Creating a sanctuary of warmth and color in an unlikely place

When French architect Margaux Lhermitte was looking for a family home in Shanghai, she chose an often-neglected apartment built in the 1980s.
Ti Gong

 Lhermitte likes the house to be overall contemporary, with a bold touch of color.­ Picture shows corridor with paintings by French artist Ques and American artist Nanospore. Console table by Margaux Lhermitte for Twenty-Fourteen.

When French architect Margaux Lhermitte was looking for a family home in Shanghai, she chose an often-neglected apartment built in the 1980s.

It has a central location and is spacious enough for the family with two kids.

“I prefer a flat facing south and with a large enough living/dining room so we can invite friends. The downtown location is convenient for my work and also for the kids’ school,” Lhermitte said.

Finding an ideal home in Shanghai requires time.

“But if you know what you are looking for, like me, you don’t need to visit too many places,” she said. “As I have a good sense of space, I can tell quickly from a few photos or a layout if the space has potential to be improved. It was important for me to have a small outdoor space, facing south, as I don’t like being locked inside all day.”

The apartment is in a very unexpected mixed-use building, not attractive at all from the outside.

“However, the outdoor terrace seduced me immediately,” Lhermitte said. “The flat layout caught my eyes because it has two steps in the middle of the living/dining area. It makes an unusual space division and informal setting I like.

“The finishes and furniture were not up to our standards so we changed quite a lot. We completely changed the living room area. It was quite awkward and narrow so we integrated it into the main space, facing the open kitchen.

“TV is not important nowadays — we all have portable screens, so I prefer the sofa to be facing the room, rather than a TV on a wall,” she added.

To make the sofa sitting area more cozy and comfortable, Lhermitte designed a full-height bookshelf — it offers a lot of extra storage space, including a home office corner, but also looks and feels warm.

“It’s so important for us to have a home warm and cozy. When you live and work in a busy city like Shanghai, you need a bubble to relax and escape from the daily craziness. For all my projects, I emphasize on the purpose of the space, the functions it needs to offer, but also the emotions it should create,” she said.

“I don’t have a defined style because I tend to adapt to each client/project. For my home, the overall result is contemporary, with a bold touch of color because this is what keeps me energized every day. But a lot of my clients are unwilling to play so strongly with colors so I always adapt my designs to fit best.”

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 Kitchen with a drawing by Emilie Sarnel and a fruit plate by Jean-Philippe Bonzon.

Born in France, trained in the UK and Finland, and now working more than 12 years in Shanghai, Lhermitte forges a style that is a result of mixed cultures.

“All I design is contemporary, with original and high-quality materials, and high level of details and craftsmanship,” she said. “In a home, we don’t need a strong concept.

“A home should not go out of fashion, which means it can’t be ‘in fashion.’ You need to understand the inhabitant’s mindset, their lifestyle and their habits to deliver the most comfortable space. In my home, it was important to have enough storage for all my books, and create a cosy living/dining room so I can regularly invite friends over for dinners.”

She created most of the console, cabinets and shelves, mainly because she couldn’t find anything to her taste on the market. Chairs and armchairs are a mix and match of Vitra, Magis, Hay, Fermob, Twenty-Fourteen and other design brands from Europe.

“Most of them are now available in China, so I can recommend them on projects. But quite often I design custom-made furniture collections for my clients. They appreciate the effort because it gives them an ‘haute couture’ image, and the pieces are not seen anywhere else,” Lhermitte said.

The bold color scheme is the highlight of Lhermitte’s home. The living/dining room is a mix of purple, plum, red and orange tones. These warm colors are perfect for a room where you gather with friends, have a relaxing time with good music and a glass of wine.

Dong Jun

 Children’s bedroom with Fermob furniture and Corian baby bed. ­­

“On the opposite, I usually use cool colors for bedrooms, because it makes you calm down,” she said.

Lhermitte’s home keeps changing. 

“It is looking forward, not backward. My home is a collection of memories, but allows enough space for future experimentation. So in a sense there are no fixed highlights, it keeps evolving. Soon I will install the latest product designed and produced by my young brother Oscar Lhermitte.

“The Moon Project,” said Lhermitte, is a small-scale exact replica of the moon based on NASA details, with a rotating solar system that creates ambient lighting.

Ti Gong

A red chair by Magis. Drawings above are by Chinese artist Nisky and Argentinan artist Federico Bacher.

Ti Gong

All I design is contemporary, with original and high-quality materials, and high level of details and craftsmanship ... In a home, we don’t need a strong concept.

Ask The Owner

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

A: The positive energy

Q: Describe your home in three words.

A: Family, collecting experimenting

Q: What do you do first when you get home?

A: Catch up with my family around cheese and bread.

Q: How do you unwind?

A: I draw, sketch, or wander randomly in the city.

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

A: In my living room, reading books or sketching.

Q: What’s the view outside your window?

A: Trees

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

A: A set of old wood Chinese medicine drawers

Q: Where do you source furniture in Shanghai?

A: I design and produce locally as much as I can.

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