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November 21, 2010

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Letting the light into a private sanctuary

LIFE doesn't get much better than relaxing in a comfy chair or enjoying a good meal in a chilled-out environment in your personal sanctuary, does it? Hidden along a run-down lane in the center of this busy city is a four-story renovated lane house that is the new home to an American couple and their newborn baby.

Only when one proceeds to walk into the house through the iron gates does the mystery unfold - an impeccable start for a relaxing discovery. From the small garden to the sun room, living area, and all the way to the second floor's family room, a sense of warmth, calmness and happiness waft through the air. A neutral palette and a relaxed yet sophisticated mix of furniture pieces make this 1920's house shine.

Having lived in the city for four years, Andy and Lindsay Klump had looked at close to 40 houses, all of which seemed dull compared with this four-story house tucked inside a run-down lane. They liked the 250-square-meter building's 1920s French architectural style - the windows on three sides for great views of the trees, the abundant light and its spacious interior layout.

"You can actually hear the birds in the morning," Lindsay said. "It's kind of our own oasis in such a bustling city. It is the perfect space for the eye and the body to rest within a setting of cozy seclusion."

While the house was upgraded when the couple purchased it, there were still a lot of structural problems and areas clearly needed to be improved. Inside, the floorplan was designed to maximize views of the beautiful landscaped grounds. "We raised the top floor roof by 1 meter into a more usable space instead of a cramped room. To figure out how to make an old Shanghai home, usually lacking storage spaces, into a modern, practical living space is a challenge," Lindsay said.

So the biggest issue was getting as much storage as humanly possible. Besides some built-ins, the couple exacted storage anywhere they could.

They also added additional functional spaces to the house such as the well-lit sun room in the garden and the balcony on the second floor to give it a personal touch. More windows were added because the homeowners tried to let the natural elements do the work for them as the house gets wonderful light, bathing the whole living spaces.

Lindsay said creating a sun room in the garden enables them to bring a touch of the outdoors inside, even when Mother Nature does not cooperate. The sun room serves as a transition between the outdoor and indoor. "And it is simply a tranquil place, a small oasis at home in which to retreat. We love dining and entertaining our friends there."

"We also transformed the small kitchen on the first floor into something more suitable for Western living. Dramatic archways cultivate a cool vibe; they also separate the sitting area from the open kitchen," Lindsay said.

After months of renovating, furnishing and decorating, the house reflects the homeowner's taste in expressing individuality and celebrates the beauty and wisdom of various cultures. They wanted the texture and interest, and they knew the feel of the house couldn't be too uptight, just simple, fresh and warm.

Lindsay knew she wanted a blend of different cultures and styles. "It is an original French-style house but we added modern Chinese furniture, African accessories and brought different cultures together," she said.

They filled the place with a mix of clean-lined furnishings, a balance of traditional and contemporary styles. The home's neutral palette is the ideal background for the furniture and art, making them stand out in an elegant manner.

The arrangement of the house is straightforward. The front door opens to an inviting sitting area on the first floor where the couple receive guests. The small sitting space, created with only one couch and two chairs, has a relaxed feel to it. "We mixed and matched different materials like old tiles, pearls, wood and interior stucco on the first floor that added to the space's contemporary feel," Lindsay said.

The family room on the second floor represents Lindsay's evolving love affair with Asian style. Avoiding clutter doesn't mean you have to stick to neutral shades of paint, according to her. Even if other walls are purely white, an accent wall painted in Chinese red provides a splash of color and brings warmth to the room.

"We wanted the family room practical and unique at the same time. I don't like to display a group of small ornaments but I love eye-catching statement pieces. Red is very bold for the wall paint but it provides character when going with white as the dominant color," she said.

The couple wanted the top-floor master bedroom to be a country style but with a modern look. The rustic materials provide the country element, and the smoother materials provide the modern element.

"The master bathroom skylight allows natural light to enter every morning over our shower. We decided to use a lot of natural stones and wood flooring, painted white, as you might find in an old, rustic country home," Lindsay said. "This same Mediterranean stone can be found on the ground floor encapsulating our fireplace. The continuity of certain materials throughout the house creates cohesiveness."

"When designing our house, we thought it was very important to think of the house as a whole first, not simply room by room. Otherwise, each room or area would feel quite detached from the mood in the rest of the house," she said. Ask the owner

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

A: The endless surprises and conveniences. You can walk out your front door and find whatever you need within a 7-minute radius.

Q: Describe your home in three words.

A: Spirited, ambitious and fickle.

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

A: Light up our garden and forget we are in China.

Q: How do you unwind?

A: With our newborn in arms?

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

A: My mood dictates this on any given day. We have a beautiful and spacious chef's kitchen, but regretfully, I don't know how to use it. I love our master bedroom and can stay up there for hours, looking out the window and watching life around me.

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

A: Pomegranate and mandarin trees. Unbeknown to us when we purchased them, we discovered they were fruit bearing not too long ago. We have been eating the mandarins ever since.

Q: How do you scent your home?

A: With the wind. We just open our windows.

Q: What's your favorite object at home?

A: For me, it's our red, green and yellow bamboos painted on canvas. Our Brazilian friend's mother, Heloiza Montuori, created this dynamic and memorable work of art. For my husband, it's our solar panels on our rooftop. It's his passion (and obsession).


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