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Living well with trendy vintage decor

DECORATE your home or flat with deco, European rustic or old Shanghai vintage furnishings and accent notes. Han Jing checks out the home decor scene and tells you where to find that special something While minimalism has become increasingly popular in China, especially in furnishing and home decor, the vintage look also enjoys a local following.

"Every piece of vintage furniture tells a story," says Shanghai architect and furniture designer Xu Jianhua who has run a workshop and retail shop on Huaihai Road M. for 13 years.

He sells and replicates European rural and traditional-style furniture sourced from Italy, France, Spain and Australia.

The 54-year-old designer used to teach architectural esthetics for 13 years at Tongji University and took part in the initial planning of Red Town, an emerging creative complex on Huaihai Road W., next to Shanghai Sculpture Space, and offers cafes, clubs, restaurants, designer studios and offices.

"Vintage furniture has esthetic values and historic connotations from generation-after-generation of use," says Xu. "The right piece can represent the soul of an entire house."

The craft of furniture making also represents the culture of certain periods, he says. "I feel utmost respect for the craftsmen of old times. The constant pursuit of the perfect shape, material, wood grain, marking and proportion is fading away in today's society eager for quick success and instant profit."

Xu operates with scarcely any advertising.

In the 1920s and 1930s, a diversity of cultures mixed well in Shanghai where Shanghai Art Deco was popular. It was a smart blend of the Eastern and Western interior styles, indicative of freedom and openness, an eclectic form of elegant and stylish modernism.

"Introducing some Shanghai Art Deco in a living space can recall a glamorous old Shanghai and give expats a sense of local history," says Chen Lianzhong, who redesigns old villas.

Another lover and seller of vintage is 26-year-old Yvonne Ye who rents a 20-square-meter longtang (alleyway) apartment on Nanchang Road in Luwan District.

It's packed with vintage furnishings and more modern collectibles in a hilarious mixture. She wears old-style army-green canvas shoes, an old-fashioned outfit and a hip pair of framed glasses.

Her love affair with vintage stems from warm childhood memories. Her boyfriend has the same interests and together they opened their second-hand store a year ago. They mainly sell Shanghai Art Deco furniture and accessories.

They scour Shanghai and Tianjin for vintage and more modern decor from households that were relocated for urban construction.

"We like to pick styles that appeal to young people's tastes, compared with those in more traditional antique stores," says the Shanghai native. Customers often mistake her for the store manager, not the owner.

"Furniture is medium priced to be more affordable for young people," says Xiao Fan, Ye's boyfriend.

The stained-glass screens and cupboards in Shanghai Art Deco style are the best sellers in their store. Children's toy carts and tricycles hang playfully from the ceiling and walls.

"They are not for sale, they're only here to evoke childhood fun and remind people that vintage itemsdon't have to be dull and drab." Some vintage furniture stores

Massenet Garden

Address: 216 Nanchang Rd

Tel: 5306-2556

Antiques Garden

Address: 44 Sinan Rd

Tel: 5382-1055

Bai Sher Vintages & Ceramics

Address: 866 Yan'an Rd M., near Shaanxi Rd N.

Tel: 138-1790-4529

Vintiques-Shanghai Art Deco

Address: 525 Shaanxi Rd N.

Tel: 6255-7288

Old Shanghai Antiques

Address: 201 Jinxian Rd

Tel: 6253-4915, 138-1773-3223

Sheng John Workshop

Address: 2018 Huaihai Rd M.

Tel: 6283-7869 Tips on vintage items

Decide on a keynote for your space, Western or Chinese, then you can add a dash of decor from either East or West in a mix-match scene.

Oak, walnut and cherry are favored for classical and rustic European furniture.

Value of vintage furniture depends mostly on rarity, not age.

Some wood furniture has already been treated for damp before sale. Check. Usually gentle wiping of dust is sufficient.

The original function of an item isn't necessarily important. Furnishings can be put to different uses. A child's wagon can become a flower container in a backyard.


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