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May 9, 2010

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Embankment revived courtesy of Chai living

IN delightful contrast to the historical facade of the Embankment Building that presents an old-world aesthetic, the 16 Chai residences created inside by Tucho Iglesias are unassuming and highly personal.

Since starting to design his own apartment, Iglesias was attracted to the historical building and decided to create a very unique "Chai Shanghai Living" inside the space.

The name "Chai'' refers to a special Indian tea which blends different flavors and elements for an overall mind/body experience. The word suitably expresses all of what Chai is about: a combination of history, culture, art, design, fun, warmth, comfort, uniqueness, authenticity and further surprises to engage all five of the natural senses.

"In the same way as Chai style, I also think like that -- a combination of designer, lawyer, entrepreneur, businessman, artist, collector and dreamer,'' he said.

With a mission to create an oasis of delight for urbanities, guests and fans, Iglesias was keen on providing a place where they can have a five-star living standard and an unparalleled enjoyment lacking in five-star hotels -- a place where you feel you are an insider in local Shanghai.

Though the historical building is a little run-down and many local Shanghainese residents still live in it, these elements add a unique historical dimension to the stay of curious and open-minded guests and travelers.

"Chai is not a hotel, as the minimum stay is at least one month," Iglesias said. "Chai Living is an innovative, sustainable urban concept -- a collection of serviced residences where their clients, guests and fans can experience Chai style, services and products.

"It has been a five-year project where we have faced many difficulties, from finding the right properties and negotiating with local owners to designing each of them with a unique theme and personality,'' he added.

Each of the units is specially designed to correspond with one of the ancient elements of Chinese culture and tradition, including porcelain, calligraphy, ink, rice paper, jade, seals and others.

"Blue porcelain was referred to by one of our clients as 'a universe of charm.' Another very popular residence is Bronze, with nearly 200 square meters and a lofty feeling ideal for entertaining friends, which is full of art pieces from our partner Art + Shanghai Gallery,'' Iglesias said.

Each room started with an idea and a theme, and then he designed around it. Iglesias is concerned about aesthetics and colors. "You can tell they all have a style. It is not minimalist, not 1930s, not futuristic, it's just a combination of different things, in a very refined way.''

The units boast sweeping views of the Pudong skyline, the Suzhou Creek bridges and many other Art Deco landmarks along the Bund.

"Our clients are interested in experiencing Chai style," he said. "Combined with our team's insider knowledge of the city and extensive network of local retail partners, our guests can enjoy the city more like a resident than a tourist; more like a native than a mere visitor. They are also attracted by Chai's collection of furniture and objects and we are happy to present it to them, shipping our fine furniture from everywhere, from London to San Francisco.''

The Chai Living Gallery will open at the end of this month, featuring a sophisticated collection of fine furniture, objects and art conveniently showcased in a nearby Art Deco building in walking distance from the Bund.

"We will open the Chai Living Cafe in mid-May on the first floor of the Embankment Building, so guests can enjoy a happy breakfast, lunch, dinner, light refreshments or maybe just a cup of tea,'' Iglesias said.

The laid back ambience of the 20-seat cafe will reflect the philosophy of sophisticated Chai style.


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