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Habitat with evolving ambience of art
By Patsy Yang

The gallery owner behind Capsule, the recent addition to Shanghai’s contemporary art scene, envisioned an authentic, lived-in Shanghai home years before he set up his stunning garden-house gallery in the same lane on Anfu Road.


The living room features a mixture of the contemporary artworks and design furniture. — Dong Jun

Having moved to the city in 2013, after a decade living in a high-rise building in the northeast of Beijing, Enrico Polato wanted to live in a more local environment in Shanghai.

“So I started looking into houses in the former French concession. I contacted different agents and it was an intense search. Finally and quite unexpectedly, I found a small agency that showed me the apartment I currently live in and I fell in love with it,” the Italian said.

His main criteria were the location and the quality of the interior, as Polato wanted to be in a central position that allowed him to reach different facilities within an easy access, and an environment that he could move in comfortably and smoothly since the moment he stepped into it.

Fortunately, Polato was the first tenant to move into the apartment after it was newly renovated.

“The landlord had respected many aspects of the original structure of the old house, such as the wooden floor and some sections of the brick walls, and at the same time added a few more contemporary elements.”

The kitchen is separated by the rest of the house and accessed by a shared staircase, but a small window connects the two spaces. Initially he was hesitant because of this reason, but adjusted very quickly to it.

“The landlord arranged for the basics such as the bed, the dining table and the sofa. I didn’t have much furniture transported from Beijing but had many artworks from my private collection, so I started filling the walls with art to feel home again.”


The painting by Doron Langberg is a prominent feature at the corner of the bedroom.

At the beginning Polato spent some time in antique furniture shops, as the space invited him to do so, but he finally went for a more refreshing and contemporary style.

“I love to have friends over and cook, so I wanted to have a place that feel warm and cozy as well.”

As an Italian with an eye for art and design, he added a black Kartell coffee table with a steel frame in the living area. Kartell chairs adorn the dining table next to the living area.

“As the artworks already add a note of color to the space, I tried to keep the rest minimal,” he said.

The brick wall divides the space into the living space and private zone. Opening the door into the bedroom, the space is dominated by wood and he stayed close to the original furnishing.

“I gave the room a little groovy twist by adding a lamp by ‘Diesel Fornarina’ that has an industrial touch, and played with floor lamps to create a softer ambience at night.”


The bedroom is a relaxed setting with some of Polato’s favourite artworks around him.

Though the apartment is rather compact, there are different settings in the house and Polato tried to adjust the feeling of existing items through the display of artworks. Having worked in the contemporary art scene for years, he has a personal collection he loves to display at home.

The entrance space is very traditional so he opted for an old piece of furniture and a bright painting with a black and white artwork of graphite on photograph on the wall. The kitchen is sleek in stainless steel so Polato hangs a set of photographs in lighter tones.

In the living room, black and white has been his choice for furniture and he chose brighter paintings which cross the line between figurative and abstraction.

“For the bedroom, I added a more contemporary touch with the artworks on display to the original layout, while playing with the light.

“I like the fact how different rooms in this apartment have each a different style. Given the closeness to my gallery, I change the display of the artworks every few weeks. I have been adding furniture pieces gradually and each time I try to redecorate the walls with new art to create new dialogues with the environment.

“Some artworks that I collected have become almost permanent pieces as I feel particularly close to them. A painting by American artist Sarah Faux has been on my living room for a long time, as that piece introduced me to her work and I feel particularly emotionally attached to it.”


The wall of the bedroom has a Chinese element with mirror reflecting the artwork hanging above the bed.

Polato found an amazing garden house for his gallery Capsule in the same lane a year ago. He opened it with the vision to introduce emerging artists to the public and create an environment for people to enjoy art in a relaxed setting.

“I also want my home to mirror this vision. I display art at home that often hides a story that is dear to me. I see those pieces as scattered fragments of my life, almost as pictures of my world.”

Currently he displays works of those he has been working close to in the past months as these artists are part of this year’s program — paintings by Gao Yuan, a carbon fiber piece and a paperwork by Feng Chen, and a sculptural piece by Alice Wang.

“I’m always fascinated when I visit friends’ homes, as one’s living space is like a portrait of a person’s interests. The way people decorate their homes can be very diverse: some fill the spaces with either private photos, flowers, collectables or souvenirs from their trips around the world.

Art has been the main focus of my life for the past 15 years and I chose art because every piece has a story to tell, and most of the works I collect or display at home come from artists I have had a chance to meet or I am friends with. I like to follow their progress, share their worries, excitement and ultimately their success.”

Lighting is an essential part of his home design and Polato sourced most of his at Casa Casa.

“I like the design of their furniture because they have a modern style, which creates a good contrast with the rest of the ambience.”

Ask The Owner

Q: Describe your home in three words.

A: Cozy, cosmopolitan and chic.

Q: What’s the first thing you do when you get home?

A: I put on some music and enjoy the pleasure of feeling at home.

Q: How do you unwind?

A: At home, I cook while listening to some nice music or I practice yoga at a close-by studio.

Q: Where do you spend most of the time at home?

A: I spend a lot of time between the living room and the kitchen.

Q: What’s the view outside your window?

A: The neighboring houses and trees.

Q: What’s your favorite object at home?

A: Currently, a new stainless steel ceiling lamp in my bedroom that becomes almost transparent when it is lit.

Q: Where do you source furniture in Shanghai?

A: Casa Casa on Anfu Road has become my main advisor when it comes to adding furniture pieces to my home.


Enrico Polato

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