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Zest for life

A publicist adds bursts of orange to brighten up her tiny walk-up flat in Happy Valley

 

Text Charmaine Chan / Styling Anji Connell / Photography John Butlin

 

To say publicist Genavieve Alexander loves orange is something of an understatement. A glance around her pint-sized, walk-up flat in Happy Valley reveals an abundance of that zesty hue – on everything from an old-fashioned telephone, to kitchen scales, artwork, tea caddies, crockery, a fold-up bicycle and even a tambourine. And that’s just for starters.

Alexander’s fascination with the colour stems not simply from its aesthetic charms but because she was inspired by a savvy businesswoman whose legacy, Veuve Clicquot, is known for its sunny label. While doing public relations work for the champagne house in her early 20s, Alexander was always seeing the colour.

“The love affair started there,” Alexander says. “I fell in love with the mentor I found [the late] Madame Clicquot to be.”

At the relatively young age of 27, Clicquot took over her husband’s wine business after his untimely death in 1805 (“veuve” means “widow” in French) and developed early champagne.

“I find myself very connected to her,” says Alexander, who is now in her early 30s. “I’ve taken a lot of her bravery and creativity and kept the orange alive.”

Which is why you might see her cycling to work in a Sunkist burst.

Shortly after arriving in Hong Kong from London in 2011, Alexander set up PR firm Genavieve.Co, which she runs from her 315 sq ft flat and a studio in Wan Chai, in what she calls the “St Francis pocket”.

“I cycle because I want to take the colour through the city,” she says, adding that orange is also her brand’s signature hue.

That vim permeates her rented open-plan flat, which she has personalised with vintage and contemporary furnishings.

“The way in which the space was designed was open to my interpretation, so it was a blank canvas,” Alexander says, giving credit to the owners of the flat, who, upon purchasing the property in 2010, removed two small bedrooms where the bed is now situated.

“My husband, being a retired interior designer, was in charge of the renovation and he decided to turn the apartment into a simple, clean, bright and chic studio apartment,” says the landlady, adding that the project took four months and cost HK$750,000.

Without internal walls, save for those carving out the bathroom, the apartment opens into a small sitting area and, just a few steps away, a bright kitchen. A narrow countertop, under large windows, segues into a work desk on its dog-leg, which takes you into the bedroom side of the flat. It’s here, in her boudoir (which is announced by a metal sign saying as much), that Alexander can lie in bed and watch tennis – but not on a television screen. Situated opposite the Hong Kong Football Club, the top-floor apartment allows her a bird’s-eye view of the activity taking place across the road.

“I can sit in bed and see the tennis courts … and when I’m on the terrace, I can see people swimming and pretend I’m at the pool.”

Alexander starts every day with breakfast in a private nook on her rooftop terrace.

“It’s my pretend English country garden,” she says with a laugh, explaining that it’s also where she entertains.

That often involves firing up the barbecue and will soon include film screenings, which Alexander plans to project onto a neighbouring wall.

“I have just bought a projector and will probably bring a sofa up here to make it a little more comfortable,” she says.

Her outdoor refuge is also a second office, she says, explaining: “I take client calls up here. My day starts early and ends late.”

Little wonder she looks to orange for inspiration.

“It’s playful, positive and makes me smile,” Alexander says. As her e-mail sign-off reads: “Orange is the happiest colour.”

 


 

Rooftop (above) The outdoor chairs and table were bought by the landlady, and the umbrella and bunting were gifts. The blue metal chair (about HK$1,800) and the G sign (about HK$300) on the wall ledge were from G.O.D. (various locations; www.god.com.hk). The sheepskin rug (HK$459) was from Ikea (various locations; www.ikea.com.hk). The “Home Sweet Home” sign came from China Blue in Devon, Britain (www.chinablue.co.uk). The candelabra was brought from Britain years ago. Other items on the table include a Tom Dixon Hex champagne bucket (HK$3,100) and tealight holders (HK$800 each), all of which came from Lane Crawford Home Store (Pacific Place, Admiralty, tel: 2118 3668) but are not in stock. The crockery came from restaurant and shop Quan Bui, in Ho Chi Minh City (quanbui.vn). The plastic taxi signs (HK$250 each), which Alexander upends to hold cutlery, came from Architectz’ Factory (27 Sau Wa Fong, St Francis Street, Wan Chai, tel: 2536 4788). The tambourine (HK$85) was from Little Whale (61 Caine Road, Central, tel: 3480 1348). The GTR G6 Series bicycle (HK$3,500) was from The Bicycle World (15 Wood Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2892 2299).

