Home Away From Home

The idea of “home” is a highly personal concept, one which cuts to the core of who we are, what we value and how we see ourselves.

Over eighty years ago, the founders of The Kadoorie Estate began a bold experiment: to transform a bare and barren hillside into a green oasis – an eight hectare garden suburb of luxury colonial-style houses and an apartment block. These residences were to become homes for wealthy industrialists in the corporate, trading, shipping and aviation sectors – people who were mostly expatriates at the time.

The Estate’s founders and designers aimed to create true homes away from home for the residents: places that were comfortable, peaceful and enjoyable to live in for residents both young and old.

Today, more than eight decades later, it is clear that this experiment has been a stunning success. The Estate’s homes are as beautiful as ever, and the modern-day residents – children, adults and the elderly – of these spacious architectural wonders are happy here, grateful to live in this unlikely oasis.

For some residents, their homes are a direct link to their own history. Some grew up on the Estate itself, others lived nearby on Prince Edward Road or Argyle Street and visited friends there, while others attended the prestigious Diocesan Boys’ School, located adjacent to the Estate. Their community bond and childhood memories of the Estate are strong: “The neighbours would invite us over and say hello when they were in the garden. I remember the fireplace roaring when we went to one of the neighbours’ house for Christmas drinks”, one resident recalls. Another mentions that “My husband remembers going over for dinner parties at one of these houses when he was a boy. For him it is a trip down memory lane.”

Other residents have had their careers bring them to Hong Kong later in life, their success allowing them to settle into their homes on the Estate. Many of these expatriates feel an overwhelming sense of luck at stumbling across this tranquil sanctuary in the heart of Kowloon, a place that some see as “almost a mirage, a place that only appears to those who want to see it.”

Some of these residents only stay on The Kadoorie Estate for part of the year, having other homes in New Zealand, France, the UK and elsewhere; or perhaps travelling for work for months at a time. These people feel a particularly deep connection to the Estate’s lush greenery and calm atmosphere, something they know is a rare occurrence in urban Hong Kong. In one resident’s opinion, “This whole street is a miracle, we are in the middle of the most crowded place in Hong Kong and we still have trees and a garden and peace and quiet…it’s just an unbelievable place.”

There are other luxury properties for rent in other parts of Hong Kong, but The Kadoorie Estate seems to create a special bond with its residents, many of whom have previously lived elsewhere in the city. The Estate’s luxury properties provide them with a home-like sense of place that is elusive elsewhere in Hong Kong: houses on The Peak are stranded in the clouds for months at a time, while the apartments and houses of Repulse Bay on the south side of Hong Kong Island are lovely, they can be inaccessible due to traffic issues. One resident recalls looking high and low for the right place: “I visited fifty different houses, and the Estate was the most stunning place I had seen in Hong Kong – the most beautiful, the most incredible and most accessible.”

The concept of “home” also means feeling cared for and looked after. Here again, The Kadoorie Estate creates homes like no other for its residents, a place where “tenants could not dream of a better situation”. Residents are universal in their praise for the Estate’s management and maintenance staff. “They always do more for their tenants – the maintenance team is really great. They are very reliable, very consistent, very helpful.”… “The management here are unbelievable – they are nice all the time, they are considerate – if you have a problem and you call them, they are here right away.”… “As landlords you cannot beat them – if something goes wrong, within 15 minutes, somebody is here.”

The Kadoorie Estate has created this unique environment and a place call home for all tenants on the Estate. “I stay here because I love this place, it’s my home – unless they ask me to leave, I will never leave this place. They have me for the rest of my life.”