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The Houses of The Kadoorie Estate

In almost every Hong Kong conversation, the topic of property inevitably comes up: value, how large your living space is, where it is located, what schools or services are nearby. As interesting and informative as these conversations are, they almost always focus on flats located in high-rise buildings, by far the most common type of dwelling in Hong Kong. Living in an actual house is quite rare indeed, especially in the densely-packed urban areas of Hong Kong Island or Kowloon.
But for people living in the prestigious luxury properties of The Kadoorie Estate, property-centred conversations have a different focus: architecture, building design and the importance of history. The historic houses of Kadoorie Avenue and Braga Circuit and the luxury colonial-style flats of the low-rise St. George’s Court apartment building are some of the only examples left of the elegant architecture that graced Hong Kong in the 1930s to 50s.

Many of The Estate’s houses were built in the Bauhaus tradition, conceived at an art school in Germany in 1919, which the essence was to bring art, architecture and technology together to produce a “total work of art”, where form follows function. In the 1920s, architectural design in Hong Kong changed rapidly. The architects and designers of The Kadoorie Estate were open-minded and enthusiastic about using new materials to reinterpret forms and surfaces – they were only too happy to break free of traditional design norms like enormous foundations and narrow windows to create The Estate’s functional yet luxurious and aesthetically-pleasing houses, each of which is unique.

Other houses on The Estate were built in the 1930s’ Streamline Moderne style, a sub-type of the Art Deco style which is influenced by the streamlined bodies of aeroplanes, ships and automobiles. These houses have distinct smooth surfaces, rounded corners and nautical touches.
Inside, the 85 houses and 39 apartments of The Kadoorie Estate are equally grand and aesthetically pleasing. Each luxury residence has been carefully preserved, painstakingly decorated, and when appropriate, lovingly renovated to ensure a continuity of style and character. While every residence is different, majority have high ceilings, thick walls and wonderfully large kitchens. In a very visible nod to history and elegance, many living rooms still feature original, working fireplaces.

Each house also has ample window space overlooking and opening onto the gardens. This openness helps bring to life The Kadoorie Estate’s “inside outside living” – a philosophy which welcomes sunlight and nature into the home and celebrates the Estate’s unique green environment by harmonising the relationship between nature and people. Some gardens also have in-ground pools, amplifying the outdoor recreation and hosting opportunities.

In comparison to the vast majority of residences in Hong Kong, and especially Kowloon, space is plentiful at The Kadoorie Estate. The houses, which are a mix of detached and semi-detached, are between 3,000 and 6,000 square feet in size, while the premium colonial apartments of St. George’s Court are typically around 3,000 square feet. Their expansive layouts make good use of this space, giving residents and their families and prized pets room to live, breathe and enjoy life.
Of course, every residence requires upkeep, maintenance and solutions to unforeseen wear and tear incidents. In many rental properties in Hong Kong, slow response time to maintenance requests is often an issue. One thing that both residents and ex-residents of The Kadoorie Estate repeatedly praise is the quality and dependability of the maintenance team, whose response time and commitment to providing excellent service is second to none – one resident relates that whenever he calls the team, “five minutes later, there’s someone in the house fixing the problem.”

The team’s mission is to keep fittings, fixtures, equipment and more in good repair and proper working order and also to preserve the properties, gardens and general environment for the long term, meaning that these beautiful houses are in much the same condition as when they were first built.

It is the hard work and the continuing foresight of The Kadoorie Estate’s founders and managers that these quiet guardians of old Hong Kong still stand and that new generations of residents are able to enjoy their charm, splendour and unique spirit.