Charmingly decorated village house celebrating the diversity of Macau with its blend of European and Asian influences.
In 1989, brother and sister Andrew and Eileen Stow were walking down Oxford Street in London when they saw several forlorn looking pasteis de nata in a bakery window. They bought two and ate them; Andrew, an industrial pharmacist by background, declared that he could make far better egg tarts himself. And he was proved right in the fullness of time. It wasn’t long before Eileen, at that time living in the UK and working for the British Academy of Songwriters Composers & Authors got the call: “Those damned egg tarts are starting to take off. Will you come over and give me a hand?!”
And so began Eileen Stow’s adventures in Macau. Although she’d visited on holiday in the early 80’s, she moved here permanently in September 1993 to join Andrew to help with the business, a business that over the past 25 years has grown is both size and fame; Lord Stow’s Bakery. Andrew sadly died in 2006 and together with his daughter Audrey, Eileen is continuing his legacy.
Coloane Village, where four, soon to be five Lord Stow outlets are located, has always been home for Eileen so when Andrew passed away she moved out of her own teeny apartment near the village square and into his home where he’d lived for seven years. Set towards the back of the village in a quieter spot on one side of a lovely square, the building comprises of two apartments, a ground floor and a first floor, connected by an external staircase.
Although Andrew had begun some work in the house, Eileen set about making it more homely, transforming it into the treasure trove that it is today. “Renting a village property”, Eileen is quick to point out “one of the deals you need to get straight with yourself is that you take on the responsibility for the place. No good running to the landlord every time there’s a dripping tap or a wall that needs painting. You balance this with the relatively cheap rent for the size you get. ”
Upstairs, Eileen laid dark wood flooring, painted the walls throughout in white and made her centre piece two sink-in-comfortable, pristinely white sofas from Tequila Kola (http://www.tequilakola.com). “Loose covers are important for families with animals and children – these are in stretchy white denim – white can be bleached so it’s the most practical with my 3 dogs” she explains. Between the sofas is a glass-case coffee table containing a collection of delightful little mementos from family, friends and Eileen’s travels. “Father’s pen knife, he never went anywhere without it and the battered old tin for his nails.” An 1825 butter knife found in an antique shop in England “that reminds me of the elegance and refinement of the old life.” There’s an autograph book full of hand sketches found in a bazaar years ago. “I love looking at each piece”, she says, gently holding a sterling silver pig in the palm of her hand, “they take my mind on little journeys”.
Track lighting and crisp white cotton sheer grommet-eye curtains hanging on stainless steel rods give a clean modern canvass to the numerous antique Asian collectibles that she and Andrew have found over the years. Hanging above a handsome Chinese scholar’s desk is a stunning mirror with gilded metal frame (Indigo Living – http://www.indigo-living.com). Two original hand coloured maps of Macau by J.N. Bellin dating back to the 1760’s were bought from The Map House in London. “These are my latest passions!” exclaims Eileen. And a very treasured piece – a gilded wood lion a friend picked out for her from a shelf in a dusty little shop in Guangdong. To the side of the desk a decorative box filled with cards, letters, tickets from shows and other memorabilia. This came from Anita Rook’s now closed antiques shop; “We mourn Asian Artefacts leaving the village”.
An intriguing bench with tiger heads either side, painted in a distinctly Balinese style, serves as a side table to two leather arm chairs. Eileen rescued it from having been thrown out by the village temple. “I enjoy repurposing things, finding them a good home and giving them a second chance at being useful!”
At the entrance to the bedroom, a pretty black lacquered cabinet painted with pictures of birds and flowers. “Andrew found this almost 35 years ago in one of the back streets around Ocean Terminal in Hong Kong which then were full of little furniture shops.”
One whole wall of the living room is taken up with a custom made book shelf unit. Friend and neighbour Juliet gave her a handy tip; paint a middle section of the unit in a solid and vibrant colour so as to draw your eye to the centre, “so you don’t see the mess when I start pulling out CDs and books!” The shelves are full of fascinating objet d’art – a line of porcelain parrots that came from the Green Parrot Disco at the Hyatt Regency Hotel which Andrew used to run. “Their signature cocktail was served in these. The disco is a legend amongst long timer locals.” Antique glass bottles; “Dad dug them up in our garden in Surrey. I’ve learned a lot about the different shapes and uses, molded, hand blown …. I plan to put up a couple of glass shelves near the window in the kitchen to display them better as the diffused light coming through them will show them off at their best.”
