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Home » Sunday » Home and Design

Creating a home from scratch in a strange land

A simplistic yet welcoming vibe fills this light-filled duplex apartment located in the heart of the city, comprising a mixture of unusual shapes, textures and colors.

A Danish family has made their home in the spacious apartment in this central location that provides a feeling of freedom.

Lisbeth Kragh came to live in Shanghai a year-and-a-half ago due to her husband Jacob Gregersen Kragh’s job change. “I was overwhelmed by the big city, coming from Denmark. Shanghai is so vibrant and alive. It was difficult to know your way around Shanghai. Luckily, we had good guidance and after being shown different neighborhoods we were certain that we wanted to live in the heart of the city,” she said.

Kragh chose Xintiandi to start off her Shanghai living for the first year but seven months ago, the family moved to the current apartment.

“Despite the fact that we live right in the center of Shanghai, the quietness and the coziness we find here, is what we love about this area,” Kragh said.

“An ideal home to me is a home where you have room for everyday life and gatherings with friends and family. We have two children: one is a teenager and the other one is about to become one. They need their privacy as well as they need a place to hang out with their friends.

This apartment has large children’s rooms, lots of bathrooms and an extra living room, which gives us plenty of room and it is never a problem for them or us to have friends over. On top of this, our apartment has a large roof-top terrace which gives us the opportunity to be outside without having to leave home. Lastly, all the rooms have big windows, bringing in abundant daylight.”

However, during their first visit, they almost turned it down because “it was quite a work after many years with the former tenant,” Kragh said.

“It took some imagination to picture the potential of the apartment, but today we are glad that we gave it a chance.”

The landlord has repaired it all, but has made almost no changes to the interior. The only downside of this apartment is that the floors are dark wood with some red in it.

“I would have loved them to be dark almost black instead. The interior in the kitchen is outdated, but fortunately, it is white and therefore easy to match with everything,” she said.

The family brought no furniture, only a few pictures, books and pillows with them from Denmark as part of the company policy. “We had to buy almost everything we have in the apartment today.

“When you must start decorating your new home with almost everything new, it can be a challenge to create the feeling of home. But I think that we have managed quite well. Our children say that it feels like our home, which is what I wanted to create,” Kragh said.

She defines the interior style as a mix of Bohemian and Nordic with a Chinese twist. The Nordic style means simplicity, choice of light colors, furs, wood and skins.

“I like that old meets new, and finding old Chinese furniture and decorations in markets is one of my favorite things to do here in Shanghai,” she said.

Kragh doesn’t purchase furniture with much color. She likes her home to be calm in its appearance, and thereby make room for art and flowers.

Flowers are also the necessity of every room in the house, and particularly on the terrace. “I guess I’m trying to make up for not having a garden anymore. I wanted to create green spaces where nature becomes part of our home.”

“My home is filled with pillows and flowers which I think is part of making a home that invites to cozy conversation, but I also have some art on my walls that might provoke some guests.”

The lithography by Danish artist Kathrine Ærtebjerg was a present from her mom and is very dear to Kragh as one of the few paintings and pictures brought with them from Denmark.

“I’m always on the lookout for a new piece of art. It does not have to be by any specific artist or genre, but the piece should contain a story that I as a viewer must try to find,” she said.

“I constantly make changes in my home in form of new decorations or just by moving small items from one place to another.

Ask The Owner

Q: What’s the best thing about living in Shanghai?

A: Its vibration. The city is always awake. Every time I go for a ride on my bicycle, I see something new.


Q: Describe your home in three words.

A: Calm. Cozy. Light


Q: What’s the first thing you do when you get home?

A: It differs depending on what I come home from, but taking off my shoes and washing my hands.


Q: How do you unwind?

A: Spend time with family and friends or reading a good book.


Q: Where do you spend most of the time at home?

A: In the kitchen and the living room.


Q: What’s the view outside your window?

A: Neighbors and treetops.


Q: What’s your favorite object at home?

A: My Chinese drum.


Q: Where do you source furniture in Shanghai?

A: No place in particular.


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