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February 24, 2012

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Bold use of color creates 'hippy chic' apartment

TRANSLATING hot hues into a home requires a touch of daring for most. But Armelle Wu-Dandrieux has a magical ability to use strong colors without overdoing it, ensuring a home that looks and feels different than most - a style she calls "hippy chic."

The apartment she shares with her husband and two sons in a high-rise on Anfu Road combines strong ethnic details with bold injections of color. This 160-square-meter apartment is full of character, thanks to a canny mix of Chinese antiques, modern designs and inspirational pieces.

The walls, cabinets, shelves and tables feature an array of items - fresh flowers, old postcards and family pictures to name a few.

"One of the first things I do when I move in to a new house is to paint the walls," said Wu-Dandrieux, who has lived in Shanghai for three and a half years. "Especially when you live in a foreign country, you never feel really at home unless you have a comfortable, colorful house."

Wu-Dandrieux moved to Taiwan in 1990 to study Chinese and met her husband there. Having lived in Taiwan for 12 years, the couple accumulated a collection of Chinese furniture and Asian knickknacks.

"I could never live in a furnished apartment or a minimalist space. I need to inject my style in every detail," she said.

Hot hues, exotic finds and vibrant patterns are her staples. Beautiful embroidered ethnic fabrics and cushions made from cotton combined with Chinese flower prints soften the starkness of the upholstery and make both the living room and bedrooms cozy.

Wu-Dandrieux once again proved a relaxed and happy home does not require interior designing and careful matching of paint, accessory colors and fabrics. Instead, she simply allowed the rooms to evolve over time, letting them change to suit their moods, needs and lifestyle.

Looking at the quilts, throws, blankets, wall hangings and cushions, she said she likes to sew and loves mixing and matching different fabrics.

Very often Wu-Dandrieux went to an antique furniture shop on Shaanxi Road S. with her best friend Catherine Sayous, who also likes the "hippy chic" style.

"The shop is full of brown chairs and sofas covered with ugly purple or green velvet," Wu-Dandrieux said. "We were thinking why do they use this kind of fabric? That was why we started to set up Tsaiyun Studio (where they restore old furniture) and envision what to make of those original furniture pieces."

The pair found a workshop space on a Wuxing Road lane and started searching dusty and dark alleys to find originally shaped pieces. They consider it an exciting adventure, like looking for treasure. Broken stools and discarded cupboards are like "gold." "It's a very eco-conscious approach. We save old wood furniture from being thrown away and give each piece a new life by repairing them, treating the wood, giving them colors so each one becomes unique," Wu-Dandrieux said.

They use recycled and eco-friendly products as much as possible.

"We very much enjoy the creative process and feel content to contribute, even modestly, to waste reduction and heritage conservation," she added.

Besides the aesthetic aspect of the apartment, Wu-Dandrieux said she is lucky to have a lot of built-in closets so they can store everything they've accumulated through the years.

She spends most of her time in the kitchen, cooking, working on her computer with a cup of coffee, or reading magazines.

"The kitchen is quite big by Shanghai standards and there is a whole bare wall I could use to cheer up the room," she said.

Wu-Dandrieux found a window cabinet where she can display beautiful ceramics and tea boxes, then a table with a batik on top and colorful postcards and pictures on the wall.

"I store all the utensils, spices in beautiful pots and baskets since I like to have everything within easy reach."

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

A: You discover new places and get surprised every day. I like the fact that Shanghai has many faces, a very modern one with skyscrapers lined with trendy shops, restaurants and big shopping malls and a traditional one with old houses, small noodle restaurants and repair shops, fruit and vegetable vendors on the street. I tend to narrow my Shanghai life to the former French concession area, where I live and work, and the best thing is that I can ride my bike everywhere. It's more like a big neighborhood and it doesn't feel like we live in one of the biggest cities on earth, which leaves us a lot of new areas to explore on weekends.

Q: Describe your home in three words.

A: Colorful, hippy-chic and welcoming.

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

A: I hug my kids and ask about their day, check their homework and then cook dinner.

