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Softening up a stiff and formal residence
By Yang Di

IN the heart of the Embassy Area in Beijing is a three-hectare oasis that encloses the Polish ambassador’s residence and leads to a secret leafy garden — a rarity in  central Beijing.

Ambassador Tadeusz Chomicki and his wife Susan Kim-Chomicka like the quiet and calm surrounding as they often host receptions and events in this elegantly decorated residence and its spacious garden.

“We saw the pictures of the residence before we came five years ago. The bones of the house are beautiful — neo-classical, clean, but over the years it has been decorated stiff and official, perhaps not so warm and inviting,” Kim-Chomicka said.

The embassy is next to the residence so most official functions and large-scale receptions are held there.

“Though it still needs to be formal and representative, I found the residence needed to be more inviting. When we came, we didn’t change the structure but we replaced the furniture and upholstery instead,” she added.

While the ambassador wanted to keep the residence somewhat formal with a traditional Polish ambience, Kim-Chomicka’s goals was to lighten things up and blend in different styles.

There was a look of formality and all the Polish furniture pieces looked stiff with the same color tone, according to Kim-Chomicka. Following her instincts, she brought in sofas and decorative pieces to soften it up, to make it look less uniform. All the masculine, stiffness is offset by the softer, shapely forms of the custom-made pieces with a subtle palette in the milky tones on the walls.

The foyer creates a strong statement with the piano placed in the center and artworks around. Light spills in through floor-to-ceiling windows on the first floor.

The major highlight of the first-floor is the layout that has maximized the space. Another highlight is views of the magnificent garden.

“Our art collection is almost all Polish; a combination of newer pieces and older ones,” she said, adding the older oil paintings from the 1970s and 1980s belong to the embassy. “However, I would love to add more modern elements rather than just keep older styles. By having the lighter, brighter modern graphics, it showcases Poland’s evolving art scene.”

The couple is fond of different art forms.

“I have to say I have become more of an art person after I met my husband. Polish people are very cultural as part of their everyday life. As an Asian, we tend to do our day-to-day things and go to concerts or an art exhibition once a while. But in Poland, people don’t consider a concert or a performance a special occasion, just a part of their daily life,” Kim-Chomicka said.

Most of their art pieces have been acquired here in Beijing and during their travels in Asia.

“You need to commit with art. For me, it’s definitely about personal feelings. It’s important to go to a gallery and it helps when you meet the artist, to learn about who they are and what they are thinking,” she added.

A rather clean palette helps to create a backdrop for stand-out art pieces. A mixture of artworks created by Polish and Chinese contemporary artists is shown in every corner of the residence.

The couple loves the traditional Polish Easter eggs that are displayed in the living room because “I look at them as a traditional Polish art,” Kim-Chomicka said. “They are all handmade and individual. They are religious symbols but they are so beautiful, so I love to keep them around.”

The couple is keen to provide a pleasant environment to receive friends at home.

“Our job is to represent the country, which is about developing relationships with people. If you create a warm atmosphere, it allows people to relax and enjoy themselves. So it’s not just about good food, you have to have a beautiful ambience with quality music in the background, and so on,” said Kim-Chomicka.

Susan Kim-Chomicka, wife of Polish Ambassador to China

Q: What’s the best thing about living in Beijing?

A: It allows us to interact with so many different people from different walks of life — artists, diplomats, business people, entrepreneurs, designers… It keeps me energized to be around those passionate people.

Q: Describe your home in three words.

A: Elegant, inviting, representative

Q: What’s the first thing you do when you get home?

A: I change and try to relax.

Q: How do you unwind?

A: Reading.

Q: What’s the best view outside your window?

A: Garden.

Q: How do you scent your home?

A: Through natural flowers. We are lucky that we have a big cutting flower garden so I can cut roses and others and bring them in.

Q: What’s your favorite object at home?

A: Easter eggs and Polish Christmas décor.

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