Q&A with Alexandra Champalimaud
Resides in: Litchfield, Connecticut. See images of her home here.
Occupation: Interior designer and President of Champalimaud
Best known for: Sophisticated, ultra-luxe hotels and restaurants with a distinct sense of style, including the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles and The Dorchester in London.
What effect did your childhood home have on your sense of design?
I was fortunate to have grown up on an old, elegant 14-bedroom estate in a suburb of Cascais, Portugal. My family used to host "sardine parties" where we would grill sardines on the barbecue for hundreds of people—international dignitaries and the like—in our garden. It was an incredible lifestyle incubator.
How does this house compare to the one you grew up in?
My current home was built in 1753 by Oliver Wolcott, Sr., the Colonial high sheriff of Litchfield, who was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and a governor of Connecticut. It is a national historic landmark and the oldest house standing in Litchfield. Both houses are old, have a history and a distinct sense of place, and will go on after me! They are timeless.
What do you collect?
Chinese porcelain of the 18th century. Photography by Doug Hall and Zhou Jun, who is an incredible Chinese photographer. And English field spaniels! The latest addition is Lucy. She is making Oscar (her older cousin) green with envy with all the attention she's receiving as a new puppy.
What was the last hotel you stayed in that you loved?
The Opposite House, in Beijing, for its spa-inspired guest rooms and open, spacious bathrooms with wooden soaking tubs. And I don't mean to toot our horn, but I do love staying at the new Canyon Suites at the Hotel Bel-Air [for which I designed the interiors].
What hotel amenity is most underrated? Overrated?
Underrated: A butler service that unpacks your suitcases and presses your
delicates. Overrated: In-room automation! Call me old fashioned, but I just want to be able to turn a light on with the flick of a switch. And this is more of a gripe, I suppose, but I wish there were an alternative to the crap food in most minibars.
Among your projects, which public space do you feel has a truly successful design?
The Park Avenue lobby of the Waldorf-Astoria. We removed balconies not original to the building and uncovered its grand windows. We brought warmth to the entryway using classic structural and lighting elements, which highlight the existing floor mosaic and wall murals by Louis Rigal. And we installed a crystal chandelier to echo the Art Deco style of the property’s original era and added richly colored finishes to highlight the "bones” of the craftsmanship. Now, the space feels modern again, which was our intention.