Most people like to put a personal stamp on their home but Lalie Choffel’s 1,230-sq-ft rented apartment, on the south side of Hong Kong Island, is a particularly strong reflection of who she is and what she does. French-born Choffel is the creative force behind Tu Ying Productions, which produces and manages art events in Asia and France. She is also the founder of Charbon, a multipurpose art space and gallery in Aberdeen, where she hosts art and cultural exhibitions, contemporary performances and film screenings.
The curator-collector started buying art and antiques three decades ago, when she ran an antiques boutique in a Parisian flea market. Fittingly, her three-bedroom, three-bathroom home in Hong Kong is filled with a fascinating assortment of artworks, antiques, quirky pieces of furniture and other curios.
“I find things at a mixture of places: art fairs and galleries, and flea markets, mainly in Paris, America and London,” she says. “We travel a lot and have homes in Tokyo, London, Paris and the south of France as well as in Hong Kong, so I have objects that come from a wide variety of sources. There is always a story behind ‘meeting’ an object, falling in love with it and buying it.”
Choffel’s only rule for choosing which pieces to buy and display is that there are no rules. She collects pieces because she likes them and finds them a space in her home rather than buying them with a specific display area in mind.
An antique skull, circa 1850, sits in the main bedroom by a contemporary acrylic sculpture of a bandaged rhino head. Dried geckos and butterflies, caught in the garden and hand-framed by Choffel’s daughter, Lotus, are as treasured as large-scale canvases by well-known artists. Likewise, when it comes to furniture, Choffel mixes top-end brands and vintage collector pieces, such as the Mies van der Rohe Barcelona chaise longue, with more run-of-the-mill items from Ikea and mainland China.
The only problem Choffel finds with Hong Kong, where she has been living with her family on and off for the past 20 years, is the lack of space.
“I’ve got a lot of pieces I’d love to display but there’s not enough room,” she says. “I try and get round this by keeping my extra art in storage. I occasionally bring it out and change everything around, moving pieces on display into storage or to different walls and shelves.”
Even her bathroom has become a display case of sorts, with necklaces and other accessories hung on picture hooks that have been stuck onto the tiles.
Choffel’s art is an eclectic mixture but colour unifies the collection. Neutral tones predominate with most of the canvases in shades of beige, brown, black, charcoal and white. The furniture is in a similar palette: think brown and cream leather sofas, cowhide rugs, white dining chairs and lots of natural wood. Even Betty, the family dog, has coincidentally matching fur.
“I don’t really like a lot of colour – I prefer natural tones,” Choffel says. “The flat was repainted a month ago. It had been a creamy colour throughout and even that was too much for me. I got sick of it and wanted a pure white.”
What does lend the apartment a bit of colour, however, is its unobstructed sea view, framed by green hillsides and verdant islands in the distance. It is the reason the Choffels chose the flat – that and the 420-sq-ft grassy garden, which they needed for the dog.
“We love Hong Kong and we have no plans to leave for now,” Choffel says. “We tried to go back to our roots and live in the south of France. After a few months, we realised we were more Asian than French in so many ways so we decided to come back to our dear Asia.”
Stylist: Anji Connell
Living room The white oak and ivory leather Hepburn sofa, by Matthew Hilton, came from Modern Design 100 but is no longer in stock; the Barcelona chaise longue (US$9,772), by Mies van der Rohe, was from Knoll and the brown sofa was bought years ago from Indigo Living. The painting, USA #3, is part of Lalie Choffel’s collection of works by artist Didier Eberoni. The Herman Miller Noguchi coffee table was bought years ago in Tokyo, Japan. The Rotvik pendant lamp (HK$549) came from Ikea, as did the cowhide rug (HK$2,290), floor lamps and the balcony furniture.
Master bedroom The mixed-media canvas, Nude #7, by Christophe Bonacorsi, came from Charbon Art Space, which is holding an exhibition, “Translatio”, inspired by Édouard Levé and curated by Choffel, until Saturday. The white console, bought online years ago, is flanked by a reproduction Eames chair from Marc James Design and a Knoll Tulip chair, by Eero Saarinen (about HK$11,000), from Aluminium. Wounded Rhino, by Pascal Bernier, was bought in Tokyo and the antique skull was found in a Parisian flea market. The wastepaper bin was 100 yuan (HK$115) from Modern Design 100.
Dining area The Mikado oak dining table and shelving unit (2,100 yuan) were both from Modern Design 100. The reproduction Eames chairs were from Marc James Design. The Brasa pendant lamp was HK$549 from Ikea. The Fornasetti plates were HK$2,200 each from Lane Crawford. The Magic Mirror, by Coen Young, was bought at Art Basel 2015 in Hong Kong.
Bathroom Jewellery, hung on plastic adhesive hooks, makes an eye-catching and practical display in the bathroom.
Entrance Skulls in the Sky, by Bonacorsi, was from Charbon Art Space. The Ikea sideboard and birdcage light, from Pierre Gonalons Design were bought years ago.
Garden The garden furniture came from various shops in Horizon Plaza, Ap Lei Chau.
TRIED + TESTED
Light show A pretty broderie anglaise runner is used in place of a curtain to cover the glass panel on a side door. Affixed with sticky-backed hooks, it hides the view of the next-door apartment but is sheer enough to let in light. The piece of fabric came from London’s Portobello Road Market.