Vintage décor has been hip again for a few years running, but like antiques it has a downside: cost. That said plenty of upscale (at least for quality) furniture manufactures like to dig into the vault and revive classic pieces, creating gems from the 1950s for a fraction of the price.
Into this ring steps the two-month old Amelie & Tulips, the latest addition to chic Tai Ping Shan, specialising in vintage-style furnishings and contemporary art. Co-founded by Hong Kong natives Ellen Lai and art consultant Sappho Ma, Amelie & Tulips also specialises in marrying retro form and modern function.
“We understand that people need tables and chairs and so on, but then we also bring in some unique pieces that are rarely seen in Hong Kong. You don’t see exciting things like you see in Berlin, New York and London,” explains Lai of the genesis of the store. Lai was ready to come home from Shanghai and give up her career as a lifestyle editor and Ma was looking for a partner. Their goals clicked.
The process for stocking the store isn’t all glamour all the time, and the duo do have broader plans, including using the shop as a gallery space for special items. Currently, the Tai Ping-facing window is a mini-gallery all its own, and acts as something of a window on the showroom. “In order to enhance design awareness in the city we [intend] to source around. A lot of the art we have you would only see in galleries. The shop is a platform. We want to be accessible,” say Lai.
As of right now, Amelie & Tulips is well stocked with mid-century modern design, predominantly from Denmark, but with scattered items from Germany, the USA and Italy. “[Ma] is a frequent traveller and she goes to galleries and art fairs and is exposed to interesting design pieces,” Lai notes. “She’s an art collector herself. She saw Christian Haas’ pieces in Berlin. We saw some of it in Wallpaper. He doesn’t make ‘nothing’. His pieces have function.”
There is a little of everything in the store, from flatware to lighting, though furniture is the main thrust; Lai expects to have more focus pieces (like sofas) early next year. Some of the current highlights include Spanish designer Jaime Hayon’s Ro chair for Republic of Fritz Hansen, a more affordable spin on the label’s The Egg, Hans J Wegner’s classic The Shell (A&T has limited reproduction #90) in teak and goat skin with the spine still visible, art by Haas, specifically his cool and functional Ropes (#298) — which is also a lamp, and a Brionvega retro stereo unit in anniversary special red and blue (standard white is still available). Anything missing? “We’re always looking for cabinets. Storage. Which is important for Hong Kong,” Lai adds with a laugh. The shop is already a hit with designers and architects, and like buying trends in jewellery, single professional women with flair, who “know exactly what they want.”
Amelie & Tulips couldn’t have opened at a better time for Lai’s tastes. The hip factor of Tai Ping Shan and the atmosphere created by the upcoming Art Basel is precisely the kind of arena Lai and Ma wanted to step into. And before you get excited, there is no Amelie and there are no Tulips. The store name was inspired, very simply, by the fun of the French film Amelie and Ma’s preferred flower. “We were thinking of some ‘cool’ names but eventually we decided, ‘We’re just not pretentious.’” admits Lai. “It’s about tulips and girls. We were all, ‘C’mon, man! Let’s just do it!’ And just be ourselves.”