A Shanghai home combining the best of the East, West, old and new
Raffaella Gallo is an avid art lover, who constantly invites artists to her Shanghai home and gives talks to a multicultural and diverse crowd.
“I moved to Shanghai because of my husband’s company. We were living in Dalian back then and together with all of my belongings, I brought with me a concept I developed there: the Artcaffe,” Gallo said.
Each month, her art-filled living room becomes an arena in which a guest artist gives a talk to an art-loving crowd from different cultural backgrounds. Gallo also organizes group visits to museums, galleries, artists’ studios, both for Italian and English-speaking people.
Gallo chose this house on Hami Road for the convenience of her family’s Shanghai living. “It has to be convenient for the kids: not far from the school and with indoor and outdoor spaces to play in. Then, having been a buyer of art since I was a teenager, I needed walls to hang our art on,” she said.
A spacious living room is a must. There she can display her art collection while hosting her Artcaffe gatherings.
“This house met all of our standards because it’s a 5 minute drive to the school and we could have easily turned the whole third floor in a playroom. It has a tiny green grass outdoor for the kids and a living room that can fit my guests.”
What Gallo likes the most about the house is the abundant sunlight.
She said: “When I first saw this house, it was in good condition because the family before us had good taste. We asked everything that was left was removed: the wooden blinders on all of the windows and all of the chandeliers. Instead, we painted the walls white, used white curtains and simple lights, to make the space even brighter and cleaner. We then put in our own furniture and art to complete the work.”
The overall scheme is mostly made up of neutral colors, such as white, grey and beige. Neutral colors have less impact and are more relaxing to live in.
“We like our house to be warm and cozy. For each house we lived in, we moved seven times in the last 15 years, we always wanted it to reflect who we are, our passions, the places we travelled to,” she said.
“We are pretty fast in putting all of our things in place, and every time we do it we do it as if we were going to live there forever. We mix plain pieces with old furniture we found in antique shops and markets, design items with bric-a-brac.”
The living room, as the center of the house, displays most of their art works and decorations.
“I meticulously curated the setting up of every single piece as if in a small exhibit,” Gallo said.
However, she wouldn’t define herself a collector.
“I’m an art lover who enjoys buying art with no particular topic in mind. The pieces we have at home reflect both my personal taste and experiences. In a way, by looking at them, you can get a better understanding of me.”
The collection features international artists, such as the Italian painters, Claudio Diatto and Tanchi Michelotti, the photographer, Susetta Bozzi, the sculptor, Christian Costa; the German, Christine Hohenstein; the Dutch, Erwin Olaf and the Croatian, Dubravka Vidovic.
“Regarding the Chinese artists, we are very attached to the first painting we bought when we moved from Italy to Beijing, almost eight years ago: an astonishing portrait by Zhang Dali. We have also pieces by Wang Shugang, Nina Chen, Tan Ping, Liu Ren and Hu Weiyi,” she said.
“The dining room to us has to be intimate. That’s why we used a very simple table combination with design chairs. We added an exotic touch with a Chinese cabinet, a silk Cambodian tapestry and an old Indonesian door.”
Bedrooms have to be relaxing, like a cocoon to unwind. All the furniture in the master bedroom are simple in design, mostly white.
“We have an old picture my husband took of Havana during one of our very first trips a long time ago. It’s now turning greenish, but we are attached to it and we drag it with us wherever we go. We always hanging it in our bedroom,” Gallo said.
The third floor is the kids’ reign. Everything there is conceived to be convenient and safe. Toys and books are displayed in order to be easily handled by the kids.
“The big and colorful planisphere on the wall helps us to show them the places we have traveled to and where our family back home is living. On the wall, we hanged two clocks: one with a Shanghai time zone and the other telling the time where our grandparents and cousins live.”
When asked if she considers any highlight of the house, Gallo said: “More than specific items, I would say it is the whole combination of our artworks and decorative elements. The mix of West and East, old and contemporary that make our home special to us.”
Ask the Owner
Q: What's the best thing about living in Shanghai?
A: The great offer of art exhibitions, museums, galleries.
Q: Describe your home in three words.
A: Warm, welcoming, organized.
Q: What's the first thing you do when you get home?
A: I put some very comfortable and un-fancy clothes on.
Q: How do you unwind?
A: I enjoy a mug of tea while reading a book on my favourite spot in the house: the chaise longue close to the window in the living room.
Q: Where do you spend most of the time at home?
A: In the kids’ playroom.
Q: What's the view outside your window?
A: Green grass and trees.
Q: What's your favorite object at home?
A: Three framed pictures from the first cities meaningful for my husband and I: Bolzano, Paris and New York.
Q: Where do you source furniture in Shanghai?
A: Antique markets and upcycling designers, such as Jonas’ Design, Brut Cake, Tsaiyun Studio.