Design Lifestyle

The Pursuit of Simplicity

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In a 15,000 sq ft Guangzhou home, one businessman has embraced the less-is-more principal.

Text by Tiffany Chan

Far from the city lights and urban grit, in a cul-de-sac perched on the highest point of a hill, a four-storey house with its glass-covered façade overlooks the verdant, rolling valleys of a Dragon Lake golf course in Huadu, Guangzhou. Early in the mornings, all is quiet, except for the bubbling sound of water. From the floor-to-ceiling windows, golfers are seen tee-ing off. For the entrepreneur who owns this home – the proprietor of a fashion business that sees him travel overseas often – this place is about simplicity.

“He wanted it very minimal,” says Hong Kong-based designer Clifton Leung. “He didn’t want too many things in the house, so I kept it very gallery like, leaving it alone with plain white walls, but also with very good lighting.

“He told me, ‘I want a simple life’, which, unfortunately he doesn’t have because of everything he has on his hands. He has a fashion empire here and is building a hotel over there, in Australia. Too many things.

“And so I think he enjoys a good, simple home; quality, but very comfortable.

A comfortable home he can return to from his trips abroad.”

And the house is, indeed, simple; stark, even. Covering 15,000 sq ft, it resembles Beijing’s courtyard houses that wrap the home around an inner courtyard. To achieve a light, Zen-like quality, Leung hollowed out the middle section to create a water garden, where the water acts as a mirror, reflecting the skies above, and is filled with fluttering orange and red goldfish. He also planted lush, green foliage and built an elevated wooden walkway in the middle, which connects the entrance and living room.

At the entrance, a colossal crystalline light installation resembling a grapevine hangs from the ceiling. Through the courtyard garden, the living room is a clean, double-volume space, with soaring windows and furnished with the bare minimum: a fireplace, cream sofas and standing lamps. Extending from the living room area is the dining room, which features a single, long wooden table, with conical lights overhead. Also on the first floor are two guest rooms, a breakfast room, Chinese tea room, and two kitchens.

Attached to the side of the house is an infinity pool, which floods into the garden. From the basement, an acrylic wall looks into the depths of the pool, almost like an aquarium. A sauna unit is for winding-down after long days at work.

The first floor is dedicated to the owner’s personal use. The 800 sq ft master bedroom features nothing but a king-sized bed, which appears surprisingly small in the space. A sofa faces a free-standing tub and one can look down at the living room below from the glass wall.

“He doesn’t like confinement,” Leung says. “He wanted to feel a kind of freedom one wouldn’t get from a hotel, or from typical homes, even.”

The rejection of the confinement is perhaps most evident in master bathroom, which lacks a door. Originally designed to be a room in itself, it is a most unconventional space. Rather than install
a dedicated wet area, a rain shower is installed in the ceiling in the middle of the room. At the back of the room, a granite stone backdrop faces a mirror that stretches across the wall.

Also on the first floor is a study, an entertainment room and a his and hers walk-in closet. The space is as well stocked as any fashion retail outlet, with racks of clothes and a vanity unit illuminated with Hollywood-esque light bulbs.

For a house of this size, there is a clear flow throughout. The complexity of simplicity, especially in large spaces, Leung says, is how to personalise it and not create a space that was overly stark.

“A house is like a gallery. I like to say that you put your own collection into the house. It’s not just about having all white walls and nothing else, but you have your own artwork, your own belongings, your own sofa, your own music, and you fill it with things that you like, things you want. It should have your own character. This is what a house should be like,” he says.

“It’s so hard to do minimal, though, because the quality and craftsmanship has to be very good. You can see everything; there’s nowhere and nothing to hide; you can see the imperfect plastering, the materials have to be top quality, you expose everything.”

Living

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The living room is a double-volume space, surrounded by double-height windows, overlooking the golf course down the road. Matching cream sofas from Milan face a modern fireplace, making for a warm, cosy space. White marble floors are water-heated underneath.

Cooking & Dining

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The Chinese owner requested both a Chinese kitchen and Western kitchen. Each is equipped with Miele appliances and a Sub-Zero refrigerator. The main dining room seats up to 20 at its wooden, long dining table. The open Western-style kitchen faces a separate dining area, where the owner eats breakfast. A separate Chinese tea room features a round table, where the owner and his guests enjoy Chinese meals.

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