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Old house becomes a cozy family refuge
ONE of Marianita Ruspoli's greatest skills is creating beautiful interior spaces with harmony and balance, comfort and function. Moving from her cozy Yongfu Road apartment to the current old house on Gaoyou Road, her special talent for decorating is once again in play.
In this three-floor garden house she rented in August 2008 to share with husband Luca Pirri and 16-month-old son Niccolo, she has given each room a personal intimacy without being cluttered or overwhelming.
While her last apartment in an Art Deco building was swatched with deep colors or striped patterns on the walls, this house is light, white and airy. But her favorite colors °?- white, grey and black - are still all over the place, establishing a perfect backdrop for Ruspoli's new finds.
"I started to search for a larger family house before Niccolo was born in 2008. My criteria was precise °?- the right amount of space, including three bedrooms, a nice living and dining area, and possibly a garden for the baby's needs. And it needed to be in the same area I was so in love with," Ruspoli said.
"This 150-square-meter house with a small garden, although not in a very desirable shape, had the greatest potential. After showing pictures of my previous house to the landlord, she allowed me to freely decorate the space as I wanted.''
Lots of doodling by Ruspoli followed. She was keen, however, to somewhat reconfigure the layout, making the first floor open and turning the top floor into a light-filled glass room with terrace access.
"I designed it very much around my family's needs and my personal collection. Actually the end result was much better than I expected.''
Ruspoli was confident of turning the house into a sophisticated refuge because she has a natural talent for interior design, inherited from her mother, and has a profound knowledge of art history through her university study in Rome. She was exacting in every aspect, from each customized furniture item to the perfect lighting in each room.
She only transferred a few favorite items to this house, such as a black porcelain vase from Italy and two wooden Chinese cases. She loves to experiment with new decorating ideas for each new space.
On the ground floor, the open-plan common area, though not too big, has two distinct zones - living area and dining room. While Ruspoli didn't have much control over the architectural quirks in the living area, she made the most of them to ensure they contributed to the room's sense of relaxed style.
She said the secret is to work with, rather than against, such elements. She carefully measured the size of the room and customized sofas and tables as a clear, neutral backdrop for her possessions.
Fortunately the living area has large windows on both walls and is flooded with natural light. Plenty of sunshine is perhaps one of the greatest assets any room can have, so she revelled in it by avoiding fussy curtain treatments that would shut out the sun's rays.
Here, a bare window makes more of a style statement than one that is shrouded in fabric.
"The atmosphere is dramatically changed in the evening. I've used different lamplight and candlelight rather than just one central source so I'm able to illuminate different corners of the room for different effects,'' she said. The result is certainly more soothing.
Ruspoli likes to enhance the sensual feeling of a room by putting as many cushions on the sofas and floor as possible.
As she opts for natural, organic looks, a group of rattan cushions in subtly different colors and patterns that she sourced from Bali works brilliantly in a relaxed room.
Two antique Chinese portrait paintings she also bought in Bali give the simple room warmth and artistic touches.
"The vacations in Bali inspired my interior decorating style a lot to encapsulate the feeling of light, nature and open space. Organic materials are key. Hues are neutral and earth-toned,'' Ruspoli said.
Unlike her past apartment that integrated Chinese culture and celebrated the beauty of European style, this house evokes a natural, ethnic charm.
The dining area leads to the garden space where bamboo and other leafy green plants bring a sense of nature into the home. A set of synthetic wicker outdoor sofa and chairs makes the garden feel tropical.
The master bedroom is decorated in the same color shades - white and grey. "When I find a color I love, I stick with it," Ruspoli said. Serene and calming, the soft white and grey sets the scene for a range of neutrals. Linen panels stretch from floor to ceiling, accentuating the height of the room and upping the coziness factor.
White linen sofas, rattan cushions, black and white photographs and accent lighting create a smart, unfussy aerie in the top-floor sunroom which is connected to the terrace through floor-to-ceiling French windows.
Ruspoli turned it into a stylish family space for reading, conversation and entertaining.
She often has family and friends visiting Shanghai and this space can be easily changed to a guest bedroom.
This is a very happy house but Ruspoli's dream home project doesn't stop here. She will soon start to design and build a Balinese seaside villa as a family retreat in Lombok.