At the height of the pandemic, Michael and Alice escaped to Lamma for some space and serenity
The pandemic brought designer Michael Young and Alice Harding a newfound perspective on light and space. Spurred on by Alice’s first excursion to Lamma Island, the husband and wife duo knew what they were looking for in their next home: space, sunshine and serenity. “I’m from New Zealand and grew up with loads of outdoor space and sea around me. I found Hong Kong Island stifling with two young boys, especially when COVID hit and all facilities like playgrounds, beaches and pools closed”, Alice explained. Lamma Island seemed like the perfect remedy, and Michael was similarly enamoured. “We went for lunch [on Lamma Island] and asked the barman how to find a spot”, Michael shares. “We ended up seeing this place that was not on the market but with incredible potential – freestanding, high ceilings, amazing views, on the beach… and the list goes on.”
The two-storey house was transformed into a family retreat, with Michael and Alice taking control of the design process with the help of Stephanie Wong and Adrian Wu of SW Design. The traditional 1,400 sq ft village house built in the early 1980s was broken down, and Alice and Michael were left with a minimalist frame they could play with and work around. “Unlike most village houses that have three floors, this has two so the sense of space and light is incredible”, gushes Michael. The duo converted the ground floor into a single open plan, consisting of a living room, kitchen, and dining area with large bi-fold doors that open to an elevated outdoor terrace. The upper floor has a large corner master suite, guest bedroom, and children’s bunk room – each with its own glass doors to the balcony.
Michael and Alice paid careful attention to ensure a measured balance of rawness and refinement. Exposed concrete columns and beams were offset with delicate metal and wood detailing. Pale greys and dusty pastels added a softness that juxtaposed the industrial, minimalist feel. “As it was a beach house beside the sea, we wanted to keep it really simple, light and fresh as well as not distracting from some of the amazing furniture and art pieces that Michael has designed and that we have collected over the years”, Alice explained. The pieces in question include a painting of their eldest son Ruben by renowned Hong Kong painter Simon Birch as well as a host of other unique items designed by Michael himself.
A prolific designer, Michael creates pieces across the board, from furniture and lighting, to even collaborating with KEF sound on speakers. Snippets from his various projects are seen throughout the space, tied together with Michael’s cohesive design aesthetic that seamlessly blends East and West, tradition and modernity. “I designed much of the interior furnishings including tiles by Gorbon Tiles that were handmade in Istanbul, and lighting created for Lasvit and EOQ.” Other pieces also include works created for La Manufacture, Gallery All, and carpets by Chris Farr Handmade Rugs.
While the space feels effortless and relaxed, each design choice was intentional and carefully thought through. “Everything I have has a story. I don’t buy things for the sake of it”, Michael explains. “They are either old things of mine, or friends’, or just pieces from around the world that kind of mix up well together.” Having designed for a multitude of brands, Michael is the first to know that versatility is key. “When working with brands, I need to make sure the things I design can live with other objects. It’s not my way or the highway.” And sure enough, the process was a collaborative one, with Alice offering her fair share of input and design lead. “I wanted it to be a fusion of both our styles”, Alice notes. “Functional and industrial with a soft feminine touch.”
Despite creating this retreat to offer a sense of respite, Michael and Alice can’t quite resist the magic and mayhem of city life. “I’ve been in Hong Kong for 5 years now. I love the energy, the fast pace it moves and its proximity to the rest of the world”, shares Alice. And this fast pace has certainly kept the duo busy. “We are launching our own brand at Manks – they’re old friends and it’s a great match”, Michael reveals. “I’m also working on a housing project in Japan and launching Michael Young eyeware early next year… Amongst other things!”