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November 7, 2010

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Giving it the welcome factor not the wow factor

HOW does a Dutch furniture retailer decorate her Shanghai family home? With a simple French-style feel, of course.

Some homeowners renovate their home to bring it from drab to fab. But in the case of Leontien Nipshagen and Capone Chowdhry, their purpose was not to have a wow effect. What was more important to them was that it met the needs of their family and made the space look comfortable, clean and welcoming.

Nipshagen's home is a perfect example of how simply decorated rooms can provide a relaxed, livable character. It proves that you needn't spend a fortune to achieve this homey, welcoming look.

When searching for an ideal house for the growing family, her criteria was a four-bedroom house or apartment with simple but good quality renovation, easy access for her newly-born baby, an outdoor space no matter whether it be garden or balcony, lots of light and quiet surroundings.

"I found this 200-square-meter lane house hidden on Yuyuan Road very suitable for our family needs. It is owned by a French artist who did the basic renovations according to her own taste," she said. "It was well-done everywhere and simply a very comfortable house to live in. We did not have to change much. It was ready for moving in when we rented it."

Hailing from the Netherlands, Nipshagen comes from a furniture-manufacturing family and her father has spent almost 40 years in the furniture industry. "I worked in his factories, offices and later decided to do retail myself," she said.

The Dutch woman opened Casa Pagoda on Taikang Road in 2005, with her husband, who designs and takes care of the production. Today, the furniture store is one of the most popular among the local expat community and a new shop was recently opened in Beijing. Most people appreciate the designs because they fuse Oriental and European elements to create interesting pieces.

"Our concept is to mix different styles in a nice and trendy way, just like our house," Nipshagen said. "I don't like to have only one style of furniture in my house though we really love the vintage style most of all."

Surely the couple furnished their house with a collection of Casa Pagoda furniture pieces and accessories. "We have furnished the house in a very French way, with some vintage style and French country style as well. And we added a few pieces of industrial-looking furniture which go well with the French look of the house itself," she said.

"We chose the French-style furniture because it is an old French-style house! Vintage-style pieces, or antique retro-looking furniture, sit just as happily in an urban setting. It is very hip and trendy these days."

While the couple didn't have much control over the architectural elements and the original interior design, they made the most of those they had to ensure that they contributed to the interior's sense of relaxed style.

The living and dining room on the ground floor sets the tone for the whole house. Comfortable furniture, cozy texture and rustic wood create a homely feel in the light-filled space. Here, the abundant light comes in through French windows and the white wall and neutral, earthy color furniture help maintain the light, creating the illusion of space and feeling stress free. It is the room where the homeowners come to put their feet up and unwind after a long, tedious work day.

The sitting area is a focal point for there is nothing more restful than sitting and looking out to the garden, enjoying the sunshine.

From classical touches like the candle holders to rustic accents like wooden animal statues, Nipshagen loves to display an eclectic assortment of possessions to ensure that the decoration of the living room does not take itself too seriously. The little touches sit surprisingly well with vintage and French country-style furniture.

For the master bedroom, there is a simple rule - forget all the theoretical design talk and just go with what you like the most. It should be a serene oasis where the worries of the day melt way. Nipshagen wanted the clean lines in this spacious space so she put in a high poster bed which suits the room and sets the tone, while accent pieces, lighting and soothing colors define her personal style.

"Our baby room is quite small. We chose the room for him as we think babies like to be in a small room, which is much cozier than a huge space where they might feel lost easily," Nipshagen said.

"Our home is a place to rest, to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, to relax with our baby and enjoy nice dinners with friends."

Ask the owner

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

A: Shanghai is an exciting city. We meet new people every day and there are plenty of events and happenings to keep us busy. If we need a break we have a nice house in a quiet lane to hide from the city's hustle and bustle.

Q: Describe your home in three words.

A: Cozy, comfortable, beautiful.

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

A: Hug my son.

Q: How do you unwind?

A: Take off my shoes, sit on the floor and play with my baby, cook dinner for my family and watch a movie in bed.

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

A: In the living room.

Q: What's the best outside view?

A: From our bedroom we can see part of the lane and look down into our tiny garden.

Q: How do you scent your home?

A: We have Casa Pagoda's Vela diffusers all over the place. They smell fantastic and are subtle enough.

Q: What's your favorite object at home?

A: I love our glass two-door cabinet. It displays all kinds of fun objects and is a beautiful piece by itself.

Q: Where do you source furniture in Shanghai?

A: We own a furniture store, so we fully furnished our home with our own products. We used several different styles in our home and the look can be best described as vintage and French country.

Who is he?

Internationally acclaimed designer Samuele Mazza is the creative director and designer for Italian furniture brand Visionnaire.

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

I'm proud of my work in general because I like to do only items and projects that I like. The most successful project was Visionnaire which grew up so quickly and became a worldwide brand in a short time. Visionnaire is more like my baby as I put a lot of my energy, passion and love into it. Yes, it is my baby. I really love her.

Are you currently involved with any projects?

I'm involved in many projects all over the world but actually nothing in China so far. But I am thinking about doing some projects in China and looking for a chance to do it. As we know, China is a big market and has a lot of potential. So if I get a chance, I will try in China.

Describe your design style.

It is luxury for young and fashionable people. My clients are mostly trendsetters. They have the feeling of what is up-to-date and glamorous. They enjoy life and pursue new things ... always innovating.

Where are you most creative?

I am creative in every way. I've been a fashion designer, event designer, set designer, wedding designer, interiors and furniture designer. The brain has no border. Creativity is something in the air you can't lose in one case.

What does your home mean to you?

My home is the private and public place. It is my "airport" that I leave from and go back to. It is like my free zone. I can totally relax in my home and forget any unhappy things from work. I feel just like a bird who can fly in the sky. When I stay at home, I belong to myself and I am pretty peaceful in my heart.

What do you collect?

I collect artworks which are inspired by fashion ... shoes, bras, glasses, ties, bags, all kinds of art that are relative to fashion. I really like fashion stuff, beautiful stuff.

What will be the next big design trend?

The next design trend will be relative to nature and comfort. People will prefer emotional style. Furniture is not just a product but more related with people's emotions. As most people are living under pressure from work and life, home is a place for people to totally relax and de-stress. That's why furniture is taking a more important place in our life.


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