Style secrets revealed

Interior stylist Hong Henwood is fearless when matching high-end pieces with thrift shop finds, designer classics with DIY projects, and vintage relics with whimsical accents.

With 52,200 (and counting) followers on Instagram, it’s safe to call Hong Henwood a style maven.

The Vietnam-born Australian interior stylist, however, only fully dived into interior design some time between the births of her children Miya, nearing six, and Charlie, almost four, even going back to school, CATC Design School. Hong used to work as a lawyer.

Now based in Singapore ‘ the Henwoods moved here “nine months ago for husband David’s job posting ‘ Hong is bringing her unique aesthetic to local homes. A great reference? Her own house, of course. The Henwood homes ‘ a cottage in Perth, followed by a restored 1940s house”in Brisbane, also doubled as Hong’s calling card back in Australia.

Her design of Charlie’s room there was even featured in Inside Out magazine’s Best Kids Room Style 2014. Her Instagram posts of her various homes’ interiors have helped expand her business, Affordable Style Files, from Perth to Brisbane to Singapore, and beyond (we just saw an Instagram follower from Indonesia enquire about making a consultation appointment with her).

Home now is a 1,700 sqft condominium in Keppel Bay. That, says Hong, is half of the floor area that their Brisbane home has. “We have a lot of things in storage, now,” she shares.

Moving to apartment living hasn’t dampened her decorating spirit, however. “I’m always buying or finding something new for the house!” It helps to have a focused aesthetic ‘ Hong favours a Nordic, vintage look. She is also influenced by the organic Japanese style, having lived in Tokyo for seven and a half years (where she and David moved after university, and built their own house), and the laidback eternal-summer vibe of seaside living.

Stepping past the generic condominium unit door, we are welcomed into an open-concept space where dining area, living area and kitchen enjoy an airy, easy vibe, which is made even more airy and laidback by a fully decked out balcony. “We usually eat dinner outdoors,” Hong says. “We like having a barbecue here, and it’s just lovely to look out to the water.”

The overall colour scheme indoors is neutral: the natural browns of barely varnished wood, leather and hemp, much like the straw hat hung by the dining area, are enhanced with sharp black accents. White walls and a marble floor are the canvas for Hong’s interior styling.

The furniture is a cosy mix of mid-century modern icons such as Hans J. Wegner’s Wishbone chairs from Carl Hansen & Son, restored vintage finds, and DIY projects. “Style shouldn’t be expensive,” Hong explains her high-low mix. “Your big ticket items, the ones you invest in, should be the pieces that will last you a long time. Your accessories should be affordable.”

Hong furnished their fairly expansive balcony with outdoor rugs, Acapulco chairs for lounging, outdoor dining chairs she bought online from FortyTwo, and a vintage draughtsman’s table now used as a dining table. On one end of the balcony is the barbecue, and on the other end, David’s surfboard. Potted plants complete the tropical ambience.

The heat outdoors is tempered once inside the apartment, not only because of air-conditioning but also because of the cooling feel that Hong’s neutral, organic palette evokes. This is carried into the bedrooms, although the accent colours there are punchier.

Charlie’s room, for example, sports a generous helping of yellow. The yellow-black-and- white look is inspired by his Tonka trucks, with the blonde wood elements balancing the bright colour combination nicely. Faded pops of orange coming from his faux tiger”rug (which he likes to wear on his head, shares Hong, so he can pretend to be a lion dancer) and the animal print of his beddings enhance the colour scheme.

In Miya’s bedroom, there are more amounts of soft pink, less black, blended with the white-and-wood treatment. “She’s just recently come into a princess-girly stage,” Hong says, “so we’ve been busy repainting her decor.”

And in the master bedroom, the colour accents are grey, and little pops of green from the potted plants and the vintage Art Deco armchair that Hong brought with them from Australia.

“A home should have a story… mix the things you love with new pieces so that they can tell the story together,” Hong shares. “That’s what I do in my house, although I try to keep the style minimal with classic and vintage elements. And with my clients’ homes, the goal is to tell their stories.” Looking at her lovely home, we can’t wait to hear more style stories from this interior stylist.


Follow Hong at Affordable Style Files.

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