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Swanky Shanghai pads to stay at through Airbnb
By Pasty Yang

Airbnb is giving travelers loads of new options when choosing a place to stay. Through the website, users can browse a variety of different private homes that are available to rent. Users like the site as it can allow them to stay in areas they may have missed had they stayed in a star-rated hotel, thus allowing them a closer look at how locals live. Different arrangements are available including staying at a chosen home with the occupants or renting it out while the occupants are away.

In Shanghai, numerous homeowners are becoming Airbnb hosts, sharing their spaces and the city they love. Some of them have an impeccable taste for design. Shanghai Daily has picked some of the top Airbnb homes to stay at in Shanghai.

Jonas Merian


Homes can be transformed into inspirational hubs of creativity and such is the case with Swiss designer Jonas Merian’s place.

Merian, 38, lives in an old factory building in Yangpu District. The 300-square-meter space has a ceiling up to 6 meters high. It functions as a home, workshop and photo studio. Since 2011, he and his wife started hosting on Airbnb and have received 150 guests so far.

“We have a big enough space and a guestroom, plus we are avid travelers ourselves, so we like to exchange with other travelers,” Merian said.

Much of the home’s decor is made from reclaimed items such as wood for the floor and second-hand bricks for the new walls. While renovating the space Merian started building his own furniture. That was his first foray into furniture making and upcycling, which refers to adding value to waste materials. He has used everything from old wood from demolished houses and old biscuit tins to shabby suitcases and outdated televisions. He hand makes each piece and most are one-of-a-kind.

“Shabby chic and mix-and-match is our style,” Merian said. “We have a lot of quirky decorations based on the upcycling design principle.”

He also said they leave it up to guests to determine how much interaction they want.

“We try to welcome our guests personally, whenever possible. The guestroom is unconditionally theirs as long as they are staying with us and we do not intrude over there.

“If the guest is open about it, we sometimes take them out for dinner. Some guests have even joined us when we went to a friend’s party. It is up to the guest to decide how much interaction they want with us.”

Merian said they charge around 350 yuan (US$55) per night depending on the season and day.

Heikal Gani


Heikal Gani started renting out his apartment on Airbnb three months ago and has since hosted roughly 12 guests.

Located on leafy Shaoxing Road in the downtown area, the apartment is furnished elegantly in a way that resembles a boutique hotel.

“I’ve always liked the modern classic style, dramatic and yet with a contemporary feel to it,” the 29-year-old Singaporean said. “My favorite designer is Tom Ford, so I’ve always been influenced by the juxtaposition of making the old new. Most homes are now inspired by this urban, minimal feel and I want to make sure my home stands apart from that genre.”

Entering Gani’s apartment is like being transported back to Shanghai circa 1930s, but with a contemporary touch. Gold is used in most rooms to inspire a feeling of grandeur although Gani has made sure not to overuse it and make it look gaudy.

“I want people staying here to feel extreme comfort, yet romantic. I love the dramatic black color contrasted with white, and people generally stay away from black interiors, but it works so well in my home,” Gani said.

Most of the furniture has been purchased since Gani moved to Shanghai about five years ago.

“I like to mix high and low-priced items,” said the founder of Indochino.com, an online custom tailoring company.

He bought a Chesterfield sofa from a Chinese factory, Islamic calligraphy from a local mosque, bathroom accessories from H&M Home, and several furniture pieces from the local market.

“The key is to mix and match and ensure they fit thematically,” Gani said. “I like my place to look and feel ‘lived in’.

“One can watch television, drink tea from a Chinese pot, and use the exercise yoga mat in the morning when waking up. There are also two desks, and the home is generally free from clutter or unwanted stuff. Everything in the home has a purpose.”

Besides the general rules about respecting the property and taking care of the apartment like their own, Gani’s only two strong rules are no house parties and no smoking, except on the patio.

It costs 5,813 yuan per week to stay at his apartment.

He travels frequently to North America and the apartment is only available when he is away.

Shen Hong


Shen Hong has eight apartments available to rent through Airbnb and has received more than 700 guests since November 2011.

The Hangzhou native rents the apartments from different landlords and after redecorating, makes them available to travelers on Airbnb, which is available in many languages including Chinese and English.

Each apartment is characterized by relaxed simplicity and romance with specially selected decorative touches.

Rather than limiting herself to one or two interior styles, she says she wanted to create a different vibe in each flat based on the location and architecture. With her stage design background she has the ability to bring various elements together into one cohesive whole.

Her three-floor loft-style building on Changle Road was designed with “old Shanghai glamor” in mind. The wooden floor is beautifully laid and the ceiling light adds a slice of luxury. Shen, 26, also chose to use some vintage elements to add a touch of nostalgia.

With two bedrooms and one small reading room, this apartment is ideal for a family of four at a cost of 898 yuan per night.

The interior of another flat on Yongjia Road is sleek, bright and soothing with a minimalist approach. The stage designer used a lot of wood to create a warm atmosphere in this flat. She has a real talent for transforming plain spaces into nice interiors with personal touches. The carpets have strong patterns while the art and small accessories add a lot of personality.

At about 40 square meters, Shen wanted this one-bedroom space to be functional, contemporary and clean. The minimalist approach makes the apartment seem bigger than it actually is. It costs 550 yuan per night to rent.

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