Lush greens envelop idyllic urban living

Yang Di
Designer Zhao Yuelai leans back on the long table in her home garden with an abundance of natural light, and sees an idyllic picture of modern urban living for her family.
Yang Di

It’s a late summer morning. Designer Zhao Yuelai leans back on the long table in her home garden and looks out over a lush green garden and pool, with an abundance of natural light, and sees an idyllic picture of modern urban living for her family.

Zhao said she has changed about 10 houses after graduation.

“When I was in my 20s, I had experienced living in an old lane house on Nanchang Road,” she said. “But after I had my family, my priorities changed. Functionality and comfort were the key.”

However, what never changes is her basic criteria for an ideal abode — high ceilings and abundant sunlight.

The 38-year-old bought the villa with her husband Chen Wenlong in 2015 after only one visit.

Lush greens envelop idyllic urban living
Dong Jun / SHINE

The living room is mainly for entertaining and socializing with guests. Its elevated ceiling is designed to increase the openness of the space. 

“Though it’s a bit further from the city center, the house has easy access to the highways. What matters to us is the lush greens, flowers and ponds surrounding the space. It integrates well into the space setting. We wanted to spend more time outside with our 10-year-old son, Tom, and the size of the garden meant it was possible to build a swimming pool,” Zhao said.

From a designer point of view, she also liked the simplistic, modern space design with floor-to-ceiling windows bringing in natural light.

With a clear plan in mind, she enlarged most of the windows so they were floor-to-ceiling height and broke through all unnecessary walls connected to the living room, study, dining room and kitchen. In the end, she wanted a practical, comfortable home to suit family life and create a space with a strong visual impact.

From the moment you step inside, it’s clear the villa is a temple of creativity, with a sense of coherence, a mixture of patterns, textures and styles. The interior designer really knows how to stamp a house with her personality, as the different functional rooms show.

Lush greens envelop idyllic urban living
Dong Jun / SHINE

An eclectic mixture of patterns and colors are shown in the house.

Floral wallpapers and unexpected colors instantly add a whimsical, cutting-edge visual impact to drastically alter the look and feel of the rooms.

“I’m a mother then a designer, so my priority was to create a relaxed, homey interior space that feels like a playground. I didn’t give a design theme but mixed and matched furniture and accessories from different styles and periods to reflect our personalities and needs,” Zhao said.

Zhao doesn’t want to impose a particular style in her family home. The living room is a reflection of her love for modern chic design but the tea room shows another side of her Chinese roots and culture. Each space in the house is not only aesthetically pleasing but meets the family’s practical needs. She also uses her home as a way to experiment and try new things.

“The living room is mainly for entertaining and socializing with guests. The elevated ceiling is designed to increase the openness of the space. The fireplace is a definite element in all living rooms I have lived before. I always consider the fireplace is the essential element for a living space, giving off a special warm feeling,” she said.

Lush greens envelop idyllic urban living
Dong Jun / SHINE

The tree house is one of the 10-year-old boy’s playgrounds, surrounded by lush greens. 

The dining room and open kitchen is where the family spends most of the time.

“We all love cooking and sharing around the dining table. That’s why I have designed the dining room open to the garden where we often organize barbecue parties with friends,” Zhao said.

“My son loves to play in the thoughtfully-designed basement and tree house in the garden with his friends. Giving my kid fun designed spaces to play, learn and grow is essential.”

The tea room was created for Zhao and her husband as both of them are tea lovers.

“Having a room dedicated to a tea ceremony is what I have always wanted. Thus a zen-like, soothing space with simplistic Chinese-style furniture is created for the tea ceremonies,” she said.

Lush greens envelop idyllic urban living
Dong Jun / SHINE

The tea room is dedicated to tea ceremonies. The couple loves to spend time here.

Most of their furniture is from their previous house. Most of the furniture and accessories Zhao has collected over time as part of her stories along the way. She also opted for some new pieces for the new house.

“I don’t usually pick a big brand often seen everywhere, but high quality is a must. I was also trying to use a special fabric or another way to accessorize a rather classic furniture piece to reflect my personality,” she said.

With a lot of happy colors close to nature, the house brings family and friends a lot of positive energy, fun memories and laughter.

“I consider my house a mini playground integrating a tree house, pool, barbecue area, kids’ playroom so many kids love to come over for fun time,” Zhao said.

Lush greens envelop idyllic urban living
Dong Jun / SHINE

Designer Zhao Yuelai

Ask The Owner

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

A: Cosmopolitan energy and romantic vibe.

Q: Describe your home in three words.

A: Relaxed, elegant, child-like fun.

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

A: Spend time with my puppy dog.

Q: How do you unwind?

A: Relax in my garden.

Q: What’s the view outside your window?

A: Full of green and a nicely done pool.

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

A: Kid’s toy room in the basement. I love to spend time there with my son.

Q: Where do you source furniture?

A: During trips in different countries, and some old pieces collected from past years.

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