A bachelor in love with shanghai

 Entrepreneur Heikal Gani is one of the sophisticated, passionate types who enjoy the expat life in a meticulously designed old Shanghai apartment.
Dong Jun

The living room is inspired by Moroccan interior style.

When living in a city like Shanghai, who hasn’t fallen in love with the history, the culture, the architecture? But some sophisticated, passionate types take it to the next level. Entrepreneur Heikal Gani is one of them, enjoying the expat life in a meticulously designed old Shanghai apartment.

He was creatively inspired by the charm of the old Shanghai architecture in the former French concession. He loves the art of beauty and he loves creating beauty in his bachelor pad.

“I love the idea of living in an old apartment in Shanghai, and living in the former French concession, just because I think it’s really romantic and unique. I love the feeling of being in an area full of history — some of these homes are as old as centuries,” says Gani, originally from Singapore and educated in Montreal.

“My ideal home should be a good size for a bachelor around 130 square meters, and that it has high ceilings because I love how grand that feels. I entertain regularly, so it needs to be a place I can hold regular dinners and soirees.”

He found his current apartment on Wanping Road relatively quickly because he was clear about he wants.

“I lived in another charming apartment for three years and my landlord decided to move back. I can understand why — it was a lovely place to be at. The new apartment reminds me of the previous place, both are on a quiet street — Shaoxing Road and now Wanping Road. Bathrooms are very important to me, so I made it a point to find a place with a good size bathroom,” he says.

Dong Jun

One corner of the living space is created as a home office.

Since Gani only looked at unfurnished apartments, he always has searched for a space that has a good basic layout and where he can see potential to have it furnished and renovated according to his taste.

He made a lot of changes — mainly the bathroom, painting, moving the door, breaking down a wall and constructed a covered balcony. He kept the wooden floors and tiles that give it old world charm. 

“I’ve always loved a glam space, and my old apartment was more French-inspired,” he says.

“I’ve wanted my new space to be a more Marrakesh-inspired since I’ve always loved the simplicity and grandeur of Moroccan interiors.

“And this style is lacking in Shanghai, so I know it’s going to be truly unqiue. Uniqueness is more important than being the prettiest in my mind.”

Grand yet understated, magnificent yet humble, Gani has a natural talent of turning a space into a magic retreat where his guests often find it hard to leave after a night of sharing and laughing.

Lounge sofas, plants and flowers, candles and shisha — it’s truly a unique living space evoking wonder and romance through rich colors and fabrics. It represents a warm, glam style that is very inviting, too. 

“The trends for homes today are modern neutrals, and modern minimalism, which I find very cold and of course, common. I like to look at the classics and update them with a little freshness. The classics are always romantic to me,” Gani says.

Gani says he has always been a vision guy and his sister, the most talented interior designer he knows, did most of the decoration for him. And she’s consulted on every critical decision. 

“She knows I love things to be elegant. Elegance to me means that it has to be true; it has to be grand yet humble,” he says.

These areas need to be inviting for anyone setting foot in my place. They have to feel cozy right away and not to be intimidated.”

Dong Jun

The bedroom is a unique space evoking wonder and romance through rich colors and fabrics.

Gani loves every part of the house as it is, but the bathroom stands out for him. “As an entrepreneur, the best ideas I get are always in the bathroom for some weird reason, so I know I wanted a space that really helps me do that. Every time I feel the need to reset my day, I take a long shower, and I’ll leave the shower feeling refreshed and full of ideas.”

He’s collected key furniture and accessories over time and always loves selecting furniture that is not too tied to a certain style, but more time-honored pieces. “They’re usually universal and fit in most homes just in case I’ve decided to change my style again,” he says. “My French sofa looks perfectly at home in a Moroccan style apartment.

“My taste and style are always evolving, but I’ve always loved modern classics. Part of my design sensibility is that it has to be commercial, so although I do things I love, part of me questions what others would like to see as well.

“I’m curious about what other people are drawn to as much as what I’m drawn to.”

That creativity and sensibility extends to Gani’s business. He has founded Sugarmat, a Montreal-based yoga mat company that brings yogis beautifully-stylized mats to help them find a perfect zone of peace, comfort and balance. He has often given creative direction to the design team based in Montreal.

“I feel that I’ve never felt this design high before anytime in my life,” he says.

“There are so many new collections of yoga mats I want to create and I’m feeling inspired more so now than ever before because I feel like I can really draw from many sources of inspiration as long as it fits with a yoga theme.”

As a designer, he is constantly searching for inspiration from his travels, fashion magazines and trends. The newest mat collection, “Healing Heart”, is a collaboration with a prominent US artist who is his current favorite. Gani has two of the artist’s mats at home. The abstract styles and soothing colors are perfect backdrops for his home — for instance, placed on the floor next to a lounge chair in a cozy corner of the living space.

Dong Jun

The bathroom is Gani’s favorite spot at home.

Ask the owner

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

A: Shanghai may be the best city to live in. It’s modern, yet not settled. It has so much more room to grow and it’s a fascinating environment for any entrepreneur. 

Q: Describe your home in three words.

A: Elegant. Chic. Understated 

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

A: Feed my cats. 

Q: How do you unwind?

A: Sitting at my living room, over tea, putting on my Moroccan shisha (water pipe) and watching CNN. 

Q: What’s the best view outside your window?

A: The quiet streets of Wanping road. There’s also an embassy guard training camp in front of my building, giving the street a certain feel of security and decorum. 

Q: How do you scent your home?

A: I am really into Thai essential oils and scents since my last visit to Bangkok, so I tend to scent my house in herbs rather than citrus and floral. I love lemongrass, kaffir lime, lavender and anything that’s balmy and Southeast Asian. So I have a diffuser that’s on most of the time, and lots of scented candles. It also helps that this scent scares the bugs and mosquitoes away. 

Q: What’s your favorite object at home?

A: I love my Sugarmat’s scented candle jar. It represents the blood, sweat and tears I’ve put in my work. 

Q: Where do you source furniture in Shanghai?

A: Anywhere and everywhere you can think of, both online and offline. I know more about where to find furniture than even the locals. My sister and I have always been adventurous that way. We know so much we can write a book.

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