In a glass cabinet at the front entrance are displays of vintage, hand painted Carlton Ware from the famous Stoke-on-Trent based pottery manufacturer. Eileen’s collection is in the form of decorative leaves and fruit in art deco style which was popular table ware in 1920s and 1930s. “I love the 30’s era and I always feel these pieces give my home that 30’s vibe”. Also in the cabinet are several beautifully made Victorian china fairings; small porcelain ornaments that are so named because they were given away as prizes at fairs in much the same way that we would win a soft toy at a fair today.
On the walls, an eclectic mix of framed posters, many of musical events Eileen has attended, and three small originals by one of the most distinguished artists working in Asia today, Macau-based friend Konstantin Bessmertny.
The one bedroom on this floor is decorated exquisitely in predominantly white, with a lilac feature wall behind the bed and accents of lilac in several throw pillows. The white four poster bed is from IKEA: “I mix moderately priced things with what I call my indulgences, so a cheap bed frame and a gorgeous, expensive mattress!”
The armchair, with its European-French style, came from The Grand Oriental Bazaar, a shop long gone, where the Altira hotel stands today. The small box on top of the bedside chest “is the tool chest my grandmother gave my father on his first day of work circa 1940, a very treasured possession.” The dressing table is from one of the alleys around St Paul’s in the early ‘90’s. Above it hangs a box-framed intricately laced baby’s christening gown; “My brother, sister and I were all christened in this” smiles Eileen. One of the pictures hanging behind the bed is a framed front page of the English Times newspaper dated the day of Eileen’s birth.
The kitchen, which Eileen refers to as “McDonald’s Drive Through” on account of the many black and white temple cats that sit on the window sill waiting to be fed, has apple green floor tiles, white wall tiles with matching apple green motifs, and is essentially made up of various kitchen sections and an attractive warm wood butcher block counter top from IKEA. An old wooden linen chest handed down from Andrew adds warmth and depth to the space.
We pause on the external staircase connecting this top floor with the ground floor to take a photo of Eileen and her three adored dogs.
Downstairs is essentially one large room cleverly divided with the use of screens and larger pieces of furniture into a living space, a dining area, a bedroom, bathroom, shower room and an open kitchen. This is Eileen’s guest room cum entertainment area and as with upstairs there’s an understated elegance, good taste and sense of cozy hospitality that welcomes the visitor.
Floor tiles throughout are distressed, silvery-flecked metallic and dark brown. A gorgeous caramel coloured sofa and arm chair in Italian leather from Tequila Kola is mixed with two lattice-top wood laundry boxes that form the central coffee table. Behind the sofa, a stunning monkey wood consul table from W.H. Furniture (http://www.wh-macau.com); “an extravagance, but I do so love it!” exclaims Eileen. “I sit here doing my sewing, I find it very cathartic.”
The white and grey marble topped dining table came from the Repulse Bay in Hong Kong when, about 6 years ago, their Spices Restaurant and its adjacent terrace were being renovated. All the lovely old furniture was dispose of, and eventually found its way to Macau in a container shipped by a local designer. The orange dining chairs have a story too.
They’ve been in the family for many years and were painted originally in a dull pink. Eileen has given them a modern face lift by having them repainted in a glossy vibrant orange and upholstered the seats in Tequila Kola orange and cream brocade fabric.
The open kitchen with stainless steel counter top that complements the floor tiles is divided by an 8’ long natural honey-coloured wood alter table with carved legs.
Another example of Eileen’e eye for detail and potential beauty in things; the previous owner threw it out as one of the legs is very slightly damaged, and so it’s been given a new lease of life as the bar top. The ceiling lights above are from Aluminium in Hong Kong (www.aluminium-furniture.com).
Tucked behind a tall black lacquered screen embossed with Chinese scenes, is another cast off, the huge guest bed, from a friend leaving Macau. “The most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept in”. An oversized clock hangs above.
A quaint antique child’s pram, a gift from Andrew, came from the backstreets of Macau. And round the corner, a huge wood framed mirror, likely from a Portuguese home entrance hallway originally and a giant custom made bath with the same metallic floor tiles used for the sides. Several well used candles tell of relaxing candle lit soaks.
Eileen clearly thrives on life in Macau and is kind and generous spirited with her time. “I’m a Libran, it’s all or nothing!” she laughs. The Lord Stow’s Bakery business keeps her extremely busy, she devotes time overseeing The Andrew Stow Foundation that supports the education of young Macau people in need, and is a founder member of the British Business Association of Macao, holding the Chairman’s post for the past two years. “Its been a rewarding experience, it’s made me go places and enabled me to meet so many interesting people that I may not have met in the course of my daily life”.
All photos taken by Antonio Mil-Homens for the Macau Closer magazine.