Christened Happy Lodge, Cecil Chao’s waterfront mansion sits on a prime piece of property in Island South. But its value goes beyond that with the vast collection of art and antiques that decorate the place. “I’ve lived here for over 30 years so what you see is what I’ve collected and worked on for 30 years.” Dr. Chao is building a second Happy Lodge to serve as a weekend home on Cheung Chau, to be completed in two years.
A Collector’s Home
Airy with very high ceilings and an expansive view to the sea, the billionaire’s home was surprisingly welcoming, not least because the crew had been invited to visit the centrally-heated mansion on a wet, 10oC winter day. Despite the elaborate decorations and an eclectic collection of ink paintings, Buddhist ornaments and European antique furniture, it is a home with personal touches. Dr. Chao, after all, is an architect by training despite making his fortune mainly through property development.
At the centre of the enormous circular living room is a grand piano. An impressive, custom-made chandelier hangs from the high ceiling, which is made of black mirrors and stainless steel. “I work from home in the morning and go to the office in the afternoon, so this is my home office,” he said, pointing to the long, ornate banquet table decorated with antique silver that also doubles as a meeting table.
At 77 years of age, Dr. Chao is still heading his company Cheuk Nang Holdings Ltd. “Work is very important for a man. It gives you satisfaction and keeps your mind alert. I won’t enjoy it too much if all I do is ‘enjoy life’ all day.” He said he would continue to work as long as he could contribute his knowledge, experience and the network he has built over the years.
Stay Active, Stay Healthy
This is not possible without a healthy body and Dr. Chao keeps himself in good shape by playing sports regularly. “A swimming pool at home is a must because I love to swim.” He also jet-skis in the summer and plays basketball four or five times a week. Trophies and mementos from basketball and golf events he has accumulated over the years are prominently displayed in a corner on the first floor.
Being an architect and property developer, Dr. Chao is wearing the two hats well. “It is always good to be able to express yourself through designing, which relaxes me. But property development is the money-earner. Having worked on hundreds of projects, I’m used to juggling aesthetics, investments and government regulations.” A precarious balance, but it seems Dr. Chao is always adept at striking one, as he has between building his billion-dollar empire and leading a luxurious, colourful lifestyle.
Extracted from Squarefoot – Luxe Indulgence Magazine 2014
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