The vista from Yenn Wong’s home curiously reduces Hong Kong’s most serious neighbourhood, Central, into something resembling a playground – the Zoological and Botanical Gardens and Hong Kong Park form two springy beds of green, while Government House draws easy comparisons to a sand castle. It’s therefore no stretch of the imagination to say that Central really is Yenn’s playground – as restaurateur and CEO of JIA Group, she oversees 13 culinary hotspots clustered strategically around the area, including the one-Michelin-starred Duddell’s.
While her restaurants have gained a reputation as local design destinations (past projects have involved the likes of Ilse Crawford and Sou Fujimoto), Wong is decidedly more relaxed when it comes to her own 3,000-square-foot Mid-Levels apartment, which she shares with husband Alan Lo, sons Gregory and Gabriel, and Bob the rambunctious Border Collie. “We get so engaged with the details that when it comes to our house, we want it to be more natural,” says Wong. “It’s okay if there are wires hanging out, if it’s not perfect, because that’s what a home should feel like.”
The home lends itself easily to Wong’s more natural approach. Far from being a full renovation, parts of the space were selectively refurbished to better fit the family’s lifestyle. A drinks bar was built into the wall adjacent to the dining table to better serve the many dinner guests and comprises separate fridges for wine, champagne, mixers and fruits, while a custom-built bookshelf doubles as a separating wall between the dining and living areas. Meanwhile, the indoor balcony, a curious feature apparent in all the apartments of this 30-year-old building, was expanded with aspirations of becoming a platform for yoga practise and Japanese tea ceremonies, although the two young boys have long since monopolised the space to build their own toy-filled imaginary worlds upon.
Lo, a fervent patron of the arts and a committee member of Tate and SFMOMA, is the first to admit that the apartment was largely chosen for its generously-sized walls – all the easier to hang their art collection on. “We tend to end up with older apartments because they’re that much more liveable in terms of proportion and scale,” he says.
The artworks are regularly rotated every six months – a relatively easy way to refresh the home, adds Wong – and at the time of Vogue’s visit, a showing of contemporary Hong Kong and Chinese artists, including Chris Huen, Guan Xiao, and the inimitable Ho Fan, decorated the walls. Pride of place above the couch is given to a sweeping paper artwork by Sun Xun, which had to be assembled on site due to the physical limitations of the lift and staircase. “Surprisingly the kids are quite good with the artwork,” says Wong. “They are not that interested – yet!”
Feng shui plays an important role in the household, which explains the presence of what seem like a dozen oversized wine glasses filled to the brim with water and scattered throughout the space – a feature that Wong attributes to the directives of her mother-in-law’s feng shui master. “We’re not typically superstitious, but it definitely helps to make the home more harmonious.”
They have certainly achieved that, with a motley edit of furniture that hints at the curation inherent to their restaurants, while simultaneously eschewing the commercial façade. A pair of Kilin armchairs by mid-century modernist Brazilian designer Sergio Rodrigues flank a black Paribawga side table from Pun Projects, while the dining space takes on a more whimsical, pastels-driven approach with Gubi Beetle chairs, lighting by Michael Anastassiades, a Marlon dining table from De La Espada, and a herringbone rug commissioned from Omar Khan.
“With our restaurants, we have to think about, ‘how long will this vase last me?’ Everything breaks down in a restaurant,” says Wong with a chuckle. “In the house we’re more generous with what we spend on. This place is really something me and my husband worked on together, to create spaces we enjoy.”