Alex Ventouras, the Chairman of CL Group (Holdings) in Wan Chai, is fairly certain his career would have been in architecture and design if he hadn’t gone into banking. “I was only 21 when I started in banking and that’s the kind of job you choose at that age, I didn’t know what really suited me”.
Clearly he would have been successful in whichever career he chose. Alex, single father of Alexandra, 11, and Darius, 9, is the creative brain behind the interior of the family’s 2,500-square-foot home at The Vineyard, Yuen Long. The two-storey abode, with symmetrical lines and contemporary glass and steel surfaces, has been warmed and softened with Alex’s love of all things Oriental, providing a cosy family environment with a distinct design aesthetic.
He credits Oriental Home for getting his passion for Chinese and Tibetan furniture and antiques off the ground.
Hong Kong (where he moved from London in 1995) and Bangkok (where he spent six of these years) have also been an inspiration. “Everything I see is from magazines, from living in Bangkok, Asian design, Thai styles, and Hong Kong… Not many men are happy looking at antique shops on Hollywood Road. I’m worse than a woman – I could do the whole day.”
Alex has a knack for mixing repros, antiques and classic pieces, all of which stand out against the butter yellow paintwork in this room. The rattan coffee table top is an old opium bed that he sanded back and repainted black to contrast with the couch. One bookshelf is made from an old black and red Tibetan doorframe, with the shelves added. Another black bookshelf has Chinese handles that match the red television cabinet. Alex designed this to look like an old Chinese medicine cabinet, with the practical purpose of hiding the family’s Playstation, DVD collection, electrical cords and so on. Two black and silver ceramic-lined olive oil urns are from Morocco. Mounted in black frames, three South China Morning Post front pages are from the time of the handover. Elsewhere on the walls, a scalloped wood frame from India has been turned into a mirror and behind the front door there’s a collection of Greek religious icons (Alex was born in Athens), featuring St Alexandra and St Darius. The colourful floor rugs throughout the house were bought in New Delhi. A big brown leather couch has pretty embroidered throw cushions, which would typically be dubbed ‘a woman’s touch’. “I could have made this house into a bachelor pad,” says Alex, “but the kids live here too so it has to be a home for all of us.”
An old Indian door adorned with pressed copper elephants has been transformed into a dining table with the frame and legs added. An antique Tibetan chest serves as the sideboard and, like all Alex’s antiques, has a practical purpose. Its shelves are crammed with serviette rings, napkins, cutler and crockery. “Some people are quite anal with antiques; I like to trash them a bit”. Above the sideboard, a 60-year old Tibetan mirror is intricately painted in colours offset by the yellow wall paint. From some angles the mirror reflects two impressive 120-year-old mounted drawings that Alex found in Mainland China. “I don’t know whether they’re real. If they’re not real they’re bloody good fakes.” The back frames feature lovely Chinese hooks. On the opposite wall, a large framed painting of a bullfighter is the work of Alexandra and Darius’ maternal grandmother, a well-known artist in southern Spain. Their French mother, Alex’s former wife, is also a talented artist, he says.
Alex’s bespoke “emperor’s bed” with engraved dragons on the bedhead, is so big, Oriental Home had a matching stool made so the kids could climb up on it. They also made a matching rattan and wood linen box that sits neatly at the end of the bed. Fitting perfectly along the opposite wall, Alex designed three bespoke pieces: a desk, a closet with built-in shelving and a Tibetan cabinet for shoes. He polished and touched-up the antique mirror mounted above the latter. Pretty blue and white ceramic bedside lamps sit atop bedside tables that are actually Asian plant holders.
Alex and Darius were allowed to design their own bedrooms, with the help of Colors, a shop that specialises in children’s modular bedrooms.
Darius has gone for a pirate theme. A blue bunk bed with “porthole” sits over the top of a desk area. The cupboard with central shelving has an anchor and skull and crossbones on it. One wall has a big Tin Tin poster.
Alexandra’s room is prettily pink with blue love heart motifs. She has a wonderful library of books under her open-fronted bunk bed, and a desk along the wall.