New life chapter in charming old home
Victor Mongin started off a new life chapter in a 1930s apartment on Anting Road and is overwhelmed by its coziness and authenticity.
It was in January 2020 the French interior, furniture and branding designer moved to Shanghai, after 10 years spent between Bangkok and Hong Kong.
"I had a longing for fresh air and exciting new business opportunities. Shanghai appeared as the best place to be at this time. Designing in the fastest-growing country in the world was a stimulating new challenge for me," he said, sitting in his balcony, marveling at the gorgeous scene of greenery.
Mongin visited a lot of places before falling in love with this apartment. He has seen a lot of lane houses but all were a bit crumbling.
"I wanted something old, full of charm, in good condition and with an outdoor area in Xuhui District."
The apartment is at the end of a cute lane. It is housed in an old family house/heritage building, built in the 1930s with very charming architectural details. It has been divided into six apartments with two on each floor.
"Besides the charm of an old house, the living and bedrooms are facing southwest so the rooms are bathed in sunlight all day long. I appreciate the calm and tranquility of this place as we are just few tenants in the building. I fell in love with my downstairs neighbor: A lovely old Shanghainese woman who settled in in the 1950s."
The designer takes great joy in decorating the apartment and furnishing it to his taste.
"The previous tenant was using the apartment in a totally different way. The actual living/dining room was in fact a storage room, full of boxes and crates. The bedroom was a multi-functional space integrating dining, office and bedroom. The balcony was unused," he said.
Mongin cleaned up the place and rearranged the function of each room. "This apartment perfectly matches my needs: a nice living space, big enough to receive guests and two bedrooms and bathrooms."
The apartment has given him peace and privacy and most luxurious of all is the balcony. "I spend most of my time here in the balcony. It features an original terrazzo floor with brass joints, surmounted by a beautiful balustrade, facing a luxuriant garden with hundred-year-old trees. During summer I open all the windows – the fine line between indoor/outdoor disappears," he said.
"Nature is coming in and it reminds me of the countryside house I grew up in Brittany, France. It's a privilege to have a bit of green when you live in a city like Shanghai – I'm very grateful for that."
Inside, except repainting everything in white to freshen up a bit, Mongin did not make any change to the layout. The apartment was in good condition and well preserved with historic details intact.
The kitchen, living and dining rooms are organized as an open space. "It is quite masculine: dark wood, leather, glass and blue velvet are the main materials and colors. Most of my furniture pieces are mid-century style, except a pair of Bauhaus Wassily chairs."
A set of Indian portraits painted on glass adorn the wall. "It is my favorite item at home that I bought in a busy market in Jaipur in India. They follow me everywhere I go."
The bedroom is in a lighter tone, looking effortlessly fresh. Light oak wood and white walls make the space very calm and serene. On each side of the bed, two big plants give a tropical vibe to the room.
In the evening, the light is coming from different table and standing lamps which gives a soft and pleasant light for the ambience.
The atmosphere he wanted to create is functional, aesthetically pleasing and, above all, comfortable. "I usually do not over-decorate the space I live in. I need some white walls to breathe and balance with furniture. To me, an apartment is a place to relax, regenerate – the calmer the better. I work the same with the colors – neutral and natural with some touches of my favorite color: blue."
It is important for him to feel that a place has soul. "A space filled with souvenirs and objects bought here and there. I also love a place filled with fresh flowers. The smell just reminds me (once again) of the countryside where I grew up."
"Home is somewhere I can empty my mind but also a place of happiness where I spend great moments with friends and good wine," he added.
Ask The Owner
Q: What's the best thing about living in Shanghai?
A: Everything is fast and efficient.
Q: Describe your home in three words.
A: Cosy. Unpretentious. Charming.
Q: How do you unwind?
A: Listening to music with a glass of wine on my balcony.
Q: Where do you spend most of your time at home?
A: On my balcony. (Yes, I unwind a lot!)
Q: What's the view outside your window?
A: Trees, trees and trees.
Q: What's your favorite object at home?
A: A set of six Indian portraits painted on glass that I bought in Jaipur in India.
Q: Where do you buy furniture?
A: I used to buy my furniture in vintage shops but now that I'm in China I buy most of my stuff online.