A Small Shanghai Lane House

updated Apr 30, 2019

A Small Shanghai Lane House

updated Apr 30, 2019
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Name: Julie Morel
Location: French Concession — Shanghai, China
Size: 400 square feet
Years lived in: 3 years, renting

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Julie’s apartment love story all started with a radiator. No one moves to Shanghai — or spends even a night there — without hearing grave warnings from residents about the damp, drafty homes that skimp on central heating. Tenants in century-old flats depend on space heaters and electric blankets, or take solace in trips a little farther south. Unless, of course, they happen to strike gold, which is exactly what Julie did.

When she got word that there was a flat for rent in Shanghai’s French Concession with a radiator, she had to go see it. Luckily for Julie, who is an interior and space designer for fashion brands and creative companies, the wall heater wasn’t the only rare gem in the flat. Julie fell in love with picture windows (that open up onto a five-story terrace), laser-cut bathroom doors, and hardwood floors (that are often elusive in China).

Despite the quest for heat, function is not Julie’s strong suit, at least not at home. “There are no rules,” Julie told me, when explaining why there is a chair in front of the TV. “The funny thing is, even if I have to consider function in my work, here I can put whatever I want, but it’s not functional at all.” Functional or not, her home is cozy and exudes warmth, mixing bits of her past life in France, her travels around Asia, found pieces, and DIY hacks. All of which easily upstage any heater.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: It’s a melting pot of a lot of different things, like second-hand items or small objects I find in shops in China or wherever. I think my mom gave me this intuition. She also has picked up a lot of things from her travels everywhere, and when she mixes them together in her living space, I’m super impressed. But she’s not a designer, she’s a nurse.

Inspiration: My travels.

Favorite Element: The laser-cut doors, picture windows — we don’t have these kinds of things in France, so to me, they’re super exotic — and the layout. I like the layout because it’s not big, but you don’t have empty space with large corridors.

Biggest Challenge: To avoid falling in love with and buying big furniture, which I think I somehow managed.

What Friends Say: “We recognize Julie’s touch.”

Biggest Embarrassment: The lighting is my biggest embarrassment. I pay particular attention to lighting, but here I’ve been super lazy because I only have small lamps and it’s not lit up enough during the night. But I didn’t want a huge IKEA light — I prefer to live in the dark.

Proudest DIY: The way I combine items together and create small stories with the objects I’ve found.

Biggest Indulgence: My Blueair air purifier.

Best Advice: Too much perfection kills style. When it’s too controlled, you don’t even dare to sit.

Dream Sources: For me, it’s less about where I can buy furniture, and more about location, like having a cabin that faces the sea or that has a connection with nature somehow.


Sofa cover — Dongtai Lu Antique Market, Shanghai (now closed)
Pillows — Muji
Antique benches — Dongtai Lu Antique Market, Shanghai (now closed)
Mirror — Ikea
Plant pot — Caojiadu Flower and Bird Market
Big Armchair — Ikea
Armchair pillows — Souvenir from Sapa, Vietnam
Folding Table and Chairs — From a friend
Picture — Vietnam souvenir
Kite — Beijing souvenir
Coffee cups — Plantane
Side table — Plantane

Fox plate — Inaluk in Montreuil, France
Hanging plant – A shop on Rue des Filles du Calvaire in Paris

Mirror — Ikea

Thanks, Julie!

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