Whether it’s a house, a hotel room, or a lovingly conceived bolthole, much has evolved over the last couple of years about where we feel the most at home – or how we even define it. We speak to three of the city’s top designers tasked with creating them, including Peter Remedios.
It’s 2022, and nothing is quite the same when it comes to our relationships with our surroundings. This is especially true for city dwellers living in the cosy confines of Hong Kong, in which we have been spending an inordinate amount of time over the last two years.
Certainly, the notion of home has always been less about a physical place than a concept; at its best, it is a safe haven where we rest our heads after a day’s work, a place that conjures feelings of belonging, joy and permanence. Yet as living spaces quickly turned into makeshift offices and daycare centres, many urbanites have found themselves rethinking their connection to their environments, their expectations of them, and in some cases, craving new oases altogether. As architects and interior designers alike respond to an all-time-high demand for personal build and renovation projects large and small, one thing for certain is that people have never been more in need of a sense of place.
See also: Home Reimagined: Peter Remedios
PEGGY BELS, FOUNDER OF PEGGY BELS INTERIOR DESIGN
“Home,” as Peggy Bels aptly puts it, “is where we start our every day, where we find comfort, where we gather with our family. It’s a space where we collect so many memories.” The designer and founder of Hong Kong-based Peggy Bels Interior Design would know. Having grown up in France in a real estate family, she developed an appreciation for interior design at an early age and cut her professional teeth in Paris. Alongside her team over the last two decades, she has created some of the most beautiful residences in Asia and Europe, including the Chao Pao villa in Thailand, built out of all local materials, and the Corsega flat in a Barcelona historical building, with a contemporary, minimalist approach that focuses on warm hues and statement pieces tailored to the client’s personality.
In recent years, Bels has noticed definite changes in what residents want in their homes, which includes of course, a smart and practical work-from-home area. “However, with Hong Kong being such a dense city, space comes at a high price and more than ever and I think there’s a need for flexibility – to be able to optimise and suggest creative ways to enjoy their surroundings.” That inventiveness comes into play when crafting multi-functional areas that are increasingly in demand, especially in Asia, calling for solutions such as bi-fold glass doors to divide and open rooms and furniture that can be used for multiple purposes “like a windowsill that transforms into a desk”.
Yet none of that is delivered without Bels’ signature touch of refined luxury. In a recent project, a 500sqft flat in the heart of Hong Kong, Bels used magnificent blocks of Breccia Stazzema marble to build a curved kitchen island (that doubles as a bookshelf) and windowsills throughout the flat. “The stone really elevates the whole space and both the clients and us were really pleased with the result.”
At a time when people are looking to their residence as a soothing respite from the uncertainties that lie outside, it is interesting to find that such sensibilities are also reflected in what we are drawn to. One trend that Bels and her team have observed is an increasing fondness for curves and arches in walls, built-in furniture and door frames. “Even the angular line of furnishing is softening, for example with a curved sofa,” says Bels, citing mid-century design as another trend on the rise.
When given the luxury of space, however, such as in Europe, more and more people are seen to be willing to invest in bigger or better homes as they see the unprecedented role it plays. There is also an influx of residents eschewing dense cities where they had been for years, leaving them in favour of the countryside and investing in secondary homes. “We have seen an increase in holiday home design enquiry recently, as well as people looking to improve their outdoor space and make it an integral part of their living space.”
Bels herself is one of them. Planning to split her time between Hong Kong, Spain and France where her upcoming projects are scattered, the designer is excited for the opportunity to renovate her very old townhouse in Barcelona, which she and her family plan to call home for the next few years.
At the heart of every project, as Bels explains of her favourite part of her work, is bringing to life the distinct stories, needs and desires of the individual and redefining what home means for them. “The ways people are relating to their spaces now… all illustrate a need for homes to be deeply rooted in their surroundings, maintaining a cohesiveness between the inside and outside, and creating modern and comfortable interiors that tell a story of their past, as well as their present and future.”
Originally published in ECHELON Issue 8