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

A: In the kitchen.

Q: How do you unwind?

A: I read magazines, fashion and decoration mostly. I have an addiction and can't help buying them. While the piles are getting too big, I go through them with a pair of scissors to keep the articles and pictures I want and I organize them in folders. I also read a lot.

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

A: We have an incredible view over the former French concession. We are on the 10th floor, facing south with no other tall buildings in front of us. In summer it is very green, only trees and old houses.

Q: How do you scent your home?

A: I use lots of essence, classic ones like sandalwood. It reminds me of the temples in Taiwan. I often buy flowers but unfortunately very few are really fragrant, so I also use essential oils, mostly jasmine and citrus scents, and scented candles.

Q: What's your favorite object at home?

A: My collection of Milofo (the happy Buddha) and, among them, one in porcelain, the first one I got that my father made for me. Most of the others are also presents from family and friends, so very precious. I also treasure my collection of chinaware and ceramics. My father is a ceramist, so I was surrounded by porcelain since my childhood. A few objects at home are very dear to me and have been traveling with us from Taiwan to France and Shanghai.

Q: Where do you source furniture in Shanghai?

A: Since we've been living in Shanghai, I bought a few pieces in antique shops on Shaanxi, Yongjia, Jianguo or Jiashan roads but I've been more and more disappointed by the quality and the price. There are a few shops like Cocoon, Loushi, 100 percent, which have a good selection of small furniture and decoration items. But all together, it is not that easy in Shanghai to find furniture with good quality, design and reasonable price. That's one of the main reasons why we opened Tsaiyun Studio.

Who is she?

Ayala Serfaty was born in Tel Aviv, Israel, in 1962. She completed her BFA in fine arts at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem and the Middlesex Polytechnic in London.

During the past 20 years she has exhibited in museums around the world, including the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, and the Beelden Ann Zee Sculpture Museum in The Hague.

She is now working on a piece commissioned by the Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina.

She has also designed lighting and furniture for Aqua Creations Lighting & Furniture Atelier.

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

The project I am most proud of is the "Stand By" Custom Installation at the Oceanographic Park in Valencia (Spain), inaugurated in December 2002. The Oceanographic Park is a part of an ambitious project, a City of Arts and Sciences, which holds an opera house, a science museum, and a cinematographic planetarium. The main building in the Oceanographic Park, located at the center, was designed by architect Felix Candela. It is a two floor building made of a very thin type of white concrete. I was asked to design a piece to connect the lower floor to the upper floor on ground level and fill in a vast open space between them. I created a flock of flat, luminous objects floating in space. The challenge was the structure of the building which did not allow attaching the chandelier to the ceiling. I solved the problem by fixing it on three sides instead and hence created a large freestanding chandelier. The chandelier consists of 49 "Stand By" shades. Each one is 61.5 inches in diameter, 8.5 inches high. They are made of two halves, in laser-cut metal, covered with crushed silk in gold.

Are you currently involved with any project?

My latest one-off furniture pieces and soma light sculptures are exhibited at Cristina Grajales Gallery in New York City. I am working on a commission (Soma light Sculpture) for the Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina. Aqua is always involved in several projects at any given time.

Describe your design style.

Functional art, organic style which is emotional and feminine.

Where are you most creative?

I am most creative when I am in an inspiring environment, which can be anywhere, any time. The point is to make a connection in my mind to the things I see around me.

What does your home mean to you?

Everything. I am a family person and my home is my base and I like to be there around my loved ones. Home is my favorite place and it's in Tel Aviv, my favorite city. It is the place we created for ourselves.

What do you collect?

I always collect materials for my research and product development, right now it is fibers and glass and samples of colors.

What will be the next big design trend?

I am not really into trends and I am known for my personal organic style. These days we see a lot of very individual and personal design styles, maybe this is a trend. I feel like with my new furniture and the felt textiles I have researched and developed I really came up with something of my own. Felt is one of the oldest textiles we know of, but I don't know of anyone in the design world that has used it in the way I have.


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