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Small space made homely with thoughtful solutions

FORMER florist Jasmine Jean first found her ideal home location in Shanghai and then started to mould it to her lifestyle needs, from ripping out walls to decorating it with flowers, Patsy Yang reports.

This is a house that, behind its unpretentious facade, conceals an interior that conforms neither to particular design and decorative rules, nor to the conventional style for this sort of flat in Hongqiao area.

Taiwan owner Jasmine Jean had strong views on what she needed for her first house in Shanghai. She wanted to apply clever solutions and use whatever materials were available to create a home that would work in every way. Foremost in her mind was the need for somewhere to feel comfortable.

She wanted a house to flow seamlessly, consisting of spaces that became what she wanted, when she wanted them, and with the flexibility to adapt or modify them based on her mood at the time.

Eight years ago, when Jean walked pass this residential compound, she was attracted by the Italian restaurant tucked inside. She lucked into the last unit in the building and befriended the restaurant's owner. A friendly neighborhood is also important to a happy home.

Before starting to work on this, her first house in the city, the ground floor consisted of separate kitchen and living room. "The wall separating the kitchen and the living area was a distraction, so I designed a sliding panel to separate the kitchen, guest bathroom, and living and dining area," she said.

The panel can be opened or closed to divide the room without blocking out light or closing off the layout, adding a flexible, decorative division to an open floor plan. Most of the time it's open to combine the kitchen and living area into one space.

Several walls were removed so all the functional areas could be built or rebuilt from scratch to her own specifications and taste.

"Functionality was the key to renovating this 115-square-meter flat. You should be honest with yourself about how you use a space, to decide what you're going to do in each room," she said. While organizing a big home can prove tricky, any homeowner faces the same issues and a smaller space can pose big questions at the time about how to divide and manage limited floor space.

Once Jean had finally worked out all the answers, she drew up a list of essentials to be addressed and designed the layout accordingly. She wanted the home to truly reflect her lifestyle as well as meet the standards of modern, urban, comfortable living.

Among her major interior design requirements, the bathroom and kitchen came first. When the stress of life in a fast-paced city like Shanghai starts to weigh on you, it is important to be able to retreat and feel safe, comfortable and relax.

So the prospects of a quiet evening, seeking some peace of mind in the intimacy of your master bathroom, taking a soothing and hot bubble bath, can become priceless.

Jean chose white for the master bathroom which allows her to unwind at the end of the day and to start the next in the best possible mood. She created the soothing atmosphere of peaceful relaxation and well-being in the master bathroom using a free-standing bathtub, accessories and scented candles.

The kitchen area was designed as an open space where Jean could prepare her favorite finger food and enjoy convivial times with friends. The space features many decorative items, together with cook books. Very much in the Western tradition, she enjoys spending time in the kitchen and the comforts of homemade food.

Into the living room through the movable divide, the same creamy color mood comes from the many matching soft, decorative items, creating layers of the same tones to give a relaxing yet luxurious, and comfortable yet functional space.

Because the objects come from such different regions - Asia, Europe, America - the only link is their visual appeal. Some of these things would look quite ordinary in another context but mixing and matching different styles is one of Jean's talents.

Based on a rather contemporary taste, this area is composed of many items and pieces of furniture representing many different countries. But a strong neo-classic style dominates. The design and decorative purpose in this area was to match lifestyle and taste with soft decor items that could over time be moved to change the overall feeling of the home, breaking the routine of life.

A trained florist before specializing in home decoration with her own company, J's Int Decor, Jean shops for flowers to brighten the home's feeling and add a fresh and natural touch.

It is during her many shopping and window browsing trips in Shanghai and abroad that she picks up new ideas to try at home. The sober wall tones and the emphasis on soft decor items allow her to easily change its look and feel.

The bedroom is not so big so Jean stuck with light colors and decided not to use overhead lighting to increase the perception of space. She also created a four-layer curtain ensemble that, once again, allows her at different times of the day or week to vary the moods.

The many pillows also give more depth to a bed which is fitted with white linen.

Another smart idea to maximize the use of space is the small study that works as home office, reading room and storage area. Fitted with an elevated tatami, the space is cosy and pleasant to pad around in bare feet. The tatami also provides additional storage space. When space is limited creativity drives practical solutions.

Jean has applied all her home decoration expertise to the property, from the bergamot scent she uses to perfume the area, to all the small items that give it a very special character,

Every room is filled with personal and interesting objects and she has no trouble working out what to put where.

"There are furniture items and objects that tease the eye; you have to work harder, intellectually and visually, when you see things out of context in a room," she said.

Someone once said that we are what we eat, but for Jean there is no doubt that she has created a home that reflects her personality and truly represents her lifestyle and tastes.


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