The story appears on

Page B8 - B9

December 16, 2011

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature

Scattershot approach creates comfortable home

HELENE de Lataillade is a master at making clutter look chic.

The "modern vintage" interior looks eclectic in her rented three-floor house and it is evident the space has been artfully edited. The clash of Chinese, French, Southeast Asian and tribal items works through unexpected pairings: a balance of old and new, East and West.

Before moving to this light-filled house hidden in a lane on Wulumuqi Road, de Lataillade and her family had lived in a semi-detached lane house on Huating Road for six years. The old house (we featured it before) was decorated in good taste with the original dark wood floors, tiles, big heavy wooden doors and old windows.

"Since our children are growing up, I started to look at a new suitable house for our new family needs," de Lataillade said. This time, the architect was not so keen on the original Shanghai style and old world aesthetics.

"I want more natural light, not huge but spacious rooms, no American open kitchen, and some unique features."

She had visited this house many years ago for a friend but from her architectural point of view, she didn't like the glass wall house that much. She thought the glass and steel structure was not ideal for the winter. But destiny brought her to this house again. The unique features and nice layout made her decide to sign a five-year rental contract.

Lots of glass and steel make it a perfect base for a contemporary Asian style. But there was a lot of work to be done before the couple could perfect their "new" home. Since the architectural elements are already fixed, de Lataillade approached the space as a decorator and curator. She played with colors and chose a warm color palette to stimulate the imagination and reduce the feeling of winter coldness. Asian shades like red, dark purple, grey and orange remain her favorites.

The arrangement of the house is straightforward. The first floor is the living and dining area with a kitchen. The huge window walls open onto a garden, creating a flowing layout permeated by natural light, which creates different moods during the day. The steel staircase, dark grey carpet and sofa give a hint of a new Asian look. Warm colors on walls, furniture, textiles and artworks create a cozy and welcoming look. She recently added some cashmere curtains with a unique design to add more warmth.

The architect used burgundy wall paper on one wall and dark red for another to divide the space functions. All of the treasured furniture pieces from the previous home obviously found a place in this home. And the furniture itself is as much an artistic statement as it is functional. Sitting on the living room sofa, one can easily imagine being in a different Asian city, far from Shanghai.

Following de Lataillade to the second floor where one can find a cozy family space and two children's rooms. Orange is painted in the corridor and public spaces to "cut" the height.

She said orange touches can be used here and there to enhance the furniture or space. One of the family's favorite old objects, an opium bed, is placed in the family room. It provides a lot of character to the interior and at the same time is very practical.

The couple only brought their student belongings when they moved to Asia. They started to gradually accumulate nice pieces in Thailand, old Art Deco antiques in Shanghai, and other treasures from their many travels.

The couple loves the lightness of the house and its connection with the outdoors. Furthermore, they can re-curate their special collection in different ways.

The top-floor master bedroom is a large attic-style cocoon for the couple. de Lataillade picked modern and vintage pieces and underpinned them with a metallic grey color scheme. An exotic piece of rug above the bed adds a sense of eccentricity to a plain wall. Over time, the homeowners have let their interiors unfold around their passions, embracing the kitsch, quirky and eccentric.

Q: What's the best thing about living in Shanghai?
A: The energy that provides this town with a local and international atmosphere.
Q: Describe your home in three words.
A: Peaceful, comfortable, unique.

Q: What's the first thing you do when you get home?
A: I like to have a cup of Chinese tea while laying on the sofa to help the transition from outside and all that energy to the "peaceful inside."

Q: Where do you spend most of the time at home?
A: The living room on the first floor because it is an open and adaptable space with lights and perspective.

Q: What's the best view outside your window?
A: The trees and greens, surrounded by views of office tower The Center and local brick houses. I love the mix of different worlds and culture and timing, with different scales and volume in space.

Q: What's your favorite object at home?
A: It depends: right now, I love the Cube, our 10-year wedding anniversary piece of art found at Art + Shanghai Gallery because it has two functions: to be very elegant as a piece of art and to be able to be used as a chair.

Q: Where do you source furniture in Shanghai?
A: From recommendations, looking in the press or making by order. But in order to keep our balance at home, now the rule is that when a piece of furniture arrives, another has to go.


Who is he?

Sean Dix is an American designer based in China since 2008. Before that, he lived and worked in Milan, Italy, for 15 years.

Dix originally came from Kansas City, but his family was in the Peace Corps so he grew up in some pretty interesting places - Fiji, Saipan, and the Philippines. He learned to climb coconut trees at a very early age - not typical for a kid from Kansas. All of that exposure to different cultures and places was great preparation for the curious international life that he leads today.

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

I've worked on a fascinating variety of projects: elevator systems, city buses, espresso machines, forks, barbecue grills, luxury boutiques, residences, law offices, award-winning restaurants, cultural landmarks … Asking which I am most proud of is something like asking a father which is his favorite kid. I'm proud of them all.

I'm certainly very proud of my original design furniture collection LIMITED. It has been received very positively around the world. To realize this project was a dream of mine - to collaborate with great Chinese manufacturers to design and produce high-quality products, priced honestly, for the international and domestic market.

Are you currently involved with any project?

I'm fortunate to have a basically European formation - this means that I am pretty comfortable working with anything design-related. So my office works on many very different kinds of projects at the same time. Now, for instance, we just finished an award-winning restaurant called Yardbird in Hong Kong and two modern mixed-brand fashion boutiques for I.T. Hong Kong.

Among other projects, we have begun a very interesting collaboration with COCON in Shanghai - a sophisticated company with a great boutique in the former French concession.

Describe your design style.

My design style could be described as "under the radar." I mean that my work is never flashy, always carefully considered, and pretty sober.

I have designed two collections of furniture - "DIX COLLECTION" and "LIMITED" that reflect my particular personal aesthetic, inspired by vintage school and factory furniture.

But when I'm designing for commercial clients my objective is to help them communicate their style. So the work I do for one fashion brand communicates their personality, for another brand the requirements and results would be completely different. My style is always present, but it is more subtle, sneaking in underneath.

Where are you most creative?

I am most creative at 3am, working in my Hong Kong office, listening to vintage country music while everyone else sleeps.

What does your home mean to you?

I've lived in so many different places that it is hard to define home …

Home is Kansas City, where I was born and where most of my family lives.

Home is Hong Kong, where I live with my wife and kids and enjoy this great blender of Chinese and Western, of cosmopolitan urban life and quiet beaches, of traditional Tong Lau (Qilou) architecture and cutting edge skyscrapers.

What do you collect?

Experience. I love visiting new places, seeing new things with fresh eyes, experiencing new cultures, meeting people and making friends around the world. I've been doing it since I was 10 years old.

I have collected vintage furniture since I was a teenager. At one point I had something like 40 chairs (without the space to keep them) so I ended up loaning many to friends.

What will be the next big design trend?

The next big design trend will be honest, high-quality products produced for a fair price. We are too poor to buy cheap, disposable junk. We are finally learning to buy better things that last longer, and for which we have some emotional connection.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend