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November 15, 2009

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Getaway philosophy inspires home design

LU Yongzhong, founder and chief designer of Banmoo, is perhaps one of the brightest new stars in Chinese furniture design. He has carved out his reputation not by drawing on formal training but by relying on his own sense of aesthetics and composition, as well as a curiosity about art and design.

A spirited and warm three-floor apartment close to Shanghai Zoo is the perfect getaway for Lu, his wife Niu Bin and their daughter. Lu graduated from the Architecture Department of Tongji University and Niu studied industrial design, so it's no surprise that they designed an attractive, yet functional home.

When they looked for their family home in 2004, they fell in love with this 200-square-meter apartment's interior layout.

"It's spacious in terms of both height and width, and the natural light just streams in through the generous windows,'' Niu says.

Space spreads out both horizontally and vertically. The couple has made structural changes to the house and applied their designer and artist eyes to make the place their own.

The space is designed into two zones - the first level instilling a natural and open atmosphere is considered the day zone and the second and third floor is defined as the more intimate night area. The emphasis is on a mixture of simplicity, functionality and sophistication, with different materials and built-in furniture kept to a minimum.

The living room on the first floor is full of light, plants and natural colors. It is divided into two areas - a seating area and the dining/kitchen area - by the carefully designed wooden stairway.

Walking into the living space paved with floor tiles, you first encounter a seating arrangement facing a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf. A laurel tree is set here next to the comfy sofa to help symbolize the spirit of the place. Pillows are carefully placed, as are pots, vessels, and other ceramics.

"The design is centered around this laurel tree in the center of the living space. We feel serene, peaceful, and restful when sitting under the tree,'' Niu says.

The couple have often traveled to Hangzhou and they enjoy sipping Longjing tea under the shade of towering trees. This was the inspiration for the laurel tree.

"Since we don't have much time to leave Shanghai these days, we tried to recreate the natural environment of our favorite lifestyle in our own house,'' she adds.

That natural touch adds to the getaway feel of their home, a place where you are overdressed if you're not barefoot.

The living area is a soaring, sunny space where the family of three can all gather at once on a Sunday afternoon, and it is to their credit that the room projects warmth, comfort and friendliness without skimping on visual delights.

The stylish touches include Ming-style chairs placed in the corner and Lu's design chair hanging on the wall as an art piece.

Calming space

The other half of the first level is dedicated to the open kitchen and the dining area. There's no formal dining room - just an eating area alongside the kitchen.

The couple likes artistic pieces placed here and there and uses their own design table and other objects around the home "like punctuation marks.''

The second level features a family room, where the couple wanted to create a calm space. They used chocolate, mushroom and deep red colors to make this happen.

The couple furnished the family room with sofas and armchairs they already had, adding soft furnishings in similar tones for a warm look.

The master bedroom hints of romance as brown tones and recessed lights instigate feelings of intimacy and warmth.

The en-suite bathroom is an extension of their personal retreat. Transparent glass walls divide the bathroom and bedroom, leaving the shower and bath tub in full view.

Practical features for daily use and spa-like relaxation additions were combined in the bathroom plan to provide the ultimate design. The couple is such a fan of the idea that they now have a see-through bathroom at home.

"We love spending time in our spa-like bathroom. It is the best retreat for us to unwind, pamper and relax,'' Niu says. "They also make a room feel intimate and bigger and maximize natural light from the bedroom windows.''

They used one wall of the bedroom to become a clothing storage showcase and replaced a closet door with drapes in the same brown tone to hide the wardrobe area. The overall design of the bedroom is meant to be restful and intimate.

Throughout the house, simple wood furniture, tableware, and lifestyle accessories designed by Lu look more like one-of-a-kind art pieces and help transform their home into a sanctuary.

Autumn is an ideal time to start planning interior decorating changes. Think about the color orange, which has a strong personality and will add zest and excitement to any living space. Orange tones are warm, comfortable, cozy, active and jovial. If changing your wall color to orange is too much, think about adding orange-toned decor pieces.

1: Container Set, 1,970-35,600 yuan, by Moooi, from Design Republic

Address: 5 Zhongshan Rd E1

Tel: 6329-3123

2: Low Bowl, 300 yuan; Curvy Servers, 90 yuan, by Bambu, from Nest

Address: 2/F, International Artist Factory, Lane 210 Taikang Rd

Tel: 6473-6193

3: Hercules, 330 yuan, by Magis, from Design Republic

Address: 5 Zhongshan Rd E1

Tel: 6329-3123

4: Vanity Case "Rice Measure," 350 yuan, from Shanghai Trio

Address: Unit 4&5, Lane 181 Taicang Rd

Tel: 6355-2974

5: Flo Step-Ladder, 4,550 yuan, by Magis, from Design Republic

Address: 5 Zhongshan Rd E1

Tel: 6329-3123

6: Chroma 1,800 yuan, by A00, from Nest

Address: 2/F, International Artist Factory, Lane 210 Taikang Rd

Tel: 6473-6193

Who are they?

Laurent Gelis and Mayako Kameda, artistic directors of Robert le Heros, a hip Parisian lifestyle brand.

Tell us about your work and which one you are most proud of.

Our most proud creation is the "Mademoiselle pouch" cosmetic case. It was introduced in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Are you currently involved in any projects?

During the year we are very happy to develop some new stories of design: a hotel in Brazil, a new identity for a famous French brand, a large creation of color charts for a new collection of "seb" (a famous French home appliance brand that produces toasters, irons, coffee machines ? more than 200 products were colored by Robert le Heros every year during the past five years).

Describe your design style.

Expression of nature, hand-drawn, specific association of colors, and poetry are the basis of all our creations. First of all is the creation of the fabrics because we love to produce beautiful textiles with good quality prints and special effects (matt, shinny, pearl ...).

What does your home mean to you?

The elegance is to build an interior design of character with a large collection of colors on the walls and beautiful fabrics (curtains, cushions). We love simplicity without ostentation.

What do you collect?

We collect samples of special and rich colors: pieces of old plates bought in flee markets, samples of fabrics, old Chinese paintbrushes.

Where would you like to go most in Shanghai?

We love the antique market! It's a nice place to find creative ideas.

What will be the next big design trend?

I think the next trend will be two things: The inspiration of a new lifestyle with beautiful organic products mixed with good textiles. I also think there will be creativity from famous artists without elitism: creations for everybody with a large range of prices.


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