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September 24, 2022

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A bit of the world in a luminous room

The interior of photographer Fabiola Liacy De Felip’s rented apartment in a leafy neighborhood in downtown Shanghai has a spontaneous, eclectic feel to it.

Having the space to respect the local culture is important to her, but she also values introducing a little of the rest of the world through pieces that have their own stories.

French-Italian Liacy De Felip and her Italian husband Mauro De Felip have lived in France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Italy, the United Kingdom and China (Hong Kong and now Shanghai).

Years spent relocating have had a significant impact on the layout and color scheme of the house, from the couple’s choice of the cabinet’s signature shade of grayish blue from Flamant, a well-known Belgian brand, to the cozy dining area inside the kitchen, which is a typical arrangement found in Italian homes.

The 300-square-meter apartment offers generous space to decorate with the pieces that Liacy De Felip has collected over the years.

“Although we mostly lived in houses or duplex/triplex in the past years, we now enjoy living on one floor without stairs,” she said. “We didn’t make any changes to the flat layout but decided not to put the dining table in the big living room. The kitchen is spacious, and we preferred the Mediterranean way of actually staying in the kitchen while cooking and having meals with friends.

“We love a cozy, inviting atmosphere at home and we love to have people around, so we left an empty space in the living room to move easily.”

Liacy De Felip, who “accidentally retired” as a marketing manager with an international fast-moving consumer goods company, pursued her passion for photography in London. She moved to Shanghai in 2017 when her husband moved to the city for a work assignment.

“Since then, I have been captivated by the amazing stories that pop up from different corners of the streets. The street is my playground. Lights and shadows constantly tempt my eyes. And as people simply fascinate me, they are naturally my favorite subject,” she said.

She’s fascinated by life in Shanghai, the intriguing moments of early mornings on the Bund, the genuine, and soulful Miao minority people she encountered during numerous trips to the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Her home is evidently the best spot to hang some of her works, from the riverfront scene in black and white to the portraits of Miao people.

“The gaze of the people posing in front of my lens is always a beautiful promise, especially when I see my own reflection appearing in their pupils. It reveals who I really am in their eyes,” Liacy De Felip said. “The way two beings encounter each other through photography is one of life’s great miracles.”

Different living environments and cultures are a great gift and inspiration for the photographer but they also bring different memories through the furniture and decorative items collected during travels.

“We loved to collect wherever we were living. We like a lot of northern European style, and now we are mixing that with Asian elements,” she said.

Liacy De Felip opted for simplistic, elegant, subtle patterns and colors for her house. “For example, our walls are always painted in plain white. That gives more luminosity to the house, and it helps enhance frames and furniture.”

The backdrop is neutral, but the furniture and decoration items are an eclectic and happy mix. She doesn’t labor over matching periods or styles, but considers each piece of furniture, object or artwork in relation to its neighbor.

There are more traditional pieces like the antique Japanese cabinet, and then there are bolder touches such as the striking portrait painting by Basmat and a painting depicting tai chi masters on the Bund.

“This painting of tai chi masters is dear to my heart because it is inspired by a photograph I took. When a local painter saw my work on my WeChat Moments, he fell in love and decided to paint it in his particular style (only in two colors). We discussed the direction, the two colors to use, and he invited me to see the process. Beyond the painting itself, it expresses the beauty of a connection between people who have open hearts, the connection between two cultures and the love for humanity,” she said.

Other Asian elements include a lion statue and an elegant Goddess of Mercy statue, as well as a plank side table in rich black lacquer from Zhejiang Province dating back to the 19th century. A recent purchase was the Chinese ancestor paintings from Shanghai-based Studio NooSH, which give an Oriental touch to the living area.

The spacious living area leads to the balcony, which offers the best city views.

“There are times when I’m here in the early morning and take advantage of the best that Shanghai has to offer. Looking at the city’s skyline is really a haven of peace,” she said.


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