FRENCH couple Emmanuel and Florence Paget have crafted a warm family space in the center of Shanghai.
When the couple first traveled to Shanghai in 2004, little did they know it would be the beginning of a long-time life experience for the family of four.
“When we first arrived in the city, we focused on searching for lane houses due to their unique charm and history,” said Emmanuel Paget. “However, after a few visits, we noted two common themes: no brightness and very dangerous stairs combined with small rooms, which was not so practical for our two young children at the time.”
They ended up choosing an apartment in the center of the former French concession area on Fuxing Road W., which shares much of the same aesthetics as their style for interiors.
“It is bright, simple white paint and more important, totally empty of furniture. So we had total freedom to decorate it ourselves,” he said. “The space was nicely optimized and the living room view looking to the greenery outside was perfect for us.”
Florence Paget said they also like the apartment’s north and south exposure.
“It gives us two different outdoor views: the trees and the lovely Shanghainese lane,” she said. “Both views give us a very green atmosphere. We are at the level where we can see the abundant plane tree leaves on the Fuxing Road W. side and we can hear the birds on the other side.”
The couple kept the layout as it was, except a small balcony at the back of the kitchen that they closed in to add space.
The couple said they like to be surrounded by things they can both love and live with, and the same is true of this flat. “The ambience is very us, being comfortable with objects that we carefully chose over time and that we like to see here,” he added.
After moving in, the couple said they have added random discoveries that fit in with existing pieces.
“For the living room, we wanted a nice place without visible electronic equipment,” Emmanuel said. “So we ordered a piece of custom-made furniture to ‘hide’ the equipment. Over time, the computer has been replaced and is now a big screen in the room. Our next goal is to have it disappear again.”
The couple said they love their 1930s furniture, which they had found at Tony Lin’s warehouse. Lin sources 1930s furniture from all over China.
Old certainly doesn’t mean dull in the Paget’s house.
Florence said: “We love the contrast between contemporary pieces and 1930s ones, but nothing was really thought out in advance to be honest, more a ‘coup de coeur’ (impulse purchase).”
The result is an effortlessly unique look. As a result of their determination to let the interior evolve gradually, the flat doesn’t have the one-time settled feel you see in many modern apartments.
The space is in sober earthy tones with a touch of color and fun provided by various artworks.
Emmanuel said the mix of artwork is between pieces they found inspiring at first sight and those centered around the stories they tell.
“For example, one contemporary artwork in the dining room is a tribute to famous painters that were called by the army to find their best camouflages,” he said.
Having lived on a boat in Paris, Florence said there was really no furniture to bring with them since it was all integrated with the vessel. Thus they only brought artwork and personal items with them when they moved to Shanghai.
The family loves to spend time in the living room, which connects to the terrace. They especially love opening the windows wide when the weather is warm and enjoying the views of the greenery. It feels like an integration of nature and a continuity of space.
Ask the owner
Q: What’s the best thing about living in Shanghai? A: Energy
Q: Describe your home in three words. A: Cosy, personal, well located
Q: What’s the first thing you do when you get home? A: Kiss my kids and remove my shoes to jump on the sofa.
Q: How do you unwind? A: Doing nothing and going for a massage.
Q: Where do you spend most of the time at home? A: Living room, because of the lights and the view on two sides.
Q: What’s the best view outside your window? A: I hesitate between the top of the plane trees and the view of the lane. I have to admit I love standing on the balcony that overlooks the lane, smoking a cigarette and watching my neighbors and their habits.
Q: How do you scent your home? A: I have a great natural scent from France.
Q: What’s your favorite object at home? A: A 1930s desk.
Q: Where do you source furniture in Shanghai? A: Tony Lin or we make them.