A sociable home that radiates energy
In the home she shares with her husband Theophile Gandolfo and daughter Gabriella in the heart of Shanghai, fashion designer Charlotta Gandolfo has created her own version of soothing interiors.
The penthouse duplex in a high-rise on Donghu and Huaihai roads appealed to the couple because of its vast space and its location in the city's lively neighborhood, amidst tree-lined streets with historic architecture and trendy restaurants and bars.
"I need to live somewhere where there is light," Gandolfo explained. "The atrium window facing east floods the house with natural light."
"In addition, there are no high-rises that block the view (or the light) – we live opposite IAPM Mall and have a perfect Bund view. It feels magical at night, when the city lights up, to look out and enjoy our perfect Shanghai view – better than the best hotel bars!"
Gandolfo relocated from Stockholm, Sweden, to Shanghai in 2008. She launched her eponymous fashion label, Charlotta Gandolfo, in 2018 and has since amassed a large fan base.
"Shanghai is now our home," she said, "where both my child and my business were born and are growing up."
The 380-square-meter apartment is an elegant home where the Scandinavian minimalist foundation serves as the backdrop to their carefully chosen acquisitions from Shanghai and beyond.
"When we first saw this apartment, its condition was far below our expectations and taste," Gandolfo explained. "We then renovated the apartment to meet our living standards. That was the best decision I've made.
"It is always difficult to create a true home in a rented apartment that exudes the landlord's taste. We now have a place that truly feels like home. It's a joy to come home every day," she stated.
The apartment is bright, fresh and streamlined, reflecting the couple's tastes. To bring cohesion across the rooms, the walls are painted white, and the flooring is done in a light color palette. "Because both my husband and I work a lot, our home needs to be a sanctuary, a place where both our minds and bodies can rest," Gandolfo explained.
"The sleek and minimalist environment reflects my Nordic heritage. We even have a traditional Scandinavian fireplace! But, because we've both lived all over the world, it's natural that we brought elements from all over: rich wallpapers, fabrics and upholstery inspired by continental Europe (my husband is French), a lot of Asian art from China and our travels throughout the region, candles, and always a lot of free flowers and greenery."
The original design was also changed. The kitchen, for example, was opened up to connect with the large dining room. "We enjoy cooking and eating dinners with family or friends. That is why we value a large and welcoming kitchen."
The layout makes it ideal for entertaining. "When my husband is cooking, we all hang out around the kitchen counter with a glass of wine, or we have a professional chef over, and it's part of the experience to see him prepare the dishes for us," she said.
"It's very clear that our dining area – both the formal dining room and the kitchen counter – is designed for and by people who enjoy their food and dinners with great friends."
Gandolfo uses materials and colors in a harmonious, natural and textural way. Nothing jars or contrasts sharply. As a fashion designer, she applies the same principles at home. She brings together coherent materials and elements that feel fresh, but are seamlessly bonded.
Many pieces of furniture are custom-made locally and reflect simplicity and functionality. "To make it feel like home, pillows, blankets and bed covers were brought from Sweden. In addition, I enjoy fresh flowers, interesting artwork, unexpected elements and candles."
The couple recently chose an artwork by Zhu Ruixin that represents many of the paradoxes of modern migration and the migratory journey that we, or our ancestors, have all undertaken at some point in our lives.
"Despite the fact that the Chinese artist specializes in redrawing old maps with traditional calligraphy ink, he has never left the country. Oxymorons have always fascinated me, so I was drawn to this seemingly contradictory idea right away. This is a great conversation piece that we have above our couch because it always prompts new and interesting observations from people."
A Uzbeki dowry gift hung on the wall at the corner of the second floor is from the Fergana Valley, given by tribes women from generation to generation.
"You can see that each corner's design is imperfect because each generation that stitches this brings their own unique contribution to the family history," she said. "My husband bought this during his travels to Central Asia during the time when we were planning to start a family. He chose it because of the pomegranate symbolism on the cloth.
"Pomegranates are a symbol of fertility in Central Asian culture. I became pregnant shortly after receiving the gift."
The energy of the family living there is the most important factor in creating a welcoming home, according to Gandolfo.
"I am a firm believer in decluttering: throwing, filing and sorting. It is important to make space – physical and mental – to focus on what is truly important: quality time with our loved ones," she said.