Contemporary retreat

Design agency A Work of Substance has permeated the city’s lifestyle and F&B scene since its founding in 2011, doing interiors for the likes of contemporary izakaya Fukuro, French fine dine Bibo and stylish boutique hotel The Fleming. Design buff or not, any foodie worth their salt will have dined at a A Work of Substance-designed establishment at some point or another. The agency’s portfolio is diverse, but its projects are unified by a dedication to comprehensive storytelling and strong concepts.

Founding partner and creative director Maxime Dautresme took the same approach when designing his own home: an airy, 2,300-square-foot space in South Lantau. Drawn to the property for its sense of quiet and peacefulness, Dautresme decided to go minimalist with the interiors, putting the spotlight on the surrounding greenery and sea views. “The house is surrounded by natural landscape, so the design stems from the concept of serenity and creating a sanctuary,” explained Dautresme. “Every room is designed so that it contemplates the outside.” The home’s outdoor terrace also plays a strong part in Dautresme’s daily living, used for meditation, lunch and dinner on the weekends, and gatherings around a fire pit in the winter.

Dautresme likens the home to Villa Savoye, a modernist villa on the outskirts of Paris created by legendary Swiss architect Le Corbusier and his cousin, Pierre Jeanneret. A rectangular, free-standing house with a simple white facade, the villa prioritises its natural surroundings, allows plenty of sunlight to stream inside, and employs an open, free-flowing layout. “It’s almost on the beach, so there was a desire to create something quite light to reflect the outside lighting,” said Dautresme.

The home’s original layout, which saw the dining and living area opening onto each other seamlessly, perfectly served Dautresme’s needs, so it was left as is. Since the space was a bare shell before Dautresme moved in, most of the work was cosmetic: painting the walls, fixing the lighting, and bringing in furniture and artwork. Dautresme complemented the existing light woods and white walls with plenty of Zen-inspired elements: bamboo screen-like blinds, wooden furniture and linen-upholstered seating, woven baskets and rugs, the occasional plant. Surfboards—too difficult to store, hence transformed into decorative statement pieces—are a nod to Dautresme’s enthusiasm for the sport; much of his personal travel is spent surfing or snowboarding. Certain pieces, such as the storage baskets under the staircase and the candleholders in the shelves, are hand-made. “Handcrafted pieces usually have more soul,” said Dautresme. “There’s a better story behind them, which is a better reason to keep them.” 

Dautresme collected most of the furniture and accessories over the course of his life. While he’s been based in Hong Kong for at least 10 years, before that he lived in New York City, Miami and Shanghai. As a child, he grew up across multiple countries and continents: Brazil, Korea, Japan, the United States, France. Some of his belongings were acquired by his parents while living in Japan, then passed on to him. Having spent so much time in Asia, it’s unsurprising that his home’s aesthetic possesses a distinctive Asian touch. But Dautresme also believes that it’s important to give his home a sense of place. “It’s culturally sound to use Japanese and Chinese elements, since I live in Asia,” explained Dautresme. “Having highlights of the culture makes you more aware of where you live.”