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April 1, 2023

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An eclectic family home full of character

The 200-square-meter apartment in the leafy downtown melds history and the contemporary, international and local, inspiration and execution, light and space.

Overlooking the city skyline, the 28th-floor apartment is where Marie and Thomas Gerbault, with their son Jean and daughter Louise, have settled in their Shanghai life since October 2021.

The oversized windows with amazing views are perfect for watching the sunset. The openness of the living area not only interacts with views outside the windows but also works with natural elements like light. Natural light bathes the interior from early morning to late afternoon, and the oversized windows also mean that the well-lit space feels more expansive.

After visiting apartments in different neighborhoods of Shanghai, the French couple decided to live in the leafy downtown for its unique atmosphere.

The residential building at the corner of Huashan Road and Zhenning Road is within the area that is both historical with its architecture and peaceful with beautiful tree-lined streets. The neighborhood is also dotted with a variety of restaurants, cafes, concept stores and boutiques with everything being within a walking or biking distance, a fit for the couple’s living style.

Significant attention was paid to concerns for comfort, warmth and the practicalities of family living. The overall design creates a feeling of ease and brings out the best of relaxed family living.

“We wanted a layout with day and night areas well separated and a nice volume for the living area. With all three bedrooms on the second floor and all-in-one spacious living room, including the kitchen, we got it all,” said Marie, R&D director for make-up at an international beauty group. “It’s like a small house layout but on the 28th floor of a high-rise building with an incredible view.”

The condition of the apartment when they moved in was standard.

“We decided to paint the whole apartment walls with colors as we have done in every apartment we have lived in whether in Paris, Bogota or Rio,” explained Thomas, who is skilled at turning a rather ordinary space into a cozy abode.

“As expatriates, we by definition live far from home. That’s why the main goal in decorating our apartment is to recreate a new, warm and cozy home. For the last few years we’ve been traveling with all our furniture: It’s mostly Parisian furniture but we also bought furniture and decorative items in Colombia, Brazil and now China.”

He added that they prefer colored and rich vintage decoration to white and empty spaces.

“Our motto is ‘no empty walls no empty space,’” Thomas pointed out. “The idea is to feel like we’ve always lived in this place even though we just moved in a year ago from abroad. It’s mainly about trying to mix and match antiques, vintage and modern furniture, and a variety of decorative and art items we have collected over the years.”

The living area showcases an eclectic collection of art, furniture and nicknacks complemented by ambient lighting which captures the couple’s tastes and esthetics. It’s the space for the couple to unwind, to sing and dance, to entertain their friends in Shanghai.

There are a pair of armchairs designed by Thomas.

“I designed and manufactured these armchairs while we were living in Colombia. I worked with a Bogota-based carpenter. The chairs made of Acacia wood have clearly a 1950s Nordic design inspiration, and they are entirely handmade. I would like to make another prototype here in China,” he stated.

A Chinese Art Deco-style round-display cabinet placed next to the dining area is another highlight piece.

“We bought it in an antique shop in France and after having traveled to Colombia and Brazil, it’s back here in China!” Thomas remarked.

Artworks and decorative objects play a significant role in achieving the desired look. The couple love the lithograph from Chinese contemporary artist Xue Song, whose style of collage is characterized by the burning ready-made images and his rearrangement of the burnt fragments on the canvas.

“We also bought two lithographs from French contemporary artist Prune Noury. It represents the statues of two terracotta Chinese girls. These statues have been buried somewhere in China like the terracotta army in Xi’an,” Thomas observed.

Another colorful painting on display is made by an Indian artist who was a school friend of Marie when she lived in the United States. It’s an abstract painting of India’s famous spring festival of color Holi.

“It’s so colorful and decorative, which matches well in contrast to more traditional items we have,” she said.

At the entrance, an ancestor photo raises the curiosity of many visitors.

“It was a tiny photo of one of my Vietnamese ancestors from my mother’s family. I got it enlarged and displayed on the wall. He was a kind of provincial noble in north Vietnam, and it’s funny to have my ‘ancestor’ here with me in China,” Thomas noted.

“These pieces of art we bought well represent our approach to decoration: trying to be eclectic,” he added.


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