A welcoming home that oozes warmth and personality

Look beyond the monochrome palette and you'll find a warm and welcoming home that oozes personality.

With its black painted wooden floors, bare white walls and sleek furniture, this Shanghai apartment could easily come across as a little austere. But look beyond the monochrome palette and you’ll find a warm and welcoming home that oozes personality. 

Vintage wooden furniture instantly softens the scheme, as do shelves and cabinets filled with vases and decorative containers and fresh flowers. 

Guo Yi, who rented this apartment a year ago, has created a contemporary home that combines vintage charm and new classics. Originally from Shanghai, Guo lived 21 years in New York City and moved back here eight years ago.

The jewelry designer and stylist always looked for apartments featuring abundant natural light and a good bone structure, as well as a central position that allowed her to easily reach different facilities. 

This 180-square-meter apartment inside a building built in early 2000 on the corner of Fumin and Julu roads was an ideal choice — with sunlight from the south and the east and a perfect location.

“It was previously an office with pale yellow wood floors. Nothing was done. The kitchen was never used. I tore out the unnecessary things, repainted all the floors and redid all the lighting and fixtures,” she said.

Dong Jun / SHINE

The living area is relaxed with fun energy. White, black and earthy tones define the interior.

She opted for simple and clean backdrop and arranged zones of strategic importance for her lifestyle, from sociable spots to the private ones — the living and dining room for relaxation and entertaining, the master bedroom for personal relaxation and a bedroom converted into a TV room for movies and reading. 

“I converted the small bedroom into a TV room as it leads to the patio with good views. First of all, I never liked a TV in the bedroom so I need a ‘chill’ room for watching news, movies or hanging out with friends,” she said. “This is the ‘eat your snack, stay late night’ room.”

The resulting interior is dynamic yet relaxed, with fun energy. But white, black and earthy tones also define the interior.

“I’d describe it as a modern, warm atmosphere where people aren’t scared to sit in a beautiful room, so I avoid cactus — those pointy things stress people,” she said. 

“I prefer a beautiful but usable space — not too eclectic but with personal touches, a functional home with flexible areas that would be suitable for socializing and quiet private time.”

The apartment is a reflection of her and her passion for beautiful objects. Much of the furniture is custom-made, from the living room low table to the dining table, with simplistic designs evoking a balance of contrasts. Art Deco objects from the 1920s and period office furniture from 1960s preserve the vintage charm.

Dong Jun / SHINE

A guest bedroom was converted into a TV room for movies and reading. 

Comfort and softness are provided with soft carpets, which make a harmonious combination with the tactile surfaces. Two big mirrors are placed to bring more light and give the space a more open, spacious feel. Plants and flowers create height and sculptural interest in cozy corners.

Instead of chunky cabinets, Guo has chosen to use different corners and open shelves, allowing for the chic display of cool items.

“I’ve always been a fan of handcraft, and I have a particular love for ‘boxes,’ different style of boxes from different periods, and my ‘random finds’ always work great together,” she said.

Guo loves to search for what she considers “treasures” from around the world. “These beautiful objects at home remind me meaningful moments in my life and bring back memories in the past.”

She’s keen on finding tribal, ethnic style arts and crafts with history — including a 100-year-old lacquered box from Myanmar with delicate carving details placed on the coffee table.

Dong Jun / SHINE

Guo has a particular love for ‘boxes,’ different style of boxes from different periods, and her ‘random finds’ always work great together.

“Arts and crafts are being lost. People put so much time into making one thing yet not getting enough money out of it, so they give up and go into mass production instead,” she said.

The former style editor at Vogue China created her own fine jewelry brand, Yi Collection in 2015, inspired by her travels to Sri Lanka and Myanmar, the sapphire and ruby capitals of the world. These beautifully handcrafted pieces exude a simple modern elegance that reflects her personal aesthetics.

Aside from the ethnic, vintage elements at home, modern art also plays an essential part. She has an impeccable eye for emerging artists and photographers with strong personal views toward objects and life.

“I like a bit ‘dark romance’ in art. I don’t buy art because it would go up or down in value,” she said.

The essential part of this apartment’s design is that the different spaces blend into each other, so the overall feeling is one of holistic integrity.

Dong Jun / SHINE

Guo Yi believes that the essential part of this apartment’s design is that the different spaces blend into each other, so the overall feeling is one of holistic integrity.

Ask The Owner

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

A: The food and the energy of the city.

Q: Describe your home in three words.

A: Modern. Simple. Warm.

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

A: Enjoy the light in the living room before the sun sets. Listen to some chill music and do nothing.

Q: How do you unwind?

A: I love gardening, arranging flowers and reading.

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

A: The TV room is just the best for chilling out and watching movies.

Q: What’s the view outside your window?

A: Our windows look out toward a beautiful Shanghai skyline.

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

A: I love my antique containers. But I think I like looking at my photos on the walls the best.

Q: Where do you source furniture?

A: I love antiques so I keep an eye open for Art Deco-style pieces. I have two antique dealers whose shops I like to check out.

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