Hot hues, exotic finds and vibrant patterns
Custom-made furniture, period features, and self-designed accessories make Armelle Wu-Dandrieux's apartment in Shanghai the perfect mix of old and new, modern and exotic.
The French lady and her husband sold their apartment on Anfu Road last year and moved into this 150-square-meter flat tucked inside a lane on Gao'an Road. Regardless of the "ugly" exterior of the building, the flat itself has its charm, with a good layout and a perfect location in the city.
It never takes long for Wu-Dandrieux to adjust, adapt and give any new space a cozy and playful atmosphere. Her distinct style has matured over the years and this apartment once again proves it.
"Since we sold the apartment and our kids had left to study in France, we were trying to downsize but I still needed enough room for my collection of furniture and accessories over the years," she said. "I visited many places and none of them met my criteria: too expensive, too small, or bad renovation … finally my old agent friend showed me this apartment. It has spacious layout and I signed immediately, even though it is not an old apartment I was looking for."
Wu-Dandrieux said the apartment's condition was fairly good with brand new windows and appliances.
She loved the tiles on the kitchen floor and the big cloakroom for storage. "With wooden floors everywhere, white walls with no kitschy design, the space features a nice flow."
Although she was anxious to move at the beginning after selling their apartment, after a short while, Wu-Dandrieux felt good in this new home. "This place has as really good feeling: It is very quiet, lost in little lanes. The windows look out beautiful views of the surrounding trees and squirrels often spotted."
Each of her home items has its "soul" and is a part of family history. With all the existing collections she has, there are plenty of ways to decorate this new space. The white backdrop gives the flat an airy feel, with big windows that let in plenty of natural light.
The basics of furniture are in the same tone; then she started to play with touches of colors and warmth as well as a mix of patterns to create a cheerful, cozy ambience. The apartment is full of character, thanks to a canny mix of Chinese antiques, modern designs and inspirational pieces.
"I don't really try to create a style; it is just my style: To display harmoniously our belongings, furniture, books, pictures, small objects that have been with us for years, and there is a lot" she said. "I guess my style is eclectic, colorful, maximalist but organized with a warm atmosphere where you feel comfortable, certainly not as a showroom where everything matches and doesn't feel inhabited. I like to do small corners with a theme."
Hot hues, exotic finds and vibrant patterns are her staples. In this kind of "odds and ends" interior, harmony is essential.
"We have three beautiful pieces of Chinese antique furniture that we bought when we got married, some 28 years ago, and that have been everywhere with us ever since," she said.
Wu-Dandrieux moved to Taiwan in 1990 to study Chinese and met her husband there. Having lived in Taiwan for 12 years, the couple accumulated a collection of Chinese furniture and Asian knickknacks.
"I collect Buddha statues, especially milefo, the fat happy Buddha, but there is one my father made in porcelain (and also a lotus jar) and another one I bought in Yangshuo during our honeymoon which are very dear to me. And the last one, just the Buddha head in red I bought in Taiwan I really love," she said.
Aside from the Chinese touch, beautiful embroidered ethnic fabrics, upholstered armchairs, cushions made from fabrics with cool prints are all over the place. And surprisingly, Wu-Dandrieux made all of them.
She created a studio at home dedicated to her collection of fabrics and she spends plenty of time creating, sewing. "I've always had an addiction for fabrics and love manual work. Creating, that is when I'm happiest."
She started a decade ago to restore the old furniture with bad fabric or fake leather (often stools, armchairs, benches) and has given them a new life by repairing them, treating the wood, upholstering with exotic fabrics so each one becomes unique. "I still very much enjoy the creative process and feel content to play with my fabrics, contribute to waste reduction and heritage conservation," she said.
The living room is where her unique armchairs, stools, benches of different colors and shapes mixed together that creates a cozy seating area. The dining space has a big modern table for dinner with friends, against the wall covered with bookshelves and pictures of people (musicians, painters, artists) that inspire her. Another smaller dining area is at the corner that she uses daily where she places her old Chinese cabinets full of tableware and lots of green plants.
"Regarding the bedroom, I never had such a big bedroom thus I was able to make part of it a very girly dressing room. This spacious room also has a mix of different things: Lots of different fabrics from all over the world with a Frida Kahlo corner, composed of several old Chinese furniture including the dressing table my mother offered me for my 40th birthday," she said.
"However, there is always a bit of Matisse, my favorite painter, in all of the rooms." Home is her safe place. "I don't want my home to be generic or over-designed. I want it fun, joyful, unpretentious, a place you feel good in."
"As a French woman living in Asia for nearly 30 years, it is really important to have a place where I really feel home. I could have the same place in Paris, Nantes, Taipei. All the more important now that my sons are gone back to France, and especially in the current world situation, I give my home extra care, like an old friend."