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Bordering on the sublime
By Yang Di

WHEN it comes to buying a home, often a lot comes down to luck. This was certainly the case for Shanghai-born designer Meng Jun when he stumbled across this 180-square-meter detached house in the lovely German town of Wietmarschen in Lower Saxony.

"As an interior designer, to have a detached house is the best way to present your own style," Meng said.

"This was the second house I visited through an agent and it was love at the first sight!"

The house, with a plot area of 1,328 square meters, was built by a German architect in 1981. The south side faces the garden with patio doors in the living room and dining room bringing the lush greenery and the interior together.

With the exception of renovating the upstairs bathroom - installing fittings by Duravit and Hansgrohe - Meng retained many of the existing features. The matte stone grey tile was a perfect match for the white color theme in the bathroom, he said.

Downstairs, the warming textures, beautiful found objects, furniture designed by Meng himself, sensual ceramics and fresh flowers reveal not only the heart of the house, but the soul of its owner, too.

Meng is drawn to the interior style of the Netherlands and Belgium and appreciates living close to the Dutch border, as this widens his choice of styles and inspirations.

But when it comes to essentials, Meng opts for German quality and style.

"I prefer German kitchen and bathroom fittings, as they're famous for their life-long functional quality and the design is also pretty cool," he said.

The living room is filled with natural light. But it's the details that contribute most to the warm, classic and sensual character of this home. This space is bursting with character, thanks to Meng's well-considered selection of colors and furnishings. A palette of high-quality, honest materials, rich textures and warm, earthy tones inject the space with atmosphere, without overwhelming it.

Dutch-style furniture, artisanal wooden sculptures and decorative objects from countries including Thailand and China evoke exotic charm and lend a personalized, lived-in feel.

"There is a small Dutch town close to my home and many artists live there, so the town is full of antique and vintage shops, galleries and museums."

"My favorite furniture store is located there, and you can find massive oak dining tables or sofas covered with nice Belgian lining fabric," Meng said.

The designer admits to being a massive fan of lampshades.

"I'm absolutely a lampshade queer! In my living room there are three table lamps and three floor lamps. Each has a unique lampshade, all hand-made in the Netherlands with silk fabrics or silver metal. They bring the different volumes of light," he added.

Meng has a real talent in transforming a rather plain space into a chic interior, using only small, deft touches.

"Cushions and the lampshades are two key items to make your space look glam instantly," he said.

"Soft furnishing and small details immediately reveal to visitors your life attitude and style."

"First impressions are important, but details become apparent once you sit down and get closer to the furniture. You might feel the texture of the cushions and the sofa, shining polished silverware or the smell of home fragrance," he added.

With those beautiful small touches, the sense of indulgence is heightened and the homey space becomes a cocoon of luxury in which to feel comfortable and relaxed.

And this cocoon is not complete without a special garden.

"Since there are many 10-meter high pine trees in my garden you do feel as if you're in the middle of a forest," Meng said.

A huge dining table and a group of chairs on the outdoor terrace make for a relaxed space in the beautiful, lovingly tended garden.

Meng has his own company, Meng Gallery, providing interior design for local clients while he also produces his own Meng Home Collection.


John Hamilton

Who is he?

John Hamilton is design director for Steelcase Asia Pacific. Based in San Francisco, he leads the Hong Kong design studio. Hamilton has been at Steelcase for 14 years, helping to build the brand from its inception and working on a variety of furniture related projects.

Tell us some of your works, and name the one you are most proud of.

I have been involved with most of the Steelcase products over the years, and am very proud of the c:scape and media:scape product lines. Our c:scape and media:scape lines are very smart, intuitive, flexible and help people work the way they want to. They make the office spaces much easier.

Steelcase has launched Gesture, a new sitting experience designed in response to the company's latest research about changing postures in the workplace.

We discovered people that as people use new technology in the workplace new user behaviors have led to nine new postures - not supported by current office chairs. Gesture supports the devices people are using now. Researchers also noted a more extreme range of human sizes around the world and how people rapidly shift between individual, focused tasks and creative collaboration.

What projects are you currently involved in?

Many, a variety of new development initiatives and research explorations that will influence the Steelcase portfolio in the future.

Describe your design style.

Smart, simple, intuitive, rigorous, honest and responsible.

Where are you most creative?

With others, collaborating with the design team is very rewarding and generative.

What does your home mean to you?

Comfort, nurturing and hosting.

What do you collect?

Interesting mechanical objects, cameras and safety brochures.

Where would you like to go most in Shanghai?

Just to walk and explore. Every time I am here I see something new and intriguing. I would love to go inside the Oriental Pearl TV Tower.

What will be the next big design trend?

We will see more smart, user-friendly, integrated spaces that can understand what we do with the space in a quiet way. As we move forward, we will see more and more user-friendly smart products in our society.

Meng Jun, a Shanghai-born designer


Q: What's the best thing about living in Wietmarschen?

A: It's a lovely little German town close to the Dutch border. I can have lunch in Germany and later take dessert in the Netherlands.

Q: Describe your home in three (or so) words.

A: Classic, cosy, fantastic garden view.

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

A: Check my orchids.

Q: How do you unwind?

A: I just take a seat anywhere in my house or do some gardening.

Q: Where do you spend most time at home?

A: The kitchen

Q: What's the best view from your window?

A: The garden, of course!

Q: How do you scent your home?

A: I love ginger fl ower room spray from Shanghai Tang and one from Fragonard.

Q: What's your favorite object at home?

A: That's hard to say.

Q: Where do you source furniture?

A: I buy most of my furniture in the Netherlands.

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