A love affair with art and her own creative spirit led Shirley Zhao to compose a quirky, art-filled apartment in the heart of the city.
The central location on Huashan Road made it possible for the couple to live amid the former French Concession with all its amenities and be close to their daughter’s school.
“We had looked for only unfurnished space so that we can create something from scratch, make our very own home. Besides, the compound boasts international management and one of the best indoor-outdoor playgrounds and gyms in downtown,” Zhao said.
When she found this high-rise apartment with enough “emptiness,” Zhao knew it was perfect for her and her husband Marc Tempus to start a new stage of life in Shanghai.
“Since our wonderful girl was born, I wanted to create a ‘playful’ home for her... and for family living,” Zhao said. “My personal style for interior changes depending on the country I live in, different life stages, the type of the house or apartment.... But in general I like to mix and match “a la Shirley’s temple:” Chinese and European antiques, traditional and modern designs, antique pieces and contemporary artworks, world famous artists and kid’s true art,” Zhao said, referring to her own art label “Shirley’s Temple”. She creates documentary films and events that she mostly holds in Berlin. But there are many other projects, too, as the former model directs and produces films and has founded the 4C Charity (Children help Children Charity Council). Zhao is gifted when it comes to adding style to her own life, which, of course, includes the space she lives in. The pieces she selected for this apartment display a fun vibe. The walls hold collections of paintings and every corner features some quirky, interesting art objects.
Zhao said that in some way, the apartment is like a container that she can use like a museum to project her family life. The result is a mixture of light and dark, warm and cool, past and present.
The main background shades of the decor are whites and cream colors, but in the paintings and artworks you can find a lot of blue, red, green, yellow.
“Almost every corner in the apartment is brightly colorful which goes with the ‘playful’ concept and brings good mood. Playing with colors requests a lot of experiences, creativity and capable hands,” Zhao said.
“I created my study, a ‘white room’, as a contrast to the rest of the space. This small room is like my refuge where I spend a lot of time reading, thinking, and working,” she added.
Behind the blend of inherited antiques and contemporary pieces of art are personal stories. “I travel a lot, mostly in Europe where I used to live and a place I always loved. I brought here not just articles but the stories behind them,” she said.
One of her favorite pieces is the bar-tainer which she found in Prague. “It was love at first sight, but the conversation after the first sight with the shop owner was more fascinating. He even became our guide of the city! I guess that’s one of the reasons why I love to drink everything I store inside.”
The opium bed placed in the living room was a wedding gift from her family, while her dresser was a wedding gift from her husband. The old suitcase which the couple uses as coach table contains all their photo albums they started before the digital camera was born.
Two life-sized nude paintings placed on the living room walls are from Australian artist Ken Done, but Zhao is not less fond of their daughter’s “big fat buddha” which she drew at age 6.
“Being playful and interesting is the main concept of my life and it is also reflected on my home interior concept,” Zhao said. “Though my white room seems plain, there are many personal stories, which you can find in black and white photos on the wall, magazines, articles and films in the bookshelves.”
The all-in-white theme makes the room not only visually bigger and brighter but also allows Zhao to effortlessly change her mood by just stepping into another room.
“Besides, I love constantly changing the decor of the living and dining area according to the seasons, festivals and occasions which immediately brings a different mood into my home,” Zhao said.
“A designer or a home magazine might help you to create a beautiful play for you to live in but it can only become your true home if you start to add your personal inputs and spirits.”
Q: What’s the best thing about living in Shanghai?
A: The mixture of expats and locals, super stylish venues and “pyjamas on the streets” style.
Q: Describe your home in three words.
A: Playful, personal, interesting.
Q: What’s the first thing you do when you get home?
A: Wash my hands and relax in my coach by holding soft cushions which are painted by my daughter.
Q: How do you unwind?
A: When the weather allows for it, with a drink on the balcony.
Q: Where do you spend most of the time at home?
A: If the weather is good, on balcony or in my white room.
Q: What’s the view outside your window?
A: A play ground, a grass field with a fountain and a tennis court.