A water-side apartment in Ocean Gardens filled with a treasured collection of beautiful furniture and art
Having just graduated from university in international relations Michel Reis paid a visit to a college friend living in Macau. Born in Mozambique and raised in Lisbon, he immediately felt at ease with the then slow pace of life here. He looked around for a job, and like many long-term expatriates who come to Macau, ended up staying.
Michel’s first job was for the government’s gaming department. After a few months he then applied to the Cultural Affairs Bureau. This was in 1990, and he’s been with them ever since … 28 years! “It’s a huge bureau covering the performing arts, the Conservatory, the museums, archives, libraries, and cultural heritage” he explains. “At one time I was involved in programming – for events such as the Macau International Music Festival and the Macau Arts Festival; currently I work in the promotions department of the Bureau.”
Michel’s appreciation of the arts can clearly be sensed in the 3-bedroom apartment in Begonia Court, Ocean Gardens, which he’s called home for the past 8 years.
On entering the apartment one’s attention is immediately drawn to two huge and beautiful Chinese ‘A-line’ Ming-style cabinets in ebony and camphor wood. They make a simple and bold statement. A collection of blue and white vases sit on a plain black altar table at the entrance. When it comes to explaining his decorative style, “I like minimalist contemporary chic, mixed with traditional Asian pieces”.
A feature wall in dark grey provides the backdrop to the open living-dining room. Set against this is a beige sofa with side tables either end; a mix of Chinese-Western style presented in modern colours, one painted in green, the other in blue. A glass-based lamp on each add transparency and light and complement a collection of crystal decanters on a coffee table opposite, set between two Shanghai art deco ebony armchairs.
The central coffee table has been kept simple and small so as to best show off what lies beneath it; the most stunning deep rich blue ‘study rug’. A Chinese rug with design motifs of things normally found in a Chinese study. “A real treasure, bought from a dear friend”.
An archetypal contemporary Le Corbusier chaise longue sits to one side of the living area. And next to it an ibride side table in deep blue-purple; one of the French design d’auteur’s polar bear lines. The mix of contemporary and traditional appeals to Michel; “I buy modern pieces to ‘cut’ the Asian pieces – otherwise it’s all just too much”.
The living room opens out through sliding doors to a balcony, set up with a couple of chairs, a little table, pot plants and some outdoor lantern candle holders. And what a sensational view! 180 degrees panorama of sea and Macau peninsular skyline. On a clear day one can see as far as central Zhuhai and to the new bridge from Hong Kong.
The apartment’s elegance and style continues in the dining area. A large deep blue Tibetan rug with Buddhist ‘swastika’ motif lies beneath the dining table, made up of altar table legs with a glass top. Pale blue-grey art deco dining chairs, a Balinese (“or it could be Indonesian”) wall hanging, an oversized old framed mirror and matching teak shelf cabinet and office cabinet from the old antique shops that used to line the streets going up to St Paul’s façade complete the look.
“Come, take a look”, Michel invites one. And inside the drawers of the office cabinet, that has been specially designed to accommodate the contents, lie 12 sets of exquisite HEPP cutlery that came from the 2,500 guest handover banquet, when in 1999, Macau was handed over from Portugal to China. “After the handover there was a sale and I bought these together with some of the crystal banquet glasses.” True treasures of historic and sentimental value.
The Begonia Court kitchens are large by anyone’s standards. Bright and inviting, with windows running the length of the room, there’s a small breakfast sitting nook, and spacious adjoining laundry and housekeeping area. Michel’s moon cake mold collection are proudly put out on show above the wall cabinets – “eventually they will be moved to my home in Portugal where I will make a whole wall display of them.”
When it comes to artwork, “my latest passion is the photography by Erwin Olaf”. The one Michel has hanging in the living room, is from his ‘Fashion Victims’ series. Also in the living room: a much admired early painting by Macau-based Konstantin Bessmertny.
Down a corridor, and at the end a huge gold lacquered Vietnamese plate hanging on a dark blue wall. A guest bathroom is to the left and the first guest room, converted to Michel’s music studio and study. Benefiting from more wonderful sea views, this is what he refers to as his ‘disco’. The main wall is lined top to bottom with shelves filled with CDs. Michel hosts the 45-minute classical music radio programme Scherzo for the Radio Macau 98FM Portuguese channel (Sundays 11am, repeats on Wednesdays after 9pm) and this is where much of his musical inspirations are conceived.
Michel’s desk is a 3-piece Chinese ‘Voyager’ desk – being able to be separated into sections for ease of traveling. Some more beautiful pieces; an ebony Shanghai art deco armchair with marble inlay back, and a Chinese day bed made of ironwood, very hard and heavy. Under the window is an electric piano. And hanging on the wall is a much treasured photograph by Michel’s friend Hanspeter Amman who was one of his teachers in the Arts Management post-graduate course he took at the Macao European Studies Institute back in 1998.
The second guest room faces the back of the building, so there’s no lovely view to accentuate; rather one’s eye is drawn to the artwork. Sat on top of a Chinese cabinet in the bay window framed with white venetian blinds are two ceramic bust sculptures of St. Anthony and the child. Their tranquil gentle faces look down on one and emanate a calm quietness to the room. The sculptor? Michel’s mother; a talented artist in her own right, Maria Alice Ressurreição. Some of her drawings are also on display in the studio.
A striking red and black, framed Cultural Revolution poster hangs on the wall and behind a dark wood desk is a Korean screen with two poems in Chinese. “Read from bottom to top, right to left” Michel smiles. On the desk is a ceramic Xian Warrior head – a copy but nevertheless still captivating in its strength of facial expression.
From the apartment’s predominantly blue colour scheme, it is in the master bedroom where the color turns to Michel’s favourite; yellow. Hanging behind the buttercup yellow wing back chair and foot stool is a large framed photo of a solid yellow line on a road by friend João Palla. Next to it are two Chinese 2-door chests, one on top of the other, the lower painted in green, the upper in bright yellow. Inspite of the lovely views from this room, the master bed has its back to it … “I tried all the other ways but it just felt better this way”, he explains. A couple of silk cushions from a trip to Rajasthan decorate the bed. A walk-through dressing room leads to a generous sized master bathroom.
Walking back down the corridor to the living room, with Tibetan runners underfoot and stopping to examine black and white family photos, more exquisite artwork and mirrors, one is reminded of the affection Michel holds for this apartment: a tasteful, elegant oasis from a busy life of business and travel. His home is truly where his heart is.
Text by Suzanne Watkinson for the Macau Closer magazine
Photographs by Suzanne Watkinson