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Home as intimate museum
By Yang Di

A love affair with art and antiques as well as her own creative spirit led Martine Sarfatti to compose an art-filled apartment in the heart of Shanghai.

When the French native saw the 130-square-meter flat in the Xintiandi area, she knew it was perfect for her and her husband Alain Sarfatti to start their new adventure in Asia.

“I was so excited to move to Shanghai, another country, another life. I have never been before in Asia, although I was traveling a lot in Europe and North America after 14 years in Montreal and 25 years in Los Angeles. It was time to move on to a more exotic country,” she said.

While Martine was in charge of the moving in Los Angeles, Alain went on to search for the ideal home base for them in the city. After having visited 40 of them, finally in Xintiandi it was love at first sight: two perfect bedrooms, neat bathrooms and a pretty good-sized living room.

“The state of the apartment was impeccable yet unfortunately, it was furnished so we had to place the landlord’s furniture in storage to be able to use our own collection,” she said. She moved into the apartment in October 2010.

“It was a nightmare to try to fit all the furniture from our 200-square-meter previous Los Angeles flat into a 130-square-meter one. I had to give up some of the pieces.”

An interior designer herself, Martine is gifted when it comes to styling the space. She tried her best to mix all the furniture and works of art they own.

The pieces she selected for this Shanghai apartment are displayed to great effect in the calm, deluxe, gallery-like rooms with lots of French antiques from the 18th and 19th centuries. The walls hold their collections of paintings, most of them signed by contemporary artists including Anton Molnar, Danuta Rothschild and Louis Toffoli.

For her, the apartment is somewhat like a container that she can use like a museum to project her life. The result is a mix of past and present, light and dark, warm and cool.

An eclectic mix of furniture, trinkets and family heirlooms from both families mingle with delicate vintage textiles, vases filled with flowers, large paintings and subtly patterned furniture and fabrics. Some of the highlights include the classic Louis 15th commode with Chinese lacquered decor, five Chinese plates from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) sourced in France, the gilded mirror that Martine designed and produced in Beverly Hills as well as a wedding gift, a Lalique centerpiece plate.

Instead of having a typical sofa, Martine decided to redesign the Louis XVI day bed. “Over the years I had collected many pieces of fabric from several designers, so it was time to use them, and I’ve hand-sewn all 16 pillows on the bed as well as the others found in the apartment. I must say that I’m proud of it!”

The main background shades of the décor are beiges and browns, but in the paintings you can find a lot of blue, red, green and yellow that have a good vibe and a lived-in feeling.

“My style of decoration is a blend of inherited antiques, contemporary pieces of art, a selection of beautiful fabrics and lamps that in the end leads to timeless elegance,” she said.

It is a style reflected in her fashion tastes, too. Martine has a profound knowledge of fashion history, and her own style resonates with an understated luxury and femininity.

The natural glamour extends all the way to the master bedroom. The couple was fortunate enough to find a master bedroom suite with elegant decorative elements such as wooden floating shelves in the perfect tone that matches the floor, and mirrored closets at the entrance, including mouldings and bases, giving an overall feeling of sophistication.

“It allowed us to fit in our cherished family pictures in their silver frames, Alain’s father’s favorite antique Chinese vase from the Ming Dynasty, a collection of antique books, a rare pair of Sevres porcelain vases in blue and gold from the Napoleonic era, without forgetting an ink drawing from the 17th century Dutch Rembrandt school.

But the most striking fixture remains the large regency contemporary mirror that takes almost half the width of the room,” she said.

Ask  the  owner

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

A: For me, you have to be here. It is the new pole of attraction and living in Xintiandi, it is absolutely perfect. You can walk around. I feel very secure.

Q: Describe your home in three words.

A: Chic, comfortable, reflects our personality

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

A: Take off my shoes, smile!!!

Q: How do you unwind?

A: I love walking on the streets of Shanghai to discover this enigmatic city. For us Westerners, Shanghai is romantic.

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

A: In the living room. I like the light, the ambience created by the colors of the fabrics, the paintings and the furniture.

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

A: It is from the guest room. We can see all of the residences, clubhouse, trees, flowers and the beautiful architecture of the buildings. Before, it was the view from the living room at night with the lilong and high rises like in New York, but recently they destroyed the old houses to make place for a fabulous complex.

Q: How do you scent your home?

A: My two favorite scents are from two fabulous hotels that we stay in, when we can!  Candles from Le Burgundy and Hotel Fouquet’s in Paris.

Q: What’s your favorite object at home?

A: My cat Kiki. I never get bored looking at him. He is like a piece of art, but what a character.

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