Tricks of the Trade

Alexan­dra Cham­pal­i­maud talks to Jac­que­line Kot about her love for crafts­man­ship, sub­tle el­e­gance, and how good de­sign can stir up emo­tions as soon as some­one walks through the door

Hong Kong Tatler Homes - - FRONT PAGE -

In­te­rior de­signer Alexan­dra Cham­pal­i­maud shares her love for crafts­man­ship and sub­tle el­e­gance

Alexan­dra Cham­pal­i­maud is one of the most sought-af­ter de­sign­ers in hos­pi­tal­ity—her firm, Cham­pal­i­maud De­sign, was be­hind the re­vamp of the Ho­tel Bel-Air in Los An­ge­les, as well as the ren­o­va­tions for New York City’s clas­sic Carlyle Ho­tel.

In Hong Kong, Cham­pal­i­maud is work­ing on Mount Ni­chol­son—Whee­lock Prop­er­ties’ stun­ning com­plex at The Peak, which fea­tures stand­alone houses with strik­ing views of the city. Of the four prop­er­ties she’s de­sign­ing, one of them is a four-storey beauty that also serves as the de­vel­op­ment’s show house. Cham­pal­i­maud sat down with Hong Kong Tatler Homes to talk about her work and what in­spires her.

What makes your ap­proach to in­te­rior de­sign stand out?

To be a good de­signer, in my mind, you have to be very con­fi­dent. And I’m con­fi­dent. I’m con­fi­dent about pro­por­tion, about scale, about the use of scale in pat­terns. De­sign is some­thing you dis­cover and you get bet­ter at—what is it that cre­ates emo­tion in peo­ple? What is it that makes a dif­fer­ence? Many of these an­swers you find through ex­pe­ri­ence.

I think and see all the time in 3D. I can en­vi­sion not just how the space will look, but how peo­ple will be trans­formed when they en­ter it. How the space will play to the emo­tions of the guests who walk in.

What in­te­rior de­sign trends are you par­tic­u­larly ex­cited about?

I’ve al­ways been a big fan of crafts­man­ship, of the peo­ple who have an enor­mous pas­sion for what they cre­ate by hand. To me, there is a resur­gence in the ap­pre­ci­a­tion for it. It is a mea­sure of the times we live in—ev­ery­one is look­ing for some­thing unique, some­thing tac­tile. We’ve been so in­dus­tri­alised and com­mer­cialised; peo­ple are look­ing more for some­thing with a spe­cial fac­tor, with a je ne sais quoi.

What in­spires you?

I’m of­ten in­spired by crafts­men who bring dif­fer­ent tech­niques and ma­te­ri­als to things they cre­ate with their own hands. I’m very ex­cited when there is a new medium or tech­nique I can work with and it’s al­ways in­spir­ing to meet some­one who feels the same way.

Weav­ing fab­rics, for in­stance. For one of my projects I’ve created fab­rics on a loom in Kenya specif­i­cally for so­fas. The mere fact I’m cre­at­ing them in Africa with won­der­ful peo­ple, there is a cer­tain soul and magic that comes with it and the re­sult is very spe­cial. I like work­ing on these projects a lot—the at­ten­tion to de­tail, the touch, the emo­tion it cre­ates when you see it: it’s very ful­fill­ing.

What was the de­sign con­cept for Mount Ni­chol­son’s show house?

I wanted it to be a home but one that is en­tirely glam­orous. We wanted to bring in lots of glam­our, to take full ad­van­tage of the in­cred­i­ble views. How­ever, the de­sign is com­ple­men­tary to the house. It does not take over the am­bi­ence. I think when in­te­ri­ors are overly strong and ag­gres­sive, peo­ple get tired of them as they com­mand a lot of at­ten­tion.

The decor at the show house is gra­cious and el­e­gant, with plenty of de­tails and lay­ers. It’s clas­sic with some edge, like the ex­quis­ite doors open­ing into the liv­ing room that are made from black­ened nickel—they are chic but dif­fer­ent.

The large ta­ble in the din­ing room with a straw in­lay, made by a crafts­man in France, is another piece I love.

How is de­sign­ing a show house dif­fer­ent from de­sign­ing a res­i­dence?

The main dif­fer­ence is that you are not de­sign­ing for a spe­cific client who will be re­sid­ing there, so you have to use your imag­i­na­tion and think “what kind of client would live here and what is their lifestyle?”

The show house is a multi-storey prop­erty, which is not as com­mon in Hong Kong. How did that fac­tor into your ap­proach to the in­te­rior de­sign?

Ev­ery­thing is a study for in­te­rior de­sign. The garage with parking be­low the house, the view, and the quiet­ness—you need to take all of this into con­sid­er­a­tion. Then you go about de­sign­ing a space that is easy to walk through, to flow through, to live in. The view and lo­ca­tion of the house is spe­cial and it af­fects the way we po­si­tion the fur­ni­ture and the cur­tains we use, so as not to dis­tract from the amaz­ing view.

What’s your favourite colour to work with?

Deep orange—it’s salt of the earth. You can put vi­o­let and orange to­gether, white and orange to­gether, black and orange to­gether. And a deep orange is not as ag­gres­sive as a brighter hue. It works with pretty much ev­ery other colour in the uni­verse.

Fi­nally, where is your favourite place to un­wind?

I travel a lot for work so hol­i­days are of­ten trea­sured time at my beau­ti­ful home in north­west Con­necti­cut. There is con­ser­va­tion land all around—I like the wild and be­ing out­side. We get four dis­tinct sea­sons, but spring is the best time to be there.

hand­made homes Cham­pal­i­maud takes her in­spi­ra­tion from ar­ti­sans and crafts­men. A prime ex­am­ple is the din­ing ta­ble dec­o­rated with a straw in­lay at Mount Ni­chol­son’s show house, which was created by a crafts­man in France

heavy metal Doors made of black­ened nickel bring a con­tem­po­rary edge to the clas­sic de­sign

de­signer dossier Alexan­dra Cham­pal­i­maud, pic­tured at the show house that she de­signed for Mount Ni­chol­son

deeper de­tail From top: Glam­orous touches bring the show house to life; art­work and decor com­bine in a lay­ered el­e­gance

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