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March 9, 2012

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Bold and beautiful

AN imposing 1930s apartment building on the outside hides a home that has been reworked into an unexpectedly modern, glamorous living space for a family of five.

Emily Young, her husband Richard Young and their three girls Annabel, Edwina and Audrey moved into this 300-square-meter flat inside the Hanray Apartments three years ago.

Built in 1939, the building is structurally sound and its recessed lobby entrance still retains its original doors. It is named after the owners, a wealthy Sephardi Jewish couple named Hannah and Ray Joseph. Each flat features spacious rooms and high ceilings.

Emily Young says she had no shortage of ideas when it came to interior decoration. Her biggest challenge was to create a look that would sit comfortably within an old period property.

"The great thing about this old building is that no one had ever renovated it," she said. "To me it is the beauty of it as many original features are retained."

Though the old doors and windows provided character, the couple needed to upgrade the apartment for modern living.

She started out with a new palette that fitted her notion of contemporary style.

"I tried to blend the color of dark timber by painting grey on the hallway walls and aubergine in the master bedroom. And certain paint colors were created to make my collection of artwork pop in the living areas," Emily Young said.

Young has some stunning contemporary art and she had a real sense of how she wanted to bring the art and furniture together.

The couple's art collection includes pieces from Australia, Hong Kong and Shanghai.

"I will always remember my first visit to Robert Hannaford's studio in Riverton, south Australia, over two decades ago," she said. "The painting I bought that day is still one of my favorite pieces."

The Australian said her interest in art is evolving as she seeks out new experiences and knowledge.

"Life as art fascinates me, such as performances by Tehching Hsieh, Wolfgang Laib and Richard Long," she said. "But I'm always drawn to a story told in an oil painting. Liu Xiaodong is doing this well in China right now."

Some of the pieces on display include "Tram" by Hong Kong artist Yeung Tong-lung, "Anika" by US artist Alex Katz, the portrait of Jimmy James by Australian artist Robert Hannaford and "La Dolce Vita" by Russian artist Konstantin Bessmertny.

Young rotates their art collection to keep the place fresh. The apartment, according to her, is decorated in a contemporary spirit.

The blue paint on the living room walls was inspired by a an art piece in their collection.

The color creates a cool backdrop for a mix of objects and furniture while at the same time making the artwork stand out.

Young's love of art and design has led to a diverse collection of pieces from unusual sculptures to designer furniture. Each item has been lovingly selected and incorporated into the decor theme.

A smock chair and Fjord ottoman by Patricia Urquiola, a sofa by Debra Little at DEEM, and a 1940s chaise by a Brazilian design trio create an artsy but harmonious sitting area in the living room.

"No one style or period of furniture interests me," Young said. "It is how furniture is put together that can make it appealing.

"Designer chairs are wonderful, each with their own personality. A vintage Brazilian rosewood and leather armchair and a BDDW sofa are on my wish list. But the Patricia Urquiola chair and ottoman, and the vintage chaise will be with us for a life time."

The sun room/dining room next to the living room gets the natural light. Emily Young loves to spend time here, reading art books, working on the computer and listening to music. And it's the best spot for a view of leafy trees on Huaihai Road M.

The apartment has a great layout: a very long hallway connecting the living and dining rooms on the left and girls' space on the right. Along the hallway, there is a master bedroom and the eldest daughter's bedroom on one side, while the kitchen, bathroom and storage room are on the other side. Each room features a different color theme.

"The girls' room is a great space for the children to feel free," Young said. "Our eldest helped me paint a tree mural on one wall. A friend helped me make insect wallpaper, which is inspired by an image in a magazine, where someone had pinned pages from an entomology book to the wall. And our youngest two have done their best to improve it with scribbles."

Young said the previous tenants had a swing and a cubby house, which was tempting to keep.

"In the end, we needed a big table for craft projects, homework and meals. This room is also great for Sundays when friends visit - the kids do their thing down their end, and we relax on the other side."

Who is she?

Fei Yin (pictured right) is a Shanghainese graphic designer and founder of the paper design brand "whiteismycolour."

Tell us about some of your works, and the one you are most proud of.

I've been working as a print based graphic designer for over 11 years, having helped many businesses successfully create their brand identities through my contextual and innovative approach. I value intelligent creative thinking and demand high levels of craft and finishing. I'm proud of every project I've worked on so far, the most well-known identity projects in Shanghai are Wagas, Room 28 and the Pasha Turkish Restaurant.

Since I have set up the paper design brand "whiteismycolour," I've been very busy with the excitement of artistic greeting card design work. I'm especially fond of the water-color hand painted designs. As a constant computer user, I really found myself enjoying hands-on painting as a return to my days as an art student.

Are you currently involved with any project?

I'm currently working on a significant monograph project for one of the largest Canadian architecture firms and setting up the whiteismycolour online store.

Describe your design style.

I believe that I have sensitive eyes observing everyday objects and re-interpreting them in a unique way.

Is there any designer you look up to? Who inspired you out of the design circle?

Lately I am reading about Paul Barnes' typography work a lot. And I would like to mention two names I think were the most inspiring designers I met last year: Katherine May, the British textile designer, diligent and constantly evolving her modern textile work, and Nicholas Jones, a book sculptor based in Melbourne. He makes astonishingly delicate sculptures out of old books.

What do you collect?

I have phases where I collect different things. I recently collected timber chopping boards of all shapes and sizes; this might seem odd to you, but I love them.

They have big character when on display in the kitchen and as well they're very useful.

For my work, lately, I'm collecting images and profiles of artists and designers who were the pioneers in the 1950's and 60's visual arts.

What does your home mean to you?

Being in my kitchen to start cooking. I love cooking a lot. It's my way to unwind.

Where do you like to go most in Shanghai?

Sichuan Road bridge, the entrance of the Suzhou Creek area; RAM, some bars have good views on the Bund; the stationery wholesale market on Fuzhou Road Wen Hua Mall; the former French concession and Mr. Willis in particular; wet markets and the "dabing youtiao" shop on Yongkang Road.

What will be the next big design trend?

I'm not sure what's in store for the entire design industry. But for printing graphic design, the return to older printing processes like screen-printing, letterpress printing, and techniques such as linocut, block and stamp printing and transfers and etching will come back to be the next big trend. And also the illustrative and hand-drawn look, embracing the imperfections and character of something made by hand will continue to be relevant.

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

A: The best thing about living in Shanghai is witnessing the re-emergence of a great city.

Q: Describe your home in three words.

A: Relaxed, lived in, happy.

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

A: Fend off Rufus (the dog) and Marty (the cat) who wait by the door.

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

A: Running up and down the hall between the kitchen and three girls. I miss an open kitchen.

Q: How do you unwind?

A: Cooking dinner with the family, reading from the piles of books and magazines that keep accumulating.

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

A: Huaihai Road M., best in spring when the leaves are out on the trees.

Q: How do you scent your home?

A: Candles, but you can't beat the smell of a cake in the oven.

Q: What's your favorite object at home?

A: We don't have a favorite piece - to us they all fit together like one massive jigsaw puzzle.

Q: Where do you source furniture in Shanghai?

A: The side of the road has delivered a few gems.


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