A lifestyle that is reflected in collections and home comforts
Kate Jones knew exactly what she wanted when she found her apartment in Shanghai. Her requirements were simple: discretion, brightness and character.
"As soon as I walked in, I could feel the energy. I put in an offer right away because it was the perfect choice for me," the New Zealander said.
This newly refurbished apartment is in a 76-year-old building on Xingguo Road. Every aspect of the apartment has been carefully considered: The living and dining rooms are spacious and open to allow for easy movement, and the bedroom has generous proportions that are indicative of elegance and comfort.
Jones, a creative director and interior stylist, was among the handful of people who moved to Shanghai during the pandemic to work with the Bicester Collection China which operates two shopping villages in Shanghai and Suzhou. It was her second stint in the city after spending some time here in 2008.
"Looking at homes in the city has turned from a necessity into a hobby," she remarked. "After living in Hong Kong, where the selection is depressing unless you pay a high price, seeing such a selection here is liberating.
"I'm also pleasantly pleased by the level of renovations on rental apartments. I saw this the last time I was in Shanghai, but it has since spread."
She chose her current location because, post-COVID, she wanted to return to enjoying the community she lives in.
"I could immediately sense a community here. Every day on my way to work, my neighbors greet me at the bottom of the stairs; the lanes are full of diverse people and a community that cares for cats.
"I never get tired of this leafy neighborhood. I'm constantly discovering new things, whether it's architectural details (I'm now enamored with wooden-gate doors) or passing by buildings mentioned in historical literature. There's a romantic vibe to the area," she continued.
Jones is co-creator of Kahoko Heirloom Rugs and founder of At Liberty Studio.
"I managed to turn my curiosity and love for craft, art, travel, and connecting people into a career," she explained.
And her great taste contributed to the delightful conclusion of this abode filled with artsy details.
"My style is an eclectic mix of old and new. I'm not trying to create a specific style; it's just the objects I collect, pieces from the brands, artists and craft people with whom I collaborate.
"I want people to feel at ease and curious as soon as they walk into my house. They should want to sit and read, explore the art, put on a record – sit back and relax."
Jones converted this 90-square-meter apartment into a cozy haven. "It's much smaller than my previous apartment in Shanghai, but it feels like a warm hug every day when I come home."
"The flat has 'good bones.' I love the small circular window, the view out to a typical garden from the bedroom, the large green tree in front, and the high ceilings. There is a lot of love about this place."
It was a matter of adding her own personal touch while allowing its inherent character to shine through.
Inspired by American artist and designer Donald Judd, who displays all of his items (no drawers on his desk, no doors on his cupboard), Jones applies the same principle to all of the areas.
"I try to do this as much as I can. It ensures that I purchase things carefully, use them thoroughly, and do not develop a hoarding habit. I also enjoy having books near me because I frequently read two or three novels at once and re-read my favorite sections of books."
The home is filled with design pieces from brands and artists sold through At Liberty Studio (www.at-liberty.com), as well as a number of items designed specifically for Jones.
Her favorite dining chairs are handcrafted in Chiavari, Italy. The original Chiavari chairs by Eligo, an exceptional Italian design studio that works with local craftspeople to ensure their unique craft thrives.
"I love the variety of design and how lightweight and durable these chairs are; they truly are pieces that, with proper care, will last across multiple generations," Jones said.
In the bedroom, she has two of her favorite pieces from the Ariake Collection, the Sake Tables. Jones adores these for their simplicity and functionality; the lids lift to reveal storage compartments. "All of the staining is done by hand; you can tell these items were made with love."
Every room features Kahoko Hierloom rugs (https://kahoko.org), which are handcrafted in Kenya by Rift Valley weavers.
"I love them. They immediately offer comfort and personality to the rooms. "They also feel great and require little upkeep," Jones added.
The artist edition in the lounge is by American artist August Krogan-Roley, and the running in the kitchen is from their collaboration with New Zealand artist Gidon Bing.
A mix of contemporary and traditional silhouettes and ornamental pieces are strategically placed to balance the old with the new. Artworks important to her are also displayed in various locations, contributing to the unique atmosphere.
"I'm fortunate enough to have works done by friends." One piece is by Portuguese artist Joao Vasco, who was residing in Hong Kong at the time but now has a studio in his hometown of Lisbon. "This is one of three pieces in a series. The other pieces are in the homes of two of my friends in Los Angeles and London."
Jones also purchased an etching by Hong Kong-based artist Charles Munka, who now lives and works in Sado Island, Japan.
"I admire Charles' work because he draws a lot of inspiration from found objects. This sculpture is made from a dried cement sack found in the rear of a boutique I owned in Hong Kong about 12 years ago."
"Another notable piece is by my friend Sal Viscuso, an actor and artist who lives in Hollywood. I remember seeing him on M*A*S*H as a kid, and we happened to sit next to each other at a dinner party in Los Angeles. Sal and I became fast friends and spent a lot of time in his studio and at his house talking about life, art, and how to enjoy the moment," she added.
Jones collects artifacts that hold memories for her. She has a little brass sculpture that was presented to her by artist and craftsman Gidon Bing that she treasures.
"He is one of the most talented people I've ever met, as well as one of the most down-to-earth and humble people. He always inspires me, and I enjoy having his art around me."
The flat must be a constant source of joy for the eyes and reflect who we are.
"The items I collect and the small spaces of comfort around my home reflect my lifestyle. It comes quite naturally and instinctively. I don't have a formula or design plans; I just live in the space and let it lead me."