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Bund throws light on creek bank pad

WHEN Massimiliano Guzzini and his wife Silvana Steidler first clapped eyes on this 207-square-meter apartment that lies on the banks of the Suzhou Creek and faces the Bund, they snapped it up in minutes.

The couple, who moved to Shanghai from their native Italy three years ago, had a very clear picture of what they wanted in a home: "We wanted something special to buy in Shanghai and to find a peaceful retreat, something with a great view and representative of the art deco architecture which exists in Shanghai,?Guzzini said.

Through an architect friend, they found the Embarkment Building constructed in the early 1930s by Shanghai-based British architects Palmer and Turner for tycoon Sir Victor Sasoon. "It was the house of our dreams and as we entered the view was just breathtaking.?

Although the house was divided into small rooms and the balcony was closed off, the couple had a strong vision of how this home should be °?- tailored to their needs and infused with modern loft feel. They knew they were onto a good thing.

Their vision realized, the resulting space makes an instant impact through its unexpected sense of height, space and light. The living room, dining area and the kitchen were melted into one large open-plan space, while a hallway panelled with traditional Chinese doors leads to the private spaces of bedrooms and bathrooms.

A huge bank of windows surrounds the living area, with a panorama that takes in Suzhou Creek and the skyline of Pudong. The city's ever-growing skyline fills the space and the couple is clearly in love with Shanghai's hectic charm.

"My favorite room in the house has to be the living room,?Guzzini said. "By making an open plan with the kitchen and dining area, you can just spend the entire evening there absorbing the views of the Bund and the Pudong skyline.

"The entire scene changes during the daytime. The ample sunlight pours in thanks to large windows that occupy approximately 100 degrees of the living area,?he said.

As an antidote to working hard, the couple love to entertain. "As Italians we love our food, and meal times are an important moment to spend together with friends and family,?Guzzini said. "The open kitchen and dining area is just perfect to set the scene. When we have our friends over for dinner, we gather at the table and spy on the city as it glitters.

"The lights of the city give a beautiful panorama and it looks like a picture from a postcard. I have one of the best views of Shanghai within my own house!?he added.

"When designing the space, we wanted to create our own special environment which was a combination of different styles, not easy to match and to put together,?Guzzini said. "The idea was to create an atmosphere in which we could find ourselves, our roots, our life experiences and interests all together.''

Both of them like to have soft neutral tones in the house so the result is a cool mix of white, brown, beige and wood shades, giving a clean slate into which they can introduce new color on a whim. "I love a bit of color though and so I insisted on putting laminated orange doors in the hallway. That was my personal touch to liven up a long hallway,'' Guzzini said.

The couple tried to give a rustic Chinese touch using reclaimed and natural materials and took time roaming the streets and warehouses to find pieces. The doors of the hallway, for example, are all different and were made by local craftspeople. In the main bathroom, a basin made from one big stone was given by their architect friend, who found it in the river close to his country house in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province.

Seating and colors connect the different areas and the look is clean and unfussy, with warmth provided by a range of design pieces and flashes of vibrant colors.

Simple white walls and reclaimed pine flooring help to highlight Guzzini's cocktail of furniture in clearly defined shapes, which incorporates contemporary classic pieces of design like the orange Eames rocking chair made in fiber glass, Eames Lounge Chair, Ara lamp and Rosy Angelis lamp designed by Philippe Starck for Flos, and of course, a Pizza Kobra table lamp designed by Ron Arad for iGuzzini.

After having become one of the three European main players in professional architectural lighting, iGuzzini entered China and won some prestigious projects such as the National Grand Theater in Beijing and Shanghai Oriental Art Center.

As general manager and vice chairman of iGuzzini China, Guzzini has overseen and managed the brand's development in China since 2005. At this house, he has installed iGuzzini lights created by some of the greatest architects and designers like Renzo Piano and Piero Castiglioni.

Along the corridor, in the entrance and rooms, Guzzini has used "deep frame?lighting designed by Castiglioni, consisting of a special downlight in a recessed fitting. "The concept of this application was to have general light but we used some narrow beam lamps in order to create light and shadow as a theatrical effect,'' he said.

Lighting is obviously the most important element in Guzzini's house, with the internal sources as well as natural lighting coming through the huge windows. "Light is playing an important role in our daily life, affecting our well-being in the office and our own apartment.''

Who is he?

Ben Shao is an industrial designer based in the United States and he is currently working at Whirlpool for KitchenAid Brand.

Talk about some of your work and name one you are most proud of.

I am responsible for the design of the entire KitchenAid countertop appliances suite, including the new metal toaster and slowcooker, as well as the color strategy for the KitchenAid flagship mixers every year. The project I'm most proud of is a personal one called the Balance Wheelchair (pictured right) which has received the IDEA Gold Award and People's Choice Award this year.

Are you currently involved with any project?

I'm involved in the development of all the new KitchenAid products. The Balance Wheelchair is also an ongoing project that we (the design team) continue to refine.

Describe your design style.

"Modestly surprising.?To me, visual harmony should be expected from a trained designer, but style breakthroughs are what make some products more respectable than others. Sometimes when you look at something at a glance, you think it's mediocre. But when you look closer, you discover something that is completely unexpected and pleasantly surprising. That's the feeling I aim for when I design.

Where are you most creative?

Where the commissioner of the design is not in sight.

What does your home mean to you?

A temple that enables me to do whatever I want uninterrupted.

What do you collect?

Toys, vinyl records and culinary tools.

Where would you like to go most in Shanghai?

Where I can enjoy a good conversation with my old friends.

What will be the next big design trend?

"Lite and Alternative.?The world is now populated with junk and more and more people are searching for the "lite?version of products without the unnecessary complexity and gimmicks. Take any product that you are frustrated with and put the word lite behind it. It will not only make you smile but also eliminate half of your headaches.


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