The first time Senem Cennetoglu and Todd Pilgreen stepped into this multilevel flat on the 10th floor of an apartment tower at The Lakeville in Xintiandi, they were struck by the sight of a sweeping panorama from the rooftop terrace.
"The view is Shanghai cityscape in all its glory, allowing a glimpse of the Pudong skyline, with the (Oriental) Pearl (TV Tower) and the Shanghai Tower standing tall," Cennetoglu gushed.
The view is just at the right level. "Especially during the golden hour of urban sunsets, all the glazing being washed with the warm light is priceless."
The architect couple has been calling Shanghai home for a decade. Pilgreen, from the southwestern part of the United States, is now managing director of Gensler Shanghai, and Cennetoglu, a Turkish-born American, set up her architectural design company (www.senemcennetoglu.com) in 2021.
"Things were a lot different then; the apps we now use for convenience in our daily lives were nonexistent. Xintiandi was the most international and diverse neighborhood, and for me it was an easier transition into our new adventure. The '15-minute community life circle' trend that is being discussed lately, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, was the fundamental principle of Xintiandi's development a decade ago. We have everything we need here in our neighborhood within walking distance," Cennetoglu noted.
"Being expats for a long time now, we've been craving this sense of belonging, a connection to our roots while we embrace Shanghai. Our home is a safe escape that provides comfort to us and all our loved ones."
As architects, spatial planning and material selection are very important to them. Each space tells a story of its own; the flow and the amount of natural light certainly increases the indoor comfort level.
"And for my residential projects, comfort is my priority. Every person has a different taste, a different preference thus it is a very personal and intimate journey to find the balance," she observed.
The apartment features a central stairwell under an expansive skylight. The light quality is unmatched, offering a perfect opportunity to create a hanging garden. It creates a beautiful multilevel connection with an overgrown tropical rainforest feel.
"Our 90-year-old antique Chinese armoire that we combined with our Cambodian Buddha torso statues, my husband's paintings and my grandmother's Turkish rug completed the artsy corner under the stairs," Cennetoglu explained.
The corner just welcomed a creative silver-tone "Christmas tree" for the festive season, an almost sculptural piece that catches the eye.
The living area, with oversized, comfortable sofas and a Turkish Bunyan rug underfoot, is a place to unwind. The LC4 Chaise Lounge by Le Corbusier, known as the "relaxing machine," also graces the living area to provide extra comfort.
Cennetoglu said that the pandemic has definitely highlighted the importance of creating comfortable indoor and outdoor spaces. She established her company in the middle of the pandemic and had to create a working space for both herself and Todd.
"We explored how our living space can transform. Our open space layout and flow allowed us to introduce a study space in addition to our creative studio upstairs. We used all our Dixie Mid-Century Modernism pieces to create this study. Thus we are both able to work from home seamlessly in our own environment, spend quality time together as a family while day-to-day business activity goes on," she pointed out.
The living and dining areas also provide ample room for all the artworks collected over the years.
"Art is very personal, just like wine. And we love both. It's a chance to see the world from the artist's point of view," Cennetoglu stated. "We are blessed with wonderful art pieces. Whether it be a painting, sculpture, poster or artifact ... each piece we collect represents a special place, time or experience that we shared together and therefore is dear to our hearts in their own unique way."
They are proud collectors of their dear friend Liu Xi, a Chinese contemporary ceramic artist. They have her first prize-winning piece "Nirvana No. 2" from VIII Bienal Internacional de Cerámica, Spain.
"And recently she blessed us with a one-of-a-kind piece from her latest collection 'Our God is Great.'"
Another piece the couple enjoys a lot is from London-based Icelandic-born artist Kristjana S Williams. They met her at the 2014 Design Shanghai Exhibition. Her work was described by the New York Times as part of the "new antiquarian movement."
"It was a pleasure to witness her growth; this process is what we enjoy the most," Cennetoglu said.
Chinese culture is deeply integrated into the couple's living space. Traditional Chinese art grace the dining space, where the paintings of famous calligrapher and painter Ye Zhaoxin as well as a Chinese calligraphy about friendship lasting overseas by artist Lee Joon Chang are displayed.
There's also a visually striking museum quality and collectible Chinese-origin malachite piece excavated from the ancient Tonglushan Mine in Daye, Hubei Province. Tonglushan is where the Chinese bronze age started, and it has been mined continuously since.
The couple also has their own works scattered around. Their newest pieces are a series of charcoal rubbings of unique Shanghai manhole covers they discovered while exploring the city.
"We currently have three pieces completed, and we have several more in line for a future exhibition," Cennetoglu revealed.
While the ground floor sets the stage for the couple's art collection, chill-out moments and gathering of friends, the level above it is designed as tranquil zones customized for each inhabitant.
A new addition on the second level is a home gym.
"Exercise is part of our daily life. Unfortunately the pandemic made it very challenging to continue our gym classes. We decided to opt out of our guest bedroom and turn it into a home gym. From weights to yoga mats and machinery, we have an almost fully-equipped gym that we've been using every day," Cennetoglu said.