THERE is no fussy embellishment, just clean lines that respect the contours of the residence and Chilean art to highlight comforting atmosphere. The residence of Chile’s ambassador to China is an oasis for Jorge Heine and his wife, Norma Acevedo de Heine, who have lived here since July.
While the couple finds the embassy’s tranquility appealing even in Beijing’s city center, they have ensured that inside the residence the decor is cozy and convivial. The neutral colors, mixed with the light pouring in from the big windows, create a timeless backdrop that enables the home’s mood to change with the seasons. Materials like wood add warmth to the scheme.
Norma is in charge of the interior decoration to better represent Chile as the country and welcome the guests.
“When I arrived here, it surprised me that I was going to live in the house that is so close to the embassy office, which had never happened before,” she said. “However, the two-floor residence features wonderful wooden floors and high ceilings, a potential space for me to inject our own personalities.”
Characteristic collections of vintage furniture and Chilean art, mostly belonging to the embassy, are dotted around the residence in simple but elegant arrangements. “The embassy in China has everything we need to decorate the house. I only brought my personal belongings, kitchen utensils, and favorite paintings in particular,” Norma said.
The ambassador couple enjoy the Chilean art pieces and use them in the residence to highlight the ambience.
Classic paintings depicting Chile’s amazing landscapes from the end of 19th century to the early 20th century are hung in the living room.
“I wanted to give our living room a feeling of what a Chilean home would be like. And these paintings of Manuel Maldonado with his ‘I am Chile’ expression in the paintings represent to me what Chile is — a 5,000 kilometer coastline full of boats, sailboats, beaches, strong seas, wrecks and people in the sea areas — fishermen, sea, sea and more sea. This is Chile,” said Norma.
The main painting in the living room is “Falucho y Carretas Junto al Mar” by Calderon Abos Padilla, whose paintings are quite valuable. “Also sea, sailboats, but with a horse carriage in the middle of the sand … he is also famous for paintings of women collecting clams in the seashore,” Norma said.
She takes great joy in decorating the house. “To achieve my Chilean feeling at home, I will go back to Chile many times and bring back decor items to slowly create a functional and proper space that reflects the essence of our country and the family’s artsy interests as well,” the envoy’s wife said.
The seven contemporary paintings she had handpicked from the couple’s home in Santiago are from young renowned artists that express the work of their generation in Chile.
“They are daring, creative and expressive of a new society and a globalized world,” Norma said.
Some use the Chilean background of a world that is now gone, like Ximena Cousino whose black and white painting, “Serie Linea Errante,” is in a corner in her grandparent’s home.
Others, like Maria Jose Mir, use hair as a means of figure creation in a white background. Her works are called “Serie Ofelia 1” and “Serie Ofelia 11.” She experiments with figures that hair can allow you to make.
“This is very delicate work that requires enormous patience. It is very original and beautiful,” Norma said.
Other striking paintings are “Palma y Palma” and “Cuerpos Pintados” and “Cuerpo Humano Cuerpos Pintados” by Roberto Edwards.
“They are acrylic photographs of the actual painted bodies and are absolutely reflective of the new Chile, where the inhibitions of the past are fading away to give the authors flexibility in the use of color and shape,” Norma said. “Very original and beautiful.”
In the dining room there is the painting “Alicia La Japonesa” by Claudio Herrera, a young painter with a technique where detail and smallness go hand in hand with amplitude and color.
Next to this is “The Water Melon” by Roser Bru, one of Chile’s most well-known artists. This painting was hiding in an office in the embassy and Norma put it where she thought it belonged.
The ambassador said: “I was particularly keen to have such provocative art there because the dining room in the residence is equivalent to the seminar table at the university, where a lot of interesting conversations take place.”
“All the modern artworks in the residence represent the new soul of Chile in a world full of uncertainty and challenges,” Norma said.
“My motivation comes from a true love of art and a conviction that the best way to show what your country is and represents is by showing the artistic expressions of that country — be they ceramics, paintings, sculptures, photography, poetry, literature, and nowadays also videos and movies.”
Chile in 1970 became the first country in South America to establish a diplomatic relationship with China. It also was the first country to sign an individual free trade agreement with China, in 2005.