Ines Fernandes is a lady on a mission to introduce to Macau her Portugugese-style household crafts. Sbe shares with Macau Closer her home and her hobby.
A block from the northern foothills of Guia Hill, tucked away down a tiny side street off Rua de Silva Mendes, is the home of Ines Fernandes and her family. Veng Ho, the little 5 storey walk up building is “not a fancy place”, Ines explains, “it doesn’t have beautiful water views as my parents’ home has in Porto, but we like it – its quiet, people mind their own business, we feel safe here. Our downstairs neighbour is a music teacher, so we wake up to the sound of her piano! And most important, my daughter’s school, the Flora Kindergarten, is just round the corner, so I get to spend a lot more time with her.”
Ines, 33, studied tourism for her degree back in her native Portugal. She came to Macau in 2009, exactly 8 years ago, following her twin sister Mariana and her husband Gil, both chefs, who had arrived the year before as part of the opening team for the Four Seasons. “I remember the day well,” she says, “the 6 November, the birthday of our elder sister Rita. My first job was with an F&B company where I was the right hand of the CEO”.
Over the past eight years Ines has had six different homes, starting in Nova City when she first arrived, “when it was relatively inexpensive”. She then moved to a village low rise at the back of Taipa, then to Pacifica Gardens, “but termites drove us out after only 5 months!” On next to Baia du Noble in north Macau, “a 24th floor apartment with stunning views”. But being constantly chased by rising prices she moved back to Taipa and to Ocean Gardens.
“By this time my daughter Beatriz, “Bea”, had started in school, and transportation between school and Ocean Gardens involved too many buses”, so she moved to her current neighbourhood. She found the apartment through luck: “I was talking with a colleague at work who mentioned her parents were looking for a new tenant for one of their apartments.” The parents, “a lovely couple, the wife is Macanese and the husband Portuguese, are such caring landlords which is generally unusual in Macau. The place had been repainted throughout and cleaned by the landlords themselves – so they handed it to us in really good condition. And if there’s anything wrong with the place he’s the first one to come over to help repair.”
The 800 square foot two-floor walk up apartment is laid out over 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom and a good sized kitchen. What was a little back balcony has been converted into a handy storeroom. Against the backdrop of wood parquet flooring and all white walls, Ines’ treasures are displayed, framed original photographs by her cousin Pedro Sampaio, a farewell gift when she was leaving Portugal. Nostalgic memories from home in Porto; one of the Duoro River, another of old house doors, one of a narrow street leading to the Clerigos church tower, and another the rooftop iron railings of the Bolhao Market.
Other décor is simple, spotless and immaculately tidy. “We inherited the TV and side board cabinets from the landlord, the crazy ornate light fixture in the living room, and the bedroom wardrobes, and the rest is ours.” In the open living dining area, the white sofa is from trusty IKEA, the dining table from Royal Supermarket, and chairs, which Ines has seen for sale in Macau for MOP450 a piece, she was fortunate to pick up from a friend leaving Macau for a fraction of the price.
The dining area looks like it may have originally been a balcony. The end walls, left and right, have been tastefully tiled with cream, stone and white coloured faux brick. On one wall hang Ines’ collection of Buddha heads, collected from her travels around the region.
A white ladder from Ideal Home in Taipa, “holds momentos from Mum and Dad. My boyfriend tells me its just a dust collector, but I love these things!” she smiles.
4-year old little Bea’s bedroom is charmingly decorated in shades of pink, blue and green, neat as a pin with toys stored tidily in their colourful boxes. Hanging on the wall at the head of the bed is two ‘Memory Rows’, chains with little photographs clipped on them. A lovely idea for a child: “Bea chose the pictures she wanted”. Ines has done the same in her bedroom – family photos filled with many happy memories.
Ines’ artistic talent for handicrafts can be seen here and there throughout the apartment but none more obviously than in a corner of the dining room – some shelves holding her sewing and crafts materials. “I make bags, cushions and lampshades,” she explains. “It’s a hobby but now I’ve opened my own company, I hope it will grow into more.”
It all started back in 2015 when Ines was in Portugal visiting her parents. “My mother gave me a lovely cushion cover that she’d bought in a gift shop on Rua de Flores, one of the famous streets in Porto. I loved it so much that I went back to the shop to buy more covers for my home.” And she saw a market for them in Macau; she feels strongly that she wants people here to see what Portugal has to offer.
After much research she eventually found a source for the fabric and bought some back to Macau with her. The designs are quintessentially Portuguese: multi coloured sardines, blue and white tiles, pictures of front doors in Porto and in Lisbon, even sardine tins. After making it into cushion covers for family and friends she then started to make it into lampshades. “From a UK website you can buy assembly kits but I wanted to make them from scratch. At the time I was working for a shipping company so was in touch with numerous factories in China, and was able to source the frames from one of them. My boyfriend Jorge is an architect; he’s used to precision, and was very skeptical. I’ve kept the first ones I made,” she laughs, “with all their glaring defects, and I use them in my home. I like them, they have character and are a memory of the challenges I faced to get the shades to how they are today!” For her customers her most popular shade sizes are 20”x20”, but she also goes as big as 35”x29” – one is in use in her living room hanging from a arched floor lamp.
From shades she then started making bags, also using the beautiful fabric from Portugal. She experimented with a variety of designs, mixing fabric with thin sheets of cork, another well known Portuguese product. Small, slim clutch bags evolved into larger clutch bags that could be more easily opened. Then chain shoulder straps were added, which can either be used or hidden inside the bag. It’s a fiddly job and each bag takes 2 days to make. “I like to do it, it gives me pleasure”.
Ines’ most recent line is her ‘Quadros”, which are fabric-covered frames that make attractive wall hangings. “And I have some new things – with a Macau flavor,” but these are still in the design stage so a trade secret for now!
Whether they are shades, bags or quadros, every item is entirely handmade. Most are custom made to order but she also produces stock items that are sold through shops in Taipa and at market fairs. Watch out for her stall at the Christmas Fair in front of One Central, Nam Wan lake, from Saturday 16 December.
This article was written by Suzanne Watkinson, Managing Director of Ambiente Properties, for the Macau Closer arts and lifestyle magazine.
Photographs by Suzanne Watkinson