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December 12, 2021

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Home » Sunday » Home and Design

Evoking the charm of Shanghai’s past

THE sun shines through the window on the old wooden floor, children play on the carpet, and hot coffee is on the table braving the heat. This is the definition of home in French designer Romain Poirier’s mind.

He finally realized this in his newly rented home on Gaoyou Road. His last home on Maoming Road S. was a bit small, as his daughter and son now go to kindergarten and need a larger activity space.

“Through our friends, we found this place where we live now. It’s very close to the park and the street is quiet, away from the hustle and bustle. It is an ideal location for families with children,” Poirier said.

Hailing from the famous wine region Burgundy, Poirier is a designer and engineer. He grew up in a construction-business family and has always been obsessed with construction, inspired by the beauty of interior design and architecture. He and his Chinese wife Wu Lingxiao started their own company French House in 2018, providing interior design and construction consulting.

Like many expats living in the city, Poirier is drawn to the historical architecture in the downtown area that evokes the charm of the city’s past.

“Many houses along this road have a unique history, and the traces left behind are unique. We wanted to mix the old and new so the whole family can enjoy the space,” he said.

When the couple initially saw the apartment, they liked it’s large size but had a few qualms — exposed pipes, a very small kitchen and an upper floor that wasn’t in use. It did, however, have enticing elements, such as old wooden floors, metallic windows and high ceilings. They just needed a few adjustments to make the space more functional for their lifestyle.

The priority was to enlarge the kitchen space by knocking down a wall and connecting it with the dining area. In fact, the apartment is an open-plan space incorporating a kitchen, dining and living rooms, and a study. Different functional areas are smartly designed within the same big room, awash in bright sunlight coming from three big windows.

“The open-floor plan is very suitable for a family to cook and watch movies at the same time on weekends,” Poirier said.

The living and dining areas are large enough to accommodate several guests.

“I like to have interesting objects from all over the world displayed in this area. Whenever friends come to visit and see our furniture and objects, they love them. We like to tell stories about our beloved furniture,” he said.

The couple turned the living and dining area into a cozy, inviting space full of personality. They try not to follow only one style but mix different elements of modern living — designer brands with flea market finds, their own custom-made furniture with vintage pieces.

“Designing and making our own sustainable furniture was very fun. The most complicated part was finding artisans and resources to make it according to our wishes,” Poirier said.

“Our dining table, for example, is made from metal (from an old construction panel) and wood (from an old boat and old door). These materials are the easiest to reshape into new designs.”

The ceiling light in the living area is a fun, stylish, contemporary chandelier called “Circus” by AGO Lighting, and above the dining table is a colorful pendant light designed by Poul Henningsen for Louis Poulsen.

The modern furnishings are harmonized by a vintage carpet from Iran, and a 100 percent natural wool Moroccan carpet they bought in Marrakesh.

The master bedroom is minimal looking with calming color tones, and is flooded with natural light courtesy of the large windows. Poirier creatively transformed the previously unused top-floor attic space into a children’s playground.

“We also changed a lot of materials for the walls, ceiling, part of the floor and two bathrooms according to our design concept. Now, whenever I get home, I feel very relaxed, and when I invite friends over, they all feel very welcomed,” he said.

Poirier loves the combination of modern items and old touches, and wants to incorporate French style into the historical Chinese building.

“The combination of elements of different styles often surprises people,” he said. “Home for me is not only a relaxing space for the body, but also spiritual encouragement. No matter what happens outside, my soul will be satisfied the moment I return home. When I’m home, it’s a time for me to recharge. My family can bring me happiness, and that is what we call happiness.”


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

A: Shanghai life is a roller-coaster of emotions, very safe for family and very dynamic for business opportunities. Shanghai offers a fusion of East and West, old and new. From its rich cultural history and sightseeing opportunities to its bustling nightlife, we can always find interesting things to see and do in and around the city.


Q: Describe your home in three words.

A: Authentic, lovely, comfortable.


Q: How do you unwind?

A: Yoga for my wife, boxing for me and art exhibitions for the whole family.


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

A: Living room.


Q: What’s the view outside your window?

A: Historic buildings and the beautiful and quiet street of Gaoyou Road.


Q: What’s your favorite object at home?

A: I will say our custom-made dining table.


Q: Where do you buy furniture?

A: Most of our furniture are custom-made or purchased when we travel.


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