PART of the charm of any well-decorated apartment is the lifetime of stories collected on the walls and placed in every nook and cranny.
The Consul General of Peru in Hong Kong and Macau, David Malaga, adheres to this decor philosophy. His light-filled apartment in Hong Kong’s Mid-Levels is a magical mix of modern design, pop art, including an Andy Warhol piece, traditional elements from Peru and some stylish Chinese works.
He says the view of skyscrapers and Victoria Harbor helps him relax after work, making the city’s kinetic energy pretty, yet distant at the same time.
“It took some time to find an ideal home in Hong Kong,” he said. “I wanted a place on Hong Kong Island, near my office so I wouldn’t have to depend time on taxis, which are scarce during the weekends and when it rains,” he added. “This apartment is in a very good building, with wooden floors, a lot of light, a nice view of Victoria Harbor and within walking distance of supermarkets, restaurants and hardware stores.”
Malaga had lived in Lima, Houston, Oxford, New York City, Ottawa and Santiago, Chile, before moving to Hong Kong.
“I brought very little to Hong Kong because I did not know where I was going to live and I know space was limited and rent was the most expensive in the world. I had to reprogram my sense of space since I had been living in a spacious townhouse with lots of storage room.”
The apartment has a contemporary interior and Malaga said he was happy nothing structurally needed to be changed.
He likes to be surrounded by things he can both love and live with. “Modern furniture solves practical problems with quality, simplicity and style,” he said. “Nowadays, iconic furniture designed in the 1920s or the 1950s is still fresh and comfortable. I brought a Saarinen table that I got 20 years ago in Montreal. Here it is the dining table and in Lima it was a side table in the living room. There is also an antique Kerman rug that I bought in New York 30 years ago and that I always take with me.”
However, he didn’t want anything outrageously modern or a minimalist white box, Malaga wanted a relaxing space to come home to and he wanted something timeless.
Those with a keen eye will note the living room table and dining area feature plenty of Peruvian silverware, which the consul general is particularly proud of due to the fine quality.
“Peruvian gold and silver are part of the world’s history and they spearheaded mercantilism in Europe from the 16th to the 18th centuries. Peruvian goldsmiths and artisans are the best in the world,” he said.
“Peruvian silver is appreciated for its quality and refined craftsmanship, formal silverware lasts a lifetime, chargers get awesome with age, the patina of candle-holders speak of happy dinners shared with family and friends.
“However, since I’ve lived in Hong Kong, I also bought two great ginger jars made during the Xuande reign of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) that I would like to authenticate before I leave. They are perfect for a gypsy’s eclectic collection of souvenirs,” he added.
Harmony and comfort are obviously important in this apartment. Malaga enjoys beautiful furniture as much as the next person, but each piece also has to work. It’s about balance and making his home feel personal, giving the design a life of its own.
Malaga also has an impressive collection of art.
“I’m grateful I purchased a big format Peruvian diptych painting by Christian Bendayan that I take everywhere and I have loaned for museum exhibitions in Peru and abroad. Christian is a friend now and he says that this is one of his key paintings.”
He also said it was great to live in New York at a time when art was booming in Greenwich Village.
“Frank Stella (an American painter) lived around the block and I got one of his early works. He transformed art in the US. I used to run into Andy Warhol in a record store. I loved his Campbell Soup Serigraphs but I hesitated and I missed out on one. Only a few months later, after Warhol died, I got a signed piece of his Sunset series,” Malaga said.
“Another famous artist who was my neighbor was Keith Haring. From the start I knew he was a master. He made graffiti a recognized art style. I have four great prints and all my friends thought I was crazy when I bought them.”
After Warhol and Haring died their works became unaffordable and they are in the best museums around the world.
Malaga also loves sculptures. “My favorite is a Marina Nunez del Prado bronze. In 1984 I was on vacation in Lima and visited her, we talked all afternoon about art, she chose a small sculpture fit for my budget and dedicated a small painting to me. I also love the ‘Dancing Jesus’ by Dutch artist Herman Mankkink that was made famous by Stanley Kubrik in the 1970s.”
The consul general said all his efforts in Hong Kong were directed to promoting Peruvian culture and tourism, as well as non-traditional exports from the country. Peru mainly exports copper and other metals to China.
“In an effort to diversify our exports, the Consulate General in Hong Kong has promoted Peruvian gastronomy in Hong Kong as an integral part of our culture,” Malaga said.
Traditional dishes go back more than 400 years. A new generation of chefs is showcasing this traditional cuisine with a new international twist. They have presented important gastronomic events every year at upscale hotels like Island Shangri-La and Grand Hyatt in Hong Kong.
Malaga is also proud that China became Peru’s biggest trading partner in 2011. Bilateral trade nearly doubled since Peru and China signed a free-trade agreement in April 2009, bringing zero tariffs to 90 percent of traded goods between the countries. Peru exports more than 17 percent of its production to China.