside you realise how great they are.
We currently have all the kids in one room, our “Dormitory” we call it. The girls keep moving out into my office/spare room for a night or two but they always miss the bedtime chat and move back in together. I think it’s really precious, but as they get older I think the novelty will wear off and soon we will need more bedrooms.
I’m sure if we move somewhere bigger one day I’ll just fill it up with more things I love – much to my husband’s dismay.
How have you made your space/ a small space work for you?
My office is a constant work in progress. We put my old dining table in here as my desk to fit everything on top of and my two business partners and I can all fit around and bounce ideas of each other.
I’ve recently had some floor to ceiling shelves installed and that has been great in showcasing Apartment 49 products. I have a huge pinboard in front of my desk, which is constantly changing from kids art to magazine pages, to business cards and quotes I love.
Any tips for combining style with functionality?
Storage is key – sadly whenever people visit our flat I’m always showing them the utility area, storage cupboard and walk in robe, which of course are currently filled to the brim. I think finding a place to put things away is really important, especially with children, so at the end of the day you can remember to have a bit of time for yourself and not picking out too much lego from between your toes.
I have plenty of hooks and baskets around for blankets, shoes and sporting equipment. My remote controls are hidden in a faux book and I have piles of cookbooks tucked in under consoles against the walls so I still get to see them but they aren’t in the way.
What advice would you give before you move in? Any tips for styling a home?
Measure the rooms before you move in and have a bit of a plan where things might go will help reduce some stress. It’s no fun on moving day when you are surrounded by movers and boxes, only to find the sofa you have just waited three months for is now going to cover the doorway.
There are no hard and fast rules on where things should go and if you see a piece you really love you will always find somewhere for it and if it makes you happy when you use it or look at it, then surely that is good for your home.
A huge thank you to Claire Yates of The Lion Rock Press for her wonderful pictures of George and her home!