How to turn a lifeless apartment into your Home Sweet Shanghai
Directed by Andy Boreham. Shot by Andy Boreham and Zhou Shengjie. Edited by Andy Boreham. Subtitles by Zhao Yuzheng and Andy Boreham.

Apartment living is a way of life for nearly everyone who calls Shanghai home. Unlike many other major cities in the world, Shanghai has very few standalone homes, even in the suburbs. So how do you make your apartment into a home?

Luckily there’s plenty of ways to turn your drab, soulless and probably small apartment into a cozy, safe, welcoming home. Today I’ll share some of the things I did, which will hopefully have you on your way in no time.

Add mood lighting

I’ll start with the aspect of a home that I find one of the most important: mood lighting. This is super important for creating a cozy, warm environment at home in the evenings when you get home from work, and can be achieved by placing multiple, dim (or dim-able) sources of light around your home. Taobao has plenty of options for app controlled light bulbs that can be changed to any color and dimmed right down. I use them in ordinary lamps to create my safe haven, as well as making sure that all of my standard bulbs are warm white and not white white.

Buy a plant, or ten

One way I made my place feel more homely was to add small and large plants all across the place. They don’t have to all be real, especially ones you want to place inside and away from the sun. I really recommend the hydraponic type, which can be left for a few days, or even a few weeks, without attention if you need to go away.

I also made a whole feature wall in my lounge which was covered with fake foliage that I got from IKEA. The paint on the wall keeps cracking no matter how many times I fix it, so I decided to just cover it over. It’s definitely not to everyone’s taste, but I like it.

How to turn a lifeless apartment into your Home Sweet Shanghai
Andy Boreham / SHINE

Andy's lounge after adding some "personal touches."

Get a pet, or two

Adding a new family member into your household is a perfect way to instantly turn your apartment into a home. This is especially suitable for those of us living alone, but don’t forget: getting a pet is nothing to be taken lightly, especially if you’re not planning on staying in Shanghai, or at least China, for the long run.

I have two cats, Yaya and Baisuzhen, who are both rescues. If you’re serious about getting a pet, consider adopting or taking on a homeless cat or dog. They’re abundant in Shanghai, and can be picked up at some local vets who sometimes take homeless kittens in, give them the necessary jabs and then re-home them. That’s how I came across Baisuzhen. Yaya, who was in terrible shape at the time, came running towards me meowing at the top of her lungs outside my apartment complex. It was fate and I took her home straight away.

How to turn a lifeless apartment into your Home Sweet Shanghai
Andy Boreham

Andy's cats, Baisuzhen and Yaya, spend a lazy afternoon on the couch.

Mirror mirror on the wall...

You've heard this a thousand times before, but that's because it's true: hanging large mirrors in small rooms creates the illusion that your space is much larger than it really is. IKEA is the perfect place to peruse a wide variety of styles and sizes and find the perfect mirror for your home.

A homely aroma

Fragrance is another important ingredient in making your apartment a home, but it’s not for everyone. Consider getting some scented candles in your favorite “flavor” (I really like vanilla) or burn some essential oils for a bigger hit. I really like the coffee scented oils, but alternatively you could just brew some coffee and get the same effect.

Sometimes, though, fragrance can annoy rather than delight, and it might take you a few tries to get your perfect aroma.