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January 20, 2012

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Natural light adds warmth to big villa

ANNIE and Pascal Perrin believe having water around was at the forefront of their house search in Shanghai as their home city Lyon, France, is close to the river.

Nine years ago, as "strangers" to Shanghai, their criteria for an ideal house included a comfortable place with enough space for three daughters, close proximity to the French school, a nice garden and a pool that would connect them with the outdoors.

The 400-square-meter villa with swimming pool they've rented for nine years is within a villa compound on Gaojing Road, Qingpu District. During the past years it has evolved into a nice neighborhood with a good mix of expatriate and local residents.

Annie Perrin particularly likes the house's big windows as they provide abundant natural light during the day.

"Sunlight is good for our health and with those huge windows the outdoor view is always present," she said.

The abundance of light is perhaps the greatest asset this house has, so the homeowner has avoided going overboard on curtains that block the sun's rays. During the evenings, the window blinds are shut; while several lamps and candles are lit in different corners of the first-floor living room for a romantic ambiance. With a relaxed living concept, there is no need to feel that the light fittings all have to match. In fact, an eclectic mixture of lights suits the mood better here.

The spacious living and dining area is filled with a selection of treasured objects. Traditional designs from various cultures are combined to beautiful effect: Chinese antique furniture is topped with modern artworks, a bamboo ladder is covered with ethnic fabrics from Southeast Asia and North African carpets adorn the floor.

The old pieces are combined effortlessly with contemporary sofas and lamps. This house is a good example that when decorating, the important thing is to choose objects you love. Then mix them together however you like.

One corner in the living room features a Chinese style screen where Pascal Perrin displays items like different knives and traditional Chinese hats.

Another striking element in this house is the abundant use of fabrics and carpets. They appear in all the rooms and they go with almost everything.

"We only brought carpets and paintings when we first moved here," Annie Perrin said, who pointed to the beautiful North African carpet placed on the first floor. Since having moved to China, the couple has traveled frequently within the country and in Asia. It gave them loads of opportunities to collect ethnic fabrics.

The colors one uses on walls has a big bearing on the ambience in the rooms. Shades of brown, red, yellow and orange offer more warmth and softness than that minimalist favorite - pure white.

"I have two wheels of life. We have a sea house in south France with the cold color theme of blue, green, turquoise - very minimalist style but is also filled with carpets and fabrics," Perrin said. "I was a stranger to Shanghai a long time ago so I had to create something very warm for the family here."

For a family of scuba divers, the swimming pool is important and also a rare luxury in Shanghai. The pool is a focus of fun when it's warm outside. Perrin said she often dives in different parts of the world about six times a year.

The couple's master bedroom is next to the living room, where Perrin spends most of her time. Perrin said she doesn't really go to the second floor, which belongs to her daughters. "I'm happy with all the activities on the ground floor. We invite friends and organize aperitifs almost twice a week."

There is an on-going decoration project in the sun room on the third floor. The couple plans to make it a night lounge area with a black and purple theme for their daughters and friends.

"They can just play music and make lots of noise up there," she said.

Overall, this beautiful residence has everything - a pool, a nice terrace and landscaping, spacious rooms and floor-to-ceiling windows that almost bring nature into the home. It is a peaceful retreat for the family in a hyperactive city.Q: What's the best thing about living in Shanghai?

A: Going through the illuminated city by car, returning from an evening's party.

Q: Describe your home in three words.

A: Bright, warm, cheerful.

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

A: Put some music on in the living room.

Q: How do you unwind?

A: Reading.

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

A: In my bedroom (to read), in the study (for computer).

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

A: On the second floor there is a view of the garden and the pool.

Q: How do you scent your home?

A: Bamboo sticks in a special perfume: white musk.

Q: What's your favorite object at home?

A: A painting by my dear friend Christian de Laubadere.

Q: Where do you source furniture in Shanghai?

A: Most of it comes from antique shops, some from modern designers. Most of the decorative furniture is from where we go on holidays, mostly Southeast Asia.


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