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December 1, 2019

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Home » Sunday » Home and Design

Peace, tranquility and comfort in arty abode

Inside a charming Art-Moderne building in the tree-lined downtown, Susi and David Thompson’s art-filled apartment offers them peace, tranquility and comfort.

Originally from Dallas, Texas, Susi followed her husband’s job relocation, in urban planning and design, eight years ago and has called Shanghai her home ever since then. Before finding this ideal abode, they had looked at about 30 apartments.

“We looked at a little bit of everything — modern high-rises, lane houses and Art Deco buildings. It was our first time to live in a truly urban environment, so we looked at all kinds of options,” said Thompson, who had a landscape architecture practice in Dallas.

She said their criteria was a place with character, a view and an outdoor space with room to entertain and cook.

The American believes the 200-square-meter apartment is unique and architecturally significant. The landlord renovated it in a way that respected the historical architecture, yet accommodating a modern style of living — clean lines, simple finishes and spaces with a good flow. The eccentric facade of the building impressed the couple the first time they saw it.

The building was designed by the French architects Alexandre Leonard, Paul Veysseyre and Arthur Kruze. They designed over 130 buildings in Shanghai in the early part of the 20th century.

This building at the crossroads of Wulumuqi Road M. and Fuxing Road W. seems to have been a particular favorite of the designers. Upon completion in 1936, Paul Veysseyre moved into the penthouse and when he left two years later, Leonard moved in.

The building, originally called The Magy Apartments, completed a group of three buildings designed by LVK at this busy intersection. Immediately across the street is the Boissezon (1933) and just behind it, Willow Court (1934).

“In these three buildings you can see their stylistic progression from a modest Art Deco design at the Boissezon, to full-blown Art Deco at Willow Court to Art Moderne at the Magy,” Thompson said.

“When we walked into the apartment inside, we were blown away by the large open living space and the large windows — light coming in from three different directions.”

She doesn’t impose a particular interior style but likes a place to relax and hang out at home with family and friends.

“We are drawn to all sorts of things regarding the interior style. We collect things we love and then try to figure out how to combine them. And we move things around at home from time to time,” she said.

The couple wants the main furniture pieces to be simple and modern and somewhat bold.

“Then we fill in with small pieces and accessories that are a bit softer, older and more rustic. We definitely like a mixture of styles,” Thompson added.

The basic color scheme in the apartment is neutral. They opt for earthy colors — things from nature and being able to add bits of color and texture with art and decorative items.

“We brought with us a table that was made for my grandmother,” she said. “She was an artist and it is shaped like a palette — very quirky. I like having a little bit of our history with us here in Shanghai. I believe the dresser in the master bedroom was designed by the architects for the building. When we moved in, it was the only piece of furniture left in the apartment.

“We loved the lines of it, but it was painted in crazy bright colors so we had it repainted. When researching the architects, I found drawings of furniture they designed for other apartments that looked very similar.”

The couple has a particular fondness for art and ceramics.

“We brought a few pieces of art with us from home that are meaningful and I love seeing them every day. We collected quite a few pieces in China. Woodblock prints have always been of interest to us and we acquired quite a few — mostly from Xi’an, Shaanxi Province,” she said.

The couple also love to discover and collect artworks by young Chinese artists at local galleries. They rotate the artworks at home and move things around from time to time.

“I like switching it up,” she said. “However, it is the people in the house that make the home welcoming. Of course, having casual, comfortable furniture and arranging it in a way that is conductive to conversation helps.”

Since the kitchen, dining room and living room are all one big open space, Thompson spends most of the time there cooking, working at her desk, having a meal or lounging on the sofa. “Pretty much any waking hours spent at home are spent in that space,” she added.

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

A: I love it all, but probably my favorite thing about this city is the life on the streets — everything happens on the sidewalks — and I see something new and unexpected every day. Oh, and the fact that I can get almost anything I need or want delivered almost instantly for almost nothing.


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

A: Kick off my shoes and look out the window.


Q: How do you unwind?

A: With a glass of wine — on the balcony if the weather is nice.


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

A: In the big open kitchen/living/dining room.


Q: What’s the view outside your window?

A: In the foreground lots of green — sycamore, deodar cedar and dawn redwood trees and then the view stretches down the street to other Art Deco buildings and finally to high-rise buildings in the distance.


Q: What’s your favorite object in your home?

A: A wire sculpture of a man’s face. It was done by an artist in my old neighborhood back home. It is so minimal, but it conveys so much — it has character and attitude.


Q: Where do you source furniture?

A: All over town — shops in our neighborhood, designers, antiques ...


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