The couple rented in Hong Kong until they could save up to buy an apartment, and bought right in the centre, in West Mid-Levels. “It is a pretty swanky district,” says Antony. “And the apartment was quite big for Hong Kong, but it was derelict and gross when Chris found it and insisted we buy it.”
“I always wanted to buy the most square feet our money could afford,” explains Chris, “so instead of having a nice view and a small apartment, we decided to forego the view and look out over other buildings from the 14th floor, and have a bigger apartment – and that’s how we ended up with the big one.”
“We loved living there, and spent time and money to make it just right,” says Antony. “It was all about the details. I mean, because of his job when Chris flew over to London he’d buy fancy Christmas decorations. Everything had to be just right… We both loved turning it into our perfect home. However, when the kids came along we knew that eventually we would both want something else for them. When it came to selling, it was with tears in our eyes.”
The kids – Archer and the twins, Charlotte and Andrea – arrived via surrogacy in the US in 2011 and 2012. Chris and Antony also legally married in the US in 2011, with another ceremony at the Sydney Opera House after same-sex marriages were recognised in Australia in 2018.
“The kids put a completely different spin on life in Hong Kong,” recalls Antony. “And on what we needed from a home,” adds Chris. “When you live in an apartment in New York or Hong Kong your outdoor area might be a paved park or a basketball court, but kids need space to learn, explore and just be kids.”
As family life took over and the couple debated their next move, Chris decided he wanted to pursue the ‘Australian dream’. “But,” he recalls, “we couldn’t make the figures work.” When his mother passed away, however, she left him enough money to make it happen. “We thought we would buy a house to remember her by,” is how he puts it. “To honour her memory.” It became something much more substantial than that.
It was almost by accident that they “stumbled across” 70 acres of land when they were visiting the Australian Southern Highlands on holiday – and it was love at first sight. They bought it on the spur of the moment. “You feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere,” gushes Antony. “The main house part was an operating sheep farm, and they also grew vegetables and had an egg business as well as other things.
“When we looked at it, we thought we could probably continue the sheep business, and the land has traditionally been full of fruit trees so that was nice. We back on to forest and we’ve got two waterways, so it’s a pretty special place with beautiful views. But it was when I saw the bush area, I just suddenly thought, ‘Oh, my god, can you imagine having a little bungalow here?’ And I just got carried away.”
Antony sold his event business – which, due to Covid, was “not exactly pumping” – to focus on their new home and new career… “The land was called Rosalind Park when we bought it,” he says. “Which I thought sounded like a retirement village, so we rechristened it Aruna which means ‘Moon Love’ in Japanese and ‘Dawn’ or ‘New Day’ in Thai. And so now we have the Aruna Estate with four villas and two cabins for guests to rent out plus sheep, chickens and horses which, of course, the kids love.”