WHEN Spanish couple, German Roig and Natalia Moreno, found their new apartment in the city on Xiangyang Road N., it had a simple layout that looked like a shell and allowed them to work their magic to create a practical, cozy space.
“When we found this apartment we were living on Wukang Road, a very nice area surrounded by cool coffee places and vegetable market, yet the apartment was getting small since we were also working at home so we needed more space,” architect Roig said.
“Our main requirement was that we wanted the apartment empty without any furniture since we wanted to decorate it ourselves from scratch. When you live 10,000km away from your family and hometown you need to have a sense of ‘home’,” he said.
Having checked out several places, they found the current apartment just when the landlord was planning to renovate it.
“The workers were already in the house. We saw possibilities of a very authentic Shanghai lane house, and wanted to experience the real old lilong (laneway) life.
“And it was totally empty, just as we wanted. After several rounds of talks with the landlord, I convinced her that I would design her place and supervise the construction only if she would rent it for me. Luckily she agreed!”
The Spanish couple loved the way the house was organized on different levels. “Functions were layered. Kitchen, living room, main bedroom and workshop area were in different levels,” Roig said.
“Another essential element was the sun. Spanish people love the sun to come into the house. It is our moment to connect with nature in a very busy city like Shanghai. So in our home, the living room is the most important room for us. It had to be the most comfortable and big enough because that is where we spend most of our time. So south orientation was a must,” he added.
During construction and based on the condition of the place and budget, they chose to have a simplistic yet cozy design so they combined wood, bricks and white surfaces to achieve a balanced result.
They wanted a functional home with a warm atmosphere where they could socialize with friends.
“We could say that it is a ‘raw Nordic’ style. As an architect I love Alvar Aalto’s house. He uses wood branches as railings and merges wood-white and nature in a perfect balance. For example, every furniture and detail in our home has been made without any electrical tool or machinery. All of them were handcrafted and mounted by two experienced Chinese workers,” he said.
Getting the interior structural proportion right was essential for the final design. A contemporary ambience was created based on the historic root.
“When we looked for new furniture for our home, we first thought: Should we design it?” Roig said.
“So that is why you can find a dining table, paintings, several stools and a lot of furniture samples — experiments made by us in our home.
“We have a strong belief in the arts and crafts. We prefer things hand-made, things that feel a little touched by human. That is how WhyKnotLab started — our own furniture company of hand-knitted puffs and home furniture, sewing traditional knitting and weaving techniques for new and contemporary designs,” he added.
Roig said they were practical at the same time and love designed furniture. So they combine things from vintage markets, warehouses with products sold at Hay, Design Republic, IKEA and Muji.
They are constantly on look out for new works by creative and emerging designers, and promote several products from their designer friends as well.
“In our living room, the main idea was to create a ‘functional living’ room, that will give us a spacious feeling,” Roig said.
“We don’t like busy places so we combined built-in furniture with loose furniture. In that sense the stairs that connect the living room with the workshop on the mezzanine are somehow part of the furniture, becoming one of the main features of our home,” he said.
“Accomplishing the functional purposes — we have built a long low cabinet that gives a horizontal perspective to the entire space. It makes the area feel bigger while giving us lot of room for storage.”
When the couple thinks about readjusting some of the rooms, they first consider how and what they want to achieve.
They then use colors and other materials required. They then add the accessories and soft furnishing with strong textures or some interesting colors.
Ask The Owner
Q: What’s the best thing about living in Shanghai?
A: That we can use our creativity every day to create new things quite fast.
Q: Describe your home in three words.
A: Layered, raw and Nordic.
Q: What’s the first thing you do when you get home?
A: Talk with my partner about which crazy new idea I got today.
Q: How do you unwind?
A: Watching movies and documentaries on the projector is one thing that makes us switch off.
Q: Where do you spend most of your time at home?
A: Definitely the living room with the workshop area. Since they are connected we use them every day.
Q: What’s the best view outside your window?
A: When you are on the highest level, you can see through the roof window all the lane houses roof and in the back, as in a painting, you can find the Shangri-la Hotel standing out of the skyline of the old houses. At night, it is quite a reflection of Shanghai urbanism.
Q: How do you scent your home?
A: The best scent is someone cooking in our kitchen. We don’t like to use any home perfume.
Q: What’s your favorite object at home?
A: Our side table in the bedroom called Common Comrades designed by Neri&Hu for Moooi, a modern Chinese piece of furniture.
Q: Where do you source furniture in Shanghai?
A: Design Republic, Wondullful Dept, Muji, IKEA, Resee and Hay.