THE charm of this Beijing flat is the lifetime of stories layered on its walls and in every corner, as the interior of the artsy home reveals.
The sense of space and calm, the natural daylight and the gorgeous view of the Beijing skyline in the central Sanlitun area surrounded by lots of creative businesses attracted Ambassador Miguel Vasco Viteri and his wife, Jenny Merino, when they first arrived Beijing.
As a career diplomat, Vasco Viteri worked in Argentina, Japan, Peru and Brazil before moving to China three years ago. He first represented his country as consul of Ecuador in Beijing, then was promoted to ambassador on October 2012.
“Before we decide to live in a place, there are two main issues to take in mind: budget and practicality,” Vasco Viteri said. “We chose this flat in a modern high-rise because in such a huge metropolis as today’s Beijing, you may live near your job and at the same time have easy mobility to the usual places where your daily activities take place. And of course, it has to be comfortable and cozy. That’s what we found.”
Even though the apartment met the couple’s primary requirements, meaning the modern and clean design features of the structure, they took time to decorate the place as to exhibit their sense of personal taste.
The home is very theatrical — the lighting, marble waterfall, furniture, artworks — everything is part of the couple’s personal belongings and collections. They have a very plain backdrop to offset the vivid colors and amazing pieces of art.
The couple love to decorate their space with designer furniture and bold artworks to give it a fresh dimension. Nothing is too serious, and they would describe the style as colorful and a bit playful.
They prefer bold combinations and mix different styles and pieces that are unexpected. An example is a room containing unique items such as an original 1949 Wurlitzer jukebox, a Peruvian colonial wood trunk and a few Pre-Columbian art figures among designer furniture and classic art pieces.
“In this apartment we decided not to include classical Persian carpets and pieces from a personal collection of South American colonial art we own, and European classic furniture, as to maintain a more modern and simple ambience,” Vasco Viteri said.
The furniture the couple have chosen come mainly from international interior home designers and brands, like Koket, Boca do Lobo, Delightfull and Kare Design.
“So far, what is very interesting in today’s China is that you can find good-quality pieces of furniture and collectibles in specialized shops at affordable prices. We have already proceeded this way with some of it. But the ‘one-of-a-kind’ were acquired directly from the international suppliers,” he said.
Vasco Viteri said he began his personal art collection when he was very young. “My first acquisition was a very interesting canvas from a well-known Ecuadorian painter, the late Humberto Moré, a self-taught artist, who in the last stage of his productions worked out with space fragmentation or fragmentation of the figure, which took advantage of all his research and ironically played with famous art images, like Mona Lisa. Moré called this stage the ‘Green Gold Sample,’ and I have the honor to own one of this paintings. From then on, I have never stopped (collecting) and hope I never will, because for me appreciating works of art is part of my daily life, like breathing.”
Vasco Viteri feels it a kind of “inheritance” from his father, a former ambassador, who is a very respectable art collector as well. This has given him opportunity to meet many of the great Ecuadorian artists, who are family friends.
“Every piece of contemporary art has to produce a visual impact together with an emotional message, because I have to feel what the artist is trying to communicate through his work,” he said.
“The responsibility that has to be assumed by the true artist is to feel and convey with ties or trusses, what he captures within a specific environment and tries to share with the public. For me, the main point is to feel it honestly, beyond any simple decorative purposes. The artwork has to fulfill my outer and inner senses.”
The pieces displayed in this flat are mainly from Ecuadorean artists, along with a few other nationalities.
“Because with the limited space, I have chosen the paintings from the most recognized artists, so you can be able to feel delighted with the panoramic view of Beijing from the windows and the colorful canvas and sculptures.”
Some of the artworks in the apartment are created by the painters Gonzalo Endara Crow, Luigi Stornaiolo, Hernán Illescas, the late master Oswaldo Guayasamín, Oswaldo Viteri — a living legend — as well as Chinese artists Wu Peishi, Zhang Chao, Li Jinguo and Wang Lang.
Small sculptures are displayed from international artist like Fernando Botero, Ronit Baranga, Adam A. Martinakis and Miguel Illescas, as well as a few archaeological pieces from ancient South American civilizations, as a way to show samples of their ancient cultures.
Jenny Merino, Ambassador Vasco Viteri’s wife, explains in a simple and short way their life in Beijing.
Q: What’s the best thing about living in Beijing?
A: Coexistence of people from multiple cultures in the context of the capital city of a multi-faceted China.
Q: Describe your home in three words.
A: Cozy, friendly, cheerful
Q: What’s the first thing you do when you get home?
A: Remove shoes, dress comfortably, put background music on and play with my cat.
Q: How do you unwind?
A: Listen to my favorite music and read a good book.
Q: Where do you spend most of the time at home?
A: In the living room.
Q: What’s the best view outside your window?
A: Since we live on the 27th floor, we have an amazing panoramic view over Sanlitun and the central business district area.
Q; How do you scent your home?
A: Water flowing from the small indoor waterfall, with slight hints of incense scents; flowers and a mixture of vanilla and cinnamon.
Q: What’s your favorite object at home?
A: It’s a masterpiece of art by the Greek artist Adam A. Martinakis.
Q: Where do you source furniture in Beijing?
A: Small exclusive and not so expensive shops. It’s a matter of good taste, not money. Mainly from 798, Sanlitun and other interesting areas.