The little things that make our houses homes — fresh cut flowers, fuzzy retro throw cushions, Mad Max: Fury Road coasters — are easy enough to come by. Major retailers sell things online and in large box stores in every corner of the globe to give your home its final touches. The catch is finding the final touch no one else has. Seriously, how often do you go into a bathroom and see the same IKEA hand towels you have at home?
That’s the dilemma Marco Hui faces daily as an interior designer. So as the founder and purchasing manager of Hjem Living, he’s tried to bring a little touch of individualism to Hong Kong. From the Elgin Street shop, Hjem — pronounced “heem,” which is both Danish and Norwegian for home — Hui offers consumers a constantly rotating range of accessories, home scents, decorative items, tableware and even tea.
The idea behind Hjem was simple: source home décor items that were hard to come by in Hong Kong and, more importantly, had the added touch of handcrafting. Hjem’s stock is still made the old fashioned way with a little more care, and very often sticks to tradition when it comes to production methods. At just over six months old, the shop is proof positive that Hongkongers are ready for something new. “There are plenty of lifestyle shops in Hong Kong, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a shop like Hjem,” says Hui, referring to his handmade mandate. “Our products also cover different fields of household products, from large sized furniture to small tableware, from aroma products to food and drink.” Hui and Co are also looking to include local artisans in the store with its Hong Kong Handmakers’ corner, designed to spotlight producers here at home. Best of all, if you can’t make it to the store in Central, Hjem is partnering with Metrobooks (which has branches in Elements, K11 and Mikiki), supplying the stores with a few select items for perusal.
Hjem plans on changing up what’s on the shelves frequently, so dropping in regularly is a good idea. But its core stock provides an impressive and diverse array of décor and gifts. One of the more compelling is the merino felt, seam free furniture by South African Ronel Jordaan. Jordaan and her crew hand roll and rub the felt into assorted shapes — balls, strands, discs — to craft lounge chairs, throw cushions, rugs, mats and more marked by their invisible stitching. Jordaan’s baffling items are made from biodegradable materials, she recycles all wastewater and practises animal-friendly wool harvesting. The “pebbles” must be seen to be believed. Another favourite is Spanish designer Raul Lauri’s Decafé line of lighting fixtures, candleholders and accessories made of used coffee grounds (baked with a natural binding substance). With a finish that looks like raw ceramic, the Decafé pieces are an ideal gift for coffee lovers — and each item smells delicious. Mon Studio from the UK is the label by a group of siblings, each with a specific talent (ceramics, tie-dye), that apply the family arts and crafts to cushions and tableware among other items.
No surprise: Thailand is heavily represented. The delicate fragrances used in Bodhi Herbal Spa reed diffusers (in lemongrass, orange vanilla, champaka and more) are distinctive without being overpowering, and actually list what’s in the oils on the box. They’re small (perfect for teeny Hong Kong flats), but they pack a punch. Similarly the Soap Villa products are still made the old fashioned way. Its popular tomato bar is said to correct minor skin imperfections and the ginger is claimed to be a mild antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. A range of ceramics from Chiang Mai is made using local clay and an ancient glazing tradition that leaves a crackled finish. Lastly, the third- generation, family-owned Secret Scent Teas from Thailand rival any by plantations in India, Sri Lanka or China on the aroma scale. In case coffee’s really not your thing.