AB Concept’s hot-spring mountain retreat in Karuizawa, Japan

AB Concept’s hot-spring mountain retreat in Karuizawa, Japan

Ed Ng and Terence Ngan show us around their idyllic Japan retreat

Ed Ng and Terence Ngan, who run the Hong Kong-based interior architectural studio AB Concept, are accustomed to creating glamorous environments for their clients – recent projects include Paper Moon Giardino Milan, restaurants for Four Seasons hotels around Asia and a couture rug collection with Tai Ping Carpets. However, when it came to their extraordinary escape, they decided on the bucolic Japanese hot-spring mountain resort of Karuizawa, an hour by Shinkansen from Tokyo and famed for its unassuming, relaxed lifestyle. 

‘We wanted an antidote to our usual lives,’ Ng explains. After an intensive search, they selected a vertiginous forested site with unobstructed mountain views and working with a local architect, created a simple, contemporary 200 sq m two-storey timber and stone chalet. 

Keen to enjoy the outdoors, they added a 50 sq m deck furnished with Sebastian Herkner Mbrace chairs and Corten steel fireplace from the Netherlands. The interiors are a comfortable blend of old and new; the traditional genkan, where footwear is removed, leads into a high ceilinged cedar-clad, open-plan living and dining room with a kitchen island. 

The facade of AB Concept’s Karuizawa Villa

Both Ng and Ngan travel widely for work and pleasure, and their shared collectors’ eye has resulted in a wonderfully eclectic array of furniture, decorative objects and art. Some pieces, such as their Frank Lloyd-Wright ‘Taliesin II’ floor lamp, are renowned, but Karuizawa has a growing creative community and local antique and design boutiques have proved a rich hunting ground with new finds, including an unusual mural of ceramics, displayed in ever-changing arrangements.

Highlights include a collection of tables, a sofa and stools by the Japanese-American designer George Nakashima (1905-1990). The living area is light and airy with floor-to-ceiling windows, doors that open onto a balcony and picture windows at either end of the house that provide perfectly framed views deep into the forest. 

A simple timber staircase leads downstairs to a Japanese bathroom and three bedrooms, one of which doubles as a study to enable the pair to stay in close contact with their busy Taipei and Hong Kong offices. 

Indeed, their mountainside haven has proved so inspirational that they are spending more time in Karuizawa and recently purchased an adjoining land parcel to build a second, larger home that will feature a glass pavilion immersed in the forest. The original house will be for friends and family. ‘Since we’ve moved here we’ve seen more of our friends than ever before,’ Ng laughs. §

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