Sky’s the limit
International designers push the boundaries of modern living
Life has been an extraordinary adventure for me,” says Alexandra Champalimaud, “and the experience has enriched my work.” The internationally acclaimed designer grew up in Portugal, with time spent at boarding schools in England and Switzerland, She married into one of Portugal’s leading families, and was launching her interior design career when, on the eve of the nation 1974 revolution, she and her family fled the country; they left in the middle of the night and moved to Montreal. Inspired by designers as varied as Eileen Gray and David Hicks, and the rigour of Mies van der Robe, Champalimaud won prestigious commisions, including the law office of Pierre Trudeau, the charismatic former prime minister of Canada. The elegant furniture she designer for him was recently auctioned to benefit his foundation. In 1993 she relocated t New York, where her team of specialists has grown to 40 and is still expanding, Two-thirds of their work is in resorts and hotels, the rest in high-end residencies. “I’ve lived on four continents, speak four languages, and that makes me comfortable doing design pretty much anywhere in the world,” says the wider travelled tastemaker.
What inspired your love of design?
the beauty and order of classical buildings in Europe, their richness and fine proportions, I was exposed early on to a great art museum in Lisbon, the Fundaçäo Ricardo do Espínto Santo Silva, which has craft workshops for gilding, silver-welding, inlay, and lacquering. It gave me a wealth of knowledge I could apply to the modern world.
Do you have a guilding vision?
A subtle, sophisticated elegance; fun, layered, and mood changing. Classical order and proportions infused with a modern sensibility I create an individual style that elevates people’s emotions.
What is the relationship of houses to hotels?
We are currently designing high-end condos in association with top architects in New York, and recently created house in Aspen, Dever, and Martha’s Vineyard. Doing residential work teaches you what people want to experience in a hotel suite and how they live - in every age group. I design with a lot of intuition and knowledge; making people happy has become second nature for me.
Do you create your own products?
We’ve done designs for the Rug Company, and many different fabrics for Holland and Sherry, a venerable British firm. We are developing new lines of furniture and lighting, which we’ll release under our own name and in partnership with different companies.