After many years on the Southside, FREDA AMIR found an ideal new spot to call home with the kind of open space she cherishes, and wonderful water views. We take a look inside her beautiful Sai Kung property and ask what it’s like to live in the area. Plus, she tells us about the benefits of living in a village house in Hong Kong.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My background is a tad diverse – I was born in Singapore to a Dutch mother and a father of Persian decent. I was educated in Singapore and the UK for boarding school, then I studied at the University of East Anglia’s School of Art, and the American University in Washington DC, before completing a graduate degree in International Business and Public Policy at George Mason University.
My path to Hong Kong started when I came here for a modelling assignment and instantly fell in love with the city, its people and vibe. I chose to base myself here for a few years before moving to the US in 1993. Hong Kong always had a special place in my heart, and despite having lived in London, New York, Los Angeles, Cairo and Singapore, when given the chance to return to Asia in 2010 for family and work reasons, I knew without a doubt this is where I would want to live.
For the past 20 years, I’ve been working in financial services as Head of Marketing and or Business Development either in a global capacity or regional role for some of the largest investment managers, hedge funds and insurers. I’ve always enjoyed travelling, being client-facing and being a strategic marketer – and I naturally gravitated to this career path.
Who lives in your Sai Kung property and how long have you lived there?
I’m here in Sai Kung with my boyfriend Marty Kaye, my four-year-old husky Blade and most recent addition Lulu, an eight-month-old chinchilla cat. (Both are RSPCA adopted.) My son Logan is boarding at Merchiston Castle School in Edinburgh. Our Indonesian helper Witri also lives with us – she is a fantastic cook and somehow manages to keep us all in the right direction with the house looking immaculate, which is no small feat as we love to host, so we’re always having people over or pet playdates!
We found our current place just under a year ago now. When my loft in Ap Lei Chau was sold and the pandemic changed the workplace, allowing for hybrid working arrangements, we started looking around this area, but we had no luck finding the right spot – we wanted water views, nothing too remote, open plan, light and airy, and with indoor/outdoor spaces. As you can imagine, it was looking quite bleak! But we persevered, and as luck would have it, this place came up through a friend – we knew it was the right one as soon as we walked in through the gate.
Is it the first place you’ve lived in Hong Kong?
Prior to living in Sai Kung, I was on the Southside; my son Logan was going to school at HKIS and I worked in Central, so it was easy and made sense given networks and playdates.
When Logan left three years ago for boarding school, I was able to be a bit more creative with my living space and managed to find a unique renovation opportunity with an old, abandoned coffee shop loft space in Ap Lei Chau village, opposite the park, facing the harbour. I have always gravitated to loft-like spaces and an open living concept, so I jumped at the chance to renovate it into a two-storey townhouse loft space. The building was sold about a year ago and led us to where we are now in Sai Kung.
What’s the location like? Is it a nice area to live?
Where we live in Sai Kung is amazing; I have on one side the bay overlooking Hebe Haven, Shelter Cove and the outlying Islands, and on the other the country parks with Ma On Shan in the near distance.
Sai Kung is lovely; we can’t believe it has taken us so long to get off the island but now that we’re here it’s fab! At my doorstep, I have access to trails, beaches, kayaking and the yacht club next door for sailing and taking speedboats to the islands – it’s special. We often spend an afternoon walking into Sai Kung town with Blade; we have gotten to know some of the local farmers at vegetable stands, and people in the coffee shops and hairdresser and beauty salon.
Plus, now with the new tunnel and MTRs, Quarry Bay and Central are so much more accessible, and the commute is easy.
What’s your favourite nearby café or restaurant?
I love Little Cove Espresso for brunch – great avocado on toast! – and Shakshuka Singalings for lunch (everyone loves Sing, who runs it). Picture House has a good vibe and is nice for lunch and fun happy hours. Another regular in sailing season is Shelter Cove Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, run by Wing and Eric – it has a real family community (Blade gets treats!).
If you’re looking for good dim sum, we go to Cheung Kee on the Sai Kung waterfront, and Yau Lee Stall is great for cooling down with a drink or noodles after a long hike in the country park, or the burger kiosk near the pier and post office.
What are some of the key features or quirks of your Sai Kung property?
We live in a village house in Hong Kong that is side-on to the water, so it’s very private, with full height windows on all floors offering ocean views. We don’t have curtains, so we wake up to amazing water views over the cove, or go to sleep looking at the night sky. Having the whole top floor as our master bedroom means space for me and my shoes! And we have dedicated the second master for Marty’s office, with lots of open space – quite unique for a Hong Kong property.
How would you describe your style when it comes to home interiors?
We love the indoor/outdoor openness, and our setup reflects just that, with living and dining indoors and fully retractable sliding doors onto the patio, allowing a bigger space for the open-plan kitchen concept – it’s very casual and intimate, creating a sense of camaraderie and warmth.
Is there a spot in the home that you enjoy the most?
I enjoy waking up to the views and serenity of the natural environment around the home. I was really drawn to living near the ocean or a body of water – there’s something to be said for its spirituality and the calm it instils. I can sit and watch the ocean for hours.
My favourite place is often sitting on the jetty in front of the house, watching the wading birds and other wildlife – there’s such a pecking order as to who gets better placements for catching fish and insects in the mornings.
What’s one piece of furniture in the house with an interesting backstory?
One of my favourite pieces is the dining table. I had it custom made by a Dutch interior designer in Palm Springs, California before I came back from the US, using the wrought iron from an old gate as the base. As it turns out, the table has been one of the most adaptable pieces of furniture I have ever owned – it fits in anywhere!
What are a few things you like to do in HK when you’re not working?
I’m very conscious these days of integrative nutrition (I’m currently doing a health and life coach certification) and I’m a big proponent of plant-based foods. So I often spend time wandering through the markets or local farm stands in Sai Kung looking for the freshest ingredients as we tend to make everything we eat from scratch rather than using processed or packaged foods.
I got hooked on Pilates this year, both mat and reformer, and I try to get two or three sessions in a week, in addition to hiking and doing weights at the gym.
Now that travel is back on the agenda, where have you been or where are you keen to go?
Travel is either for work or it’s with family and friends, either on a beach somewhere or skiing. We just came back from three weeks in the south of France, including sailing around the north coast of Sardinia for 10 days – it was so picturesque, with turquoise waters and rugged cliffs along the coastline; a real treat to switch off and enjoy being out on the water. Happy to be home, though – we missed Blade and Lulu!
Photography: Michael Perini
Our article about this Sai Kung property with water views first appeared in the Summer 2023 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue!