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70 square meters of compact, cleverly designed serenity
By Patsy Yang

IN delightful contrast to its old lane house facade, the 70-square-meter apartment rented by Elizabeth Gualtieri is unassuming and highly personal.

When Gualtieri first entered this renovated 1920s apartment in a quite lane on leafy Yuyuan Road, the space resonated with her immediately. "What impressed me first is its open-plan design and height of the ceiling. As an Australian, we like space!''

In her first year in Shanghai, Gualtieri had typically opted for a new high-rise block, a rather non-descript one-bedroom apartment decked out in Ikea, after getting so much conflicting advice about where to live and what type of place to choose.

The moment the one-year lease was up, and with much knowledge of the city, she was definitely looking for an apartment with more character, hopefully high ceilings and windows she could open. "And no lift! I seemed to spend the first year waiting for lifts and traveling in lifts," she said.

"At 70 square meters, it is a compact apartment, but its clever design makes it feel bigger. A large built-in bookcase and lots of built-in bedroom cupboards, often rare in Shanghai apartments, are the features I most appreciate," Gualtieri said.

The stylish French doors also add interest and flexibility to the space, allowing the living area to be divided, perfect for keeping cosy in winter.

Luckily, as the first tenant after renovation, she didn't need to make any changes to the apartment. The white walls and wooden floor made it an easy backdrop for all her own touches. "I was definitely seeking to create a haven for myself. When you travel a great deal, coming home needs to be a restorative experience. The style certainly has a feminine touch, but above all, I have created a relaxing space to 'flop in' after a busy day," she said.

The kitchen and living area are open-plan design with abundant natural light. The centerpiece of the living area is the rug Gualtieri discovered on a trip to Cambodia. "When friends drop by, we often just throw down cushions to sit on it," she said.

"My landlord's pieces, a traditional Chinese day bed and two old Shanghainese lounge chairs in the apartment initially set the tone to the apartment, and I have gone on to slowly added other pieces, as I discovered them."

Lamps have been added to give a romantic ambience in the evening. The colorful mix of cushion adds warmth too.

She understands that when choosing a color scheme the personality of the resident should shine. Against the expansive white walls, she has opted to mix a dash of color throughout. She finds that color stimulates and uplifts when it is dreary and overcast outside. "When I'm in need of a change, occasionally I swap over the cushion covers and lamp shades to create a fresh look and keep it interesting."

Having spent a career in hotel brand development, Gualtieri witnessed the rollout of numerous luxury bed concepts. "You could say I have become an expert on what goes into making a great night's sleep for guests."

She adopted the same hotel principles for her bedroom at home, including the mattress underlay, duvet, the best quality sheets and pillows, lamp dimmers and blackout curtains.

The bedroom, with built-in modern Chinese-style cabinets in white, is a quiet zone to have a good night rest. The French doors of the bathroom can be opened up and folded back between the bedroom and bathroom. It allows natural light to stream into the bathroom. The deep bathtub and the open shower area also give a spacious feeling to the small area.

Gualtieri wanted to give the space something sophisticated, quite classical but with a contemporary edge. She has been discovering the city's growing number of quality independent designers and getting to know the interesting people behind the designs.

"The location of my apartment offers all the practical advantages of inner city living too," she said. "Just a little way along the street, See Saw Cafe serves the best coffee in Shanghai and after I grab my morning coffee, it is just a five minute walk to the metro station, a very tangible advantage on those days when taxis are impossible to flag down."

Living here is increasingly more special to her because of the friendships she has made in the lane. "It feels like a local village in the heart of Jing'an District. I have even been 'adopted' by my neighbors whom I affectionately refer to as my 'Chinese parents.' My mama often brings me breakfast on the weekends and we always share a meal on festive days."

Ask The Owner

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

A: The entrepreneurial spirit of the city inspires creativity and collaboration - a dynamic combination. The growing list of international events and festivals is a testament to the maturing of the city.

Q: Describe your home in three words.

A: Open, tranquil, comfortable

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

A: I play music. Inspired by the jazz clubs in Shanghai, I am discovering jazz for myself.

Q: How do you unwind?

A: I love the facials by "It's the Sanctuary" at Taikang Terraces, definitely the best facials in Shanghai.

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

A: My bedroom. I have learned from experience that the secret to keeping pace in this city is a great night's sleep!

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

A: When I open the curtains in the morning, nothing beats a happy wave from my elderly neighbor, who lives in the building opposite. We're both early risers.

Q: How do you scent your home?

A: Fresh scented flowers, like gardenias, or my favorite local Elsie and Elva lemongrass and grapefruit scented soya wax candles.

Q: What's your favorite object at home?

A: My collection of books. Every year the Shanghai Literary Festival, at M on the Bund, always inspires me to add to it, with many books on my shelf signed by the visiting author.

Q: Where do you source furnishings in Shanghai?

A: Lamps: Illudeco, 450 Xiangyang Rd S. (illudeco.com); Furniture: Kava Kava, 167 Anfu Rd (kavakavahome.com), Muji: 309 Nanjing Rd W. (www.muji.com.cn); Linens & cushions: Rouge Baiser, 299 Fuxing Rd W. (rougebaiser-elise.com); Soya wax candles, (www.elsie-elva.com)

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