Living area detail (above right) Above the television is a personalised textile print of the Hong Kong skyline, produced for Genavieve Alexander by ColorWay Graphics (10/F, Phase 1, Kwun Tong Industrial Centre, 472 Kwun Tong Road, Kwun Tong, tel: 2345 7188). The moped helmet came from a store in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The record player and speakers (HK$3,500 for all) were from NlostNfound (shop 3, St Francis Yard, Wan Chai, tel: 2574 1328) and the album was from Chen Mi Ji (4 Sun Street, Wan Chai, tel: 2549 8800). Alexander brought the white lamp with her to Hong Kong from Britain in 2011. The glass table was bought years ago by the landlady.

Work nook On the dog-leg of the kitchen counter is a bright work space that accommodates a white table lamp (HK$300, from Ikea); an orange La Sardina camera (HK$988, from Lomography Gallery Store, 2 Po Yan Street, Sheung Wan, tel: 2915 2205); a glass decanter that Alexander brought to Hong Kong from Britain; a small, watercolour painting in a blue frame by Alexander’s mother, Penny Alexander; and a 1950s globe (HK$1,600) from NlostNfound.

Living area and kitchen The sofa (HK$659) was from Ikea. The orange telephone came from Dongtai Road Antiques Market, near Xintiandi in Shanghai, and the food scales were from a hardware store on Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai. The Melbourne Hotel place mat (HK$120) came from G.O.D. The four photographs hung vertically were taken during Alexander’s days at Veuve Clicquot. All the lighting in the flat, including the pendant lamp, was purchased years ago from Zodiac Lighting (70 Morrison Hill Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2882 9082) by the landlady, who also supplied the bar stools. Similar stools are available for HK$5,900 each at Axis Collections (256 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, tel: 2858 6919).

Bathroom (below left) The pendant light, from Zodiac Lighting, came with the flat. The orange oil burner was from G.O.D.

Boudoir detail (abvove right) On the divider are a Bad Ass vase (S$48/HK$290), featuring artwork by Mojoko for Kult, bought at Emily Hill, in Singapore (www.emilyhill.org); a Tom Dixon Cast Mini Jack copper paperweight (HK$1,400 from Lane Crawford Home Store but is no longer in stock); Tom Dixon candles (HK$1,290 for three, also from Lane Crawford Home Store); and black and bronze tealight holders (HK$58 each from Red Hall Furniture, Silver Pearl Mansion, Mui Wo, Lantau, tel: 2988 1368). The artworks on the divider include, from left, an HK Magazine cover, headlined “Homemade in HK”, framed and received as a gift when Alexander set up her company; a “1st birthday tribute poster” that Alexander had South African graphic designer Justin Holmes (durbanisyours.co.za/2012/04/ dustin-holmes) create for Genavieve.Co; an orange headpiece, by Twinks Burnett Styling & Design (www.twinksburnett.com), received as a gift and framed; and a print of a girl, by Peng Peng + Shi Jian, that Alexander bought in 2012 at an art fair at the W Hotel in Kowloon. The wardrobe and shelves came with the apartment.

Boudoir and beyond A Chanel pashmina is used as a bed throw. The print, No 88 of Main Street Butterfly Man by Peter Blake, was a gift from Alexander to herself on the one-year anniversary of Genavieve.Co (Studio G, 1/F, Sun Hing Mansion, 9 Sun Street, tel: 5416 7115), which she set up in 2012. The print was purchased through The Cat Street Gallery (222 Hollywood Road, tel: 2291 0006) at last year’s Affordable Art Fair in Hong Kong (affordableartfair.com). On the wall of the entrance, beside the bathroom, is a black-andwhite photograph of French actress and singer Cecile Cassel from Chanel’s “Little Black Jacket” exhibition at The Space (210 Hollywood Road, tel: 2361 1210). The gold-framed Levanger mirror (HK$599) came from Ikea. The cushions (on the bed and on the sofa) came from Hotel Indigo (246 Queen’s Road East, tel: 3926 3888) and Habitat in London (www.habitat.co.uk).

 

Character building Rather than using ordinary paint or wallpaper when renovating the flat, the owners used Italian plaster on the walls to give it more character.

The saloon-style glass door for the bathroom is also an unusual feature. Apart from inviting in more light, the fixture allows better ventilation in the bathroom because it is open at the top and bottom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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