In these troubled times, we all need a sanctuary to call home
With the amount of time we've all been spending at home in this COVID-19 era, the idea of crafting our very own personal sanctuary has never felt more fitting.
Regina Galang's rented apartment in the Central Residences in Shanghai's Xuhui District is conceived as an ideal space to live with her family, and also to host the many friends that she and her husband Greg Holman, president of a medical device company, often invite over.
It's a sanctuary of art and color that is constantly evolving with her family's prized finds. The 341-square-meter apartment is in undoubtedly one of the most beautiful areas of Shanghai, surrounded by tree-lined streets and historic houses.
It's on the third floor of a high-rise: spacious, bright and inviting. The large windows that bring in natural light make the apartment look even bigger.
Born and raised in San Francisco, Galang, a brand and innovation consultant, left for one-year assignment in Africa certain she'd return to California. Twenty-one years later, she still doesn't have plans to go back.
Through a combination of graduate school and professional opportunities, she's lived and worked in Singapore, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, the UK and Thailand and traveled to over 65 countries and regions.
She landed in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, in 2007 and moved to Shanghai two years later.
"When I first relocated to Zimbabwe, I didn't know anybody and was continents away from family and friends," she said.
"So making a house feel like a home has always been important for me no matter how temporary.
"It was no different when I arrived in Shanghai in 2009 – single at the time – believing I'd only be here for 18 months. Thirteen years, a husband and two daughters later, this city will forever hold a special place in our hearts."
Before kids, the couple loved lane houses – the walk-up, exposed brick and old world charm.
"We befriended our nosy neighbors and chalked up the constant leaks and breakages to 'character.' The thought of setting up in a high-rise apartment building within a large compound was out of the question ... until we had our first daughter in 2012," Galang said.
They moved to Central Residences where life with children became far more manageable: elevators for the stroller; playgrounds to exhaust the kids; a clubhouse for 24/7 gym access and an on-call repairman.
The couple has had six different apartments in the city and the one requirement that's stayed constant is location.
"We wouldn't consider anything outside Xuhui District. I fell in love with the area the first time I visited in 2006: the tree-lined streets, rows upon rows of cafes and restaurants, the energy," she said.
The family has moved three times within Central Residences because they love the strong sense of community.
"As our girls got bigger, we would seek out space to match. We have lived in our current third floor flat since last year. Looking out, we see so much greenery. I love being engulfed by the trees and enjoy the morning hours when the apartment is bathed in sunlight."
Entering the apartment, one is greeted by the gorgeous open space of the living and the dining areas. Galang said she likes the fact the space was completely unfurnished and it felt like a blank canvas when they moved in.
"I wanted to create not only a home for our family, but also a place that felt open, warm and inviting; where we could entertain and make our friends feel welcomed," she said.
"I don't have a specific design style. I simply wanted our home to reflect us: as individuals and as family. Nothing in our flat matches. But in our eyes they all come together to tell a story of where we've been, who we love or inspire us and where we want to go.
"It's essential to create a style that is authentically ours. We love fresh flower, lots of plants and a constant stream of music. We've decorated the walls with pieces that tell stories and our bar is always stocked ready for guests," she added.
Some of the pieces – like the baskets and Shona sculptures from Harare – have followed her around the world for the last two decades. Others are new but each is meaningful, representing a memory, a person or a passion.
Against the wall of the dining area are a few contemporary artworks. "We started to purchase contemporary art in 2006. We buy art first and foremost because we love it, each piece representing something special for us."
Last year they fell in love with works by Fu Xiaotong and Yang Yongliang. "Fu Xiaotong's piece is entirely white and a nice balance to all the colors we have in our main living room. Yang Yongliang's work is called 'Tiger.' Not only did we love the way it looked and his artistry, but my husband is a 'tiger.' We saw it as a symbol of luck as we enter his zodiac year."
The most welcome addition is the extra living room, which the couple had made into a cozy family space. "Especially on cold winter weekends, you can find us there cuddled up on the couch watching movies and eating popcorn," Galang said.
"And this addition of a family room became a fun design project. Using prints, I wanted to tell the story of how my husband's and my path crossed. It begins with an image of San Francisco and St Louis and is followed by Cleveland, Thailand, Fort Worth, Tanzania, Kansas City, London and so on. We met in Shanghai so we have several representations of the city adorning our wall space."
Not long ago, they customized a world map to document the family adventures complete with multi-colored pins. At the bottom it says, "The Holmans: We haven't been everywhere but it's on our list."
"We loved going to new destinations but COVID put a temporary freeze on international travels. Luckily we live in China where we can see the world in a single country. We love having a new map that says 'The Holmans in China: A piece of our hearts will always be here,' which we often use to plan our next trip."
Ask The Owner
Q: What's the best thing about living in Shanghai?
A: It's a city where it feels as if anything is possible. The energy is endless and the people it attracts are dynamic, interesting and worldly. after years of living here, I love that Shanghai still manages to surprise me. and that Bund skyline ... takes my breath away every time.
Q: Describe your home in three words.
A: Love, family, open.
Q: How do you unwind?
A: Netflix and wine.
Q: Where do you spend most of your time at home?
A: Our dining room table in the main living area and in the evenings, the family room.
Q: What's the view outside your window?
A: Trees, trees and more trees.
Q: What's your favorite object at home?
A: We have two family maps complete with multi-colored pins to mark our travels. One is a world map and recently, we purchased a China map. Prior to starting a family, one of my most cherished pieces was always a Shona sculpture that I bought in Harare, Zimbabwe in 2001. It's lived in every one of my homes and has followed me around the world. It holds so many memories for me.
Q: Where do you buy furniture?
A: Since we live in China, we're able to customize a lot. When we buy pieces, Gugu is my go-to furniture store. When I first arrived in Shanghai, I loved Casa Pagoda and finding treasures at antique shops.