A place to create memories and feel safe
Architect and interior designer Vladimir Mirabeau crafts a soulful home where architectural symmetry and a bohemian vibe go hand in hand.
The French designer and founder of VM Architecture says finding an apartment is like falling in love. "You never know when it happens, but when the opportunity presents itself just jump on it," he said.
Mirabeau wasn't looking for a new flat, but after scrolling on his WeChat Moments this property caught his attention. "I called the agent and visited the site, signed it and paid the deposit the same day. It was love at first sight."
In his seven years of living in the city, Mirabeau has lived in many different types of spaces – from a shared flat in a big tower, service apartments and community housing to a vintage lane house. "The first thing I'm looking for when I enter a house is the vibe, the soul and the atmosphere," he said.
This fully renovated lane house in Jing'an District has four floors with spaces that serve different functions. There's sufficient space and it's awash in sunlight.
Good structures in a building are essential. The height, spatial proportions and window sizes are elements that shouldn't be compromised.
"I like the structure of the house. A big, fully equipped kitchen on the first floor enables me to cook and invite friends over. The big rooftop is where I grow plants and gather with friends during sunny days," Mirabeau said.
However, his favorite spot is the little balcony extending from the living room. "In summer, I enjoy my breakfast there. I put jasmine in pots all around the handrails, and it smells like heaven."
The living and dining space is large enough for Mirabeau to create a friendly atmosphere, with different corners that invite people to feel at home. "I centered everything for an easy flow. You can walk around the big dining table and massive coffee table, and the sofa is placed in the center of the room. I wanted a cozy and homey feeling with an explosion of green plants like a mini jungle," he said.
The positioning of the furniture in the living room plays with the architecture of the building, as the architect applied the principle of "enfilade" that's often found in Parisian apartments. Enfilade stands for lining up elements – doors, windows, columns and rooms – in a row.
Here, Mirabeau uses symmetry in the living room by having the axial line of the balcony as the starting point. This asymmetrical balance within a space is also visually harmonious and tidy. It brings a sense of rhythm and creates a feeling of enhanced space in a smaller space as well. When the balcony windows are opened, it leads the eye outside the window.
The bedroom on the upper floor is more minimal-yet-cozy, with vintage furniture and carpet that he brought from Iran.
"I also played with the symmetry of the room, and placed the bed on the axis of the perched roof," he said.
The furniture selected for this apartment is rather simple with clean lines and neutral shades. "Furniture is a bit like clothes. Sometimes you find a master piece, and you buy it without thinking. This is how I find my things," Mirabeau said.
"I love to mix and match modern and vintage items. My favorite piece is the massive 1.2 meter by 1.2 meter coffee table in full black stone mounted on a metal structure. It's extremely heavy and took a lot of effort to move here."
The living and dining area are neat and elegant, adorned with fun objects and souvenirs he collected in different places. "I always decorate my apartment with souvenirs from my travels," he said.
"I have two dolls I bought in Burma and Sri Lanka. They sit face to face on different armchairs and are total inhabitants of the house. I swear that they change body positions from one day to another by themselves! Jokes aside, I like when objects have a soul that remind me of my trips."
In contrast to the neutral tone of the living room, the rooftop is more bohemian, a somewhat Moroccan vibe for a cozy atmosphere.
"I consider it a way to travel and escape from Shanghai a bit," Mirabeau said.
"Home is a shelter where you feel good and safe. Whether you had a hard day, heard sad news or when the weather is bad, you need to feel comfortable and peaceful in your home. But a home is also a place to share moments with your partner, your family and your friends to create memories," he said. "My home is alive. It has a soul, a history, a smell, a rhythm, a noise. It changes according to the season, and every day I add my footprint to it."
Ask The Owner
Q: What's the best thing about living in Shanghai?
A: The energy and dynamism of the city that keeps you excited everyday.
Q: Describe your home in three words.
A: Alluring, homely, safe
Q: How do you unwind?
A: Eating ice cream on the sofa watching movies.
Q: Where do you spend most of your time at home?
A: On summer on the rooftop in winter on my sofa.
Q: What's the view outside your window?
A: My lovely balcony full of jasmine.
Q: What's your favorite object at home?
A: My massive coffee table in stone.
Q: Where do you buy furniture?
A: A nice furniture shop with designer product called Jolor.