This week, we’re sitting down for a chat with super-stylish mama Simone Daly – co-founder and director at one of our very favourite home décor stores, Attic Lifestyle and mama to four-year-old Ava! Here, Simone shares just how she juggles the competing demands of a busy home life with managing a thriving creative business, her invaluable mama-tips and an insider’s perspective on the up-and-coming Southside district of Wong Chuk Hang!
How do you save time? What are your organisational tricks and tips?
My family and friends love to tease me about this, but I do love a spread sheet – whether for organising a play date schedule, or keeping track of birthday party invites. I also make endless lists to make sure I don’t forget anything at work or at home. My helper also helps with arranging play dates and makes sure that I don’t forget things like other kids’ birthdays, or Ava’s events at school – and always knows where I’ve put things, which is useful when I’m rushing around in the morning trying to get ready for work !
I wish I had more time for…
Everything! There are so many things that I want to do every day – I never feel like I have enough time to do it all! It can be hard to juggle everything… the hardest thing is to find time to exercise!
I always feel saner after….
A walk up the Morning Trail, which starts near our house. It’s a tough walk, but I always feel a huge sense of accomplishment that I’ve made it to the top! I also love the walk around the top of Lugard Road. It allows me to clear my head and gain a real sense of perspective – both literally and figuratively. I also think having a good group of girlfriends that you can rely on, have fun with and swap stories with is really important – it makes you realise that you aren’t alone !
Favourite activity with the kids in Hong Kong?
During summer we love taking Ava to the beach or to the Hong Kong Cricket Club where she has loads of friends and spends hours swimming in the pool. In the cooler weather we enjoy taking our crazy dog Molly for walks along with Ava and her scooter – it’s a bit of a travelling circus, but always fun to explore new walks and trails.
Favourite kid-friendly restaurant in Hong Kong?
Zuma is hands down my favourite restaurant in Hong Kong, and their weekend brunch is just amazing! Ava loves sashimi and there’s a little playroom there that keeps her entertained.
Favourite family-friendly holiday spot in Asia?
For a completely laid back and relaxing holiday (sans jet lag), we love going to Koh Samui. We normally stay at Choeng Mon beach which is near Bo Phut. Thailand as a whole is incredibly family-friendly and the Thai people are lovely with kids. We love going to Sala Samui for lunch and dinner and spending our days on the beach.
Activity that I do not love to do but do it anyway because my kids love it…
I work full time, so I really value the time I am able to spend with Ava. She loves painting and arts and crafts and I am all for it – but it’s the fact that everything (including, on occasion, Ava herself!) gets covered in paint that I’m not that wild about. Ava once painted herself blue like a smurf, which I have to say I found hilarious!
Do you have any tips for keeping the romance alive in your relationship?
Hmm, I hope my husband doesn’t read this! We’ve been married for ages, so I guess romance is a bit of a relative concept… I think the most important thing in any relationship is to be honest and communicate.
Favourite date-night restaurants?
Anywhere that serves great steak! (You can take the girl out of South Africa…)!
What was the inspiration for Attic Lifestyle?
I started Attic Lifestyle for a number of different reasons – one of which was the dearth of places in Hong Kong offering affordable, yet design-conscious décor and gifts. I frequently visit South Africa to see friends and family and every time I visit, I’m always so inspired by the beautiful, yet affordable ceramics, textiles and other objects that abound there. I wanted to bring some of that artisanal creativity to Hong Kong; a lot of our pieces are one-offs and handmade, which is a unique proposition in itself in Hong Kong. We also stock some products from Danish designers; I think there’s a huge synergy between Skandi and South African design and it’s amazing how complementary the products are!
Wong Chuk Hang is such an up-and-coming area of Hong Kong – tell us about the neighbourhood.
Wong Chuk Hang has been up-and-coming for a while now, but I think that once the MTR opens it will really open up a lot more… hopefully the rents won’t sky-rocket in response, but that’s probably wishful thinking! There are lots of industrial buildings in the area that house interesting businesses including wine, art and, of course, décor and interior design companies. It’s definitely worth putting aside an afternoon and having a bit of a wander – I think you’d be surprised by what you’ll find!
How do you source items for the store?
I read loads of interiors blogs and magazines and source items by doing that as well as during my visits to South Africa and Europe. I found Paris incredibly inspirational when I was there two years ago and was also lucky enough to travel to Copenhagen, which was amazing – the art and design to be found there is truly phenomenal.
In a city where renting is the norm and people often live in small spaces, how important do you feel home décor is?
I think it’s incredibly important. As much as Hong Kong is a very transient place, I think it is important to live in the present… you can’t live your life thinking the grass is greener somewhere else, living like a student! When we moved here from London, I realised that I was done with Ikea flat packs and I decided (where possible) to buy meaningful pieces of furniture and art that we could take with us wherever we went.
Can you talk us through your career pre and post babies? How did you get back into the swing of things after having children?
I found it very difficult coming back to work after just 12 weeks of maternity leave, as Ava wasn’t sleeping through the night – and didn’t until she was about 18 months old – and so I was totally sleep deprived and probably not very effective! Even though we are lucky enough to have help in Hong Kong, I personally think that 12 weeks maternity leave is way too short.
How has having kids changed the way you define work?
I’ve become far more ruthless with my time and using it constructively. I think it’s helped me think more ‘big picture’ and not get hung up on the small things… in theory at any rate!
Do you have any tips for aspiring “mamapreneurs” and other working mamas in Hong Kong?
For mamaprenuers, Hong Kong is a very easy place to set up a business and there is a huge amount of support within the expat community… but if you want your business to really have legs, I think you have to think outside of the expat Hong Kong bubble and broaden your reach with an effective online strategy. I also think you have to look very carefully at your product and what demand there is for it, as well as identifying who your competition is and ensuring that you differentiate yourself.
For working mamas – regardless of whether they work in a corporate environment or their own business – it’s important to make sure that you still carve out some time during the week for yourself. I’m not very good at that, but you definitely need some “me time” to have some space to be able to think and relax a bit!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received as a parent?
When Ava was first born, I found myself overwhelmed by the amount of information available. As much as Google can be useful, it can also be terrifying and my sister told me to work out who made sense in terms of advice and then listen to only them, zoning out the rest of the white noise. So that’s what I did! My sister is very pragmatic and I found her advice very valuable.
Give us your essential new mama advice that might never occur to other women.
I’m not sure that there’s any advice I can offer that hasn’t already been exhaustively documented and discussed, but the biggest thing for me was realising that there isn’t necessarily a single ‘right’ way of doing things, and that you have to find the balance that’s right for you, your baby and your family as a whole.
As a mama I wish I were better at…
Most things, but I’ve realised that you can’t do more than your best!
My most humbling mama moment was…
Ava wasn’t breathing when she was born, which was probably more of a terrifying than a humbling moment, but it definitely put the rest of the world into perspective for me.
What’s your favourite family ritual?
We have breakfast together every morning, which can be chaotic but I do think that it’s important to sit down together and have that short time together at the start of the day.
I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about….
Lots of things – I find it hard to switch off and often stay awake thinking about what I have to do the next day and all of my projects.
Bedtime is always smoother when…
You stick to a routine… and sugar isn’t involved!
Even when my child has a family of his/her own, I’ll still…
Hopefully be very much part of her life, just like my parents and siblings are very much still part of mine!
One thing I won’t sacrifice as a mama is…
My favourite moment of the day is…
Reading Ava stories in bed and then sitting with her while she chats away about her day – her stories and questions are so entertaining!