Aproud respecter of deadlines and budgets, designer and developer Fox Daniels’s House of Fox — HOFF — is one of Hong Kong’s more creative studios. Three years on, HOFF carries out renovations, styling, furniture sourcing and improves the environments of residences, offices and commercial spaces when she’s not working on more ambitious projects. Square Foot talks with Daniels about aiming high.
Are you a designer by trade, and how did you wind up doing interiors here in Hong Kong?
Yes. I started in the South of France where I renovated old farmhouses and barns mainly for Belgians who wanted a second home in the sun. After 10 years in France I moved to an island in the heart of the Philippines and built a private resort from scratch. We were 14 ship hours away from the capital so to juggle builders and delivery schedules that depend on the weather was quite a challenge. I finished it in 2 years and sold it to a wealthy German family. In the early ’90s I lived in Hong Kong for a few years so while I was in the Philippines I caught up with some old friends in Hong Kong. At that time I also met my husband who is a long-term resident. It would have been too big a change for him to move to another lost island so I came back and started again here three years ago.
Would you say you had a particular style in your work? It’s colourful and vivid.
In my renovations I use my training as a chef in organising and managing the site day-byday — almost military and highly disciplined. My contractors know me by now. I set time and budget goals with the client and am proud to say that we always meet both. This is where I stand out from the rest.
Can you describe some of your past projects, and which were the most challenging or satisfying? Why?
I still feel the most proud of building an entire resort by the beach on Sibuyan Island that didn’t have more than six hours electricity a day at best. It took me two years and I still recall the first day when I had 74 workers coming in to start and they had never seen a Western woman in charge before. We had to find and dig two water wells. We had to lift the site by three metres to get a better sea view and for stronger foundations. We built a tree house for parties, outdoor patios, staff quarters, maintenance rooms, built a soundproof home for a huge generator and landscaped meandering (underground wired) lit gardens. To wake up, take a swim, get on my scooter to check out the site twice a day was an incredible adventure every day. It sounds romantic, and it was, but at times it also was incredibly difficult.
Have you noticed any design trends that are really gaining traction? It seemed retro/Deco was popular for a while, and now everything is “green”. Do you see anything looming on the horizon?
Green is still a big trend here in Hong Kong. Recycled furniture from old machinery is doing well. It adds a nice masculine touch to any interior. Furniture and art seem to blend more with quirky results. (Check out Green Furniture on Aberdeen Street.) The classical interiors are losing formality; today’s interiors are more casual, a kind of laid back that seems effortless and creates a “slower” feel. This style is beautiful and requires a lot of attention to detail to get it right.
What’s the one project or space that you really, really want to try your hand at?
Easy: A dramatic, non-white loft reconversion on a large scale using local artists for murals and trompe l’oeils.