In­te­ri­ors come alive when op­po­sites at­tract in entrepreneur Sara Jane Ho’s char­ac­ter­ful re­treat in the French Con­ces­sion



There’s a ri­valry be­tween Bei­jing and Shang­hai. When Sara Jane Ho, the founder of Bei­jing­based eti­quette school In­sti­tute Sarita, de­cided to open a sec­ond school in Shang­hai, she found her loy­al­ties shift­ing. “Our school in Shang­hai was in a villa in the French Con­ces­sion,” she re­calls. “I didn’t think I would move to Shang­hai, but as I was do­ing the ren­o­va­tion, I was mak­ing lit­tle vis­its there and I was just so charmed by the French Con­ces­sion. You feel like you are in Paris; it’s all low-rise, with tree-lined streets and lit­tle cafes. I fell in love with it.”

Down one of the French Con­ces­sion’s jum­bled long­tang al­leys – Shang­hai’s equiv­a­lent to Bei­jing’s bet­ter-known hu­tongs – Sara found the place she now calls her Shang­hai home in a


2,400sqft house with a 600sqft gar­den. As would be ex­pected from some­one who made her name teach­ing Chi­nese women how to set a ta­ble, walk in heels, ar­range flow­ers and be­have in an ex­em­plary man­ner, Sara’s home is a pic­ture of style and poise. But there are also bright sparks of de­sign flair, as well as an eclec­tic col­lec­tion of art­works that show there’s more to her than the prim-and-proper at­ti­tude her eti­quette schools pro­mote.

“My home is truly a re­flec­tion of my­self,” says Sara, who en­listed the help of Ital­ian in­te­ri­ors spe­cial­ist Domi­t­illa Lepri in the de­sign. “It’s a work in progress, too. I’m al­ways tweak­ing and play­ing with and ro­tat­ing my art, be­cause my per­son­al­ity changes and my mood changes as I en­ter dif­fer­ent stages of my life or dif­fer­ent sea­sons. There’s a lit­tle bit of old, a lit­tle bit of new. I think I’m very Chi­nese in one as­pect, but also very Western in another, so it all comes to­gether at my house.”

Sara’s home is an eclec­tic blend of con­trasts. “It’s a mix of high and low,” she ex­plains. Car­pets pur­chased on Taobao and blue-and-white vases sourced from Bei­jing flea mar­kets sit along­side Cole & Sons wall­pa­per and yel­low Poltrona Frau chairs. “And I like to mix and match old and new. My new stuff is my Chi­nese con­tem­po­rary art. Then I went through a stage of buy­ing an­tiques at auc­tion in Paris, so my bureau is very old and there’s a big gold mir­ror in my liv­ing room that’s about 100 years old. It al­most feels like an apart­ment you would find in Lon­don or New York with old and new. In China, you don’t re­ally find that, so you al­most don’t feel like it’s a Chi­nese home.”


她特意委託意大利室內設計師Domi­t­illa Lepri設計家居,打造適合自己的室內裝潢。「我會根據人生階段或季節轉變而影響的心情,不時調整和配搭屋內的藝術品。新舊融合、中西合璧的風格完美匯聚於家中,仿如我的個人寫照一樣。」

奢華低調兼備的家居成功締造鮮明反差。來自北京跳蚤市場的藍白花瓶、淘寶地毯與Cole & Son­s牆紙及Poltrona Frau黃色椅子和諧混搭,兩者之間不存一絲衝突。「同時,我喜愛將古董

Sara has been col­lect­ing art since 2012 and her Shang­hai house con­tains the first piece she ever pur­chased. Zhang Shu­jian’s pair of lips takes pride of place in her bed­room and it’s a piece she val­ues for its re­flec­tion of the high lev­els of art train­ing that Chi­nese artists must un­dergo – the pen­cil draw­ing is so fine that the piece re­sem­bles a pho­to­graph.

Two years ago, Sara turned her fo­cus to fe­male artists. There’s a dark-blue art­work above the blue sofa in her li­brary by Hangzhou-based fe­male artist Qian Ji­ahua, whose works en­cour­age view­ers to take a mo­ment to pause in this fast-paced world. The large art­work in Sara’s liv­ing room is by famed fe­male artist Cui Jie and fea­tures an old Bei­jing ho­tel. “It’s a very well-known build­ing, so when peo­ple who have spent time in Bei­jing look at it, they all know it,” says Sara. “There are three women hold­ing hands in front – my feng shui mas­ter said it was good since my busi­ness is very much cen­tred on women.”

In­deed, every art piece must be ap­proved by Sara’s feng shui mas­ter – as well as the lay­out of her home, though Sara ad­mits to hav­ing a good sense of the prac­tice her­self. “It just needs to feel good,” she ex­plains. “It’s about the en­ergy and the flow of space.” Though In­sti­tute Sarita in Shang­hai re­cently com­pleted its two-year lease and hasn’t re­newed, and Sara is in­creas­ingly work­ing out of Bei­jing again on a new life­style busi­ness ven­ture, Raya Liv­ing, her home in Shang­hai re­mains some­thing of a re­treat. “It’s my get­away,” she says. “My es­cape.” //





PER­FECT PAIR­ING Old mixes with new through­out Sara's home, such as the cen­tury-old gold bor­dered French mir­ror that con­trasts with a con­tem­po­rary can­vas by fe­male artist Cui Jie.完美配搭Sara的家園貫穿著新舊融合的主題,有百年歷史的金色大鏡和現代藝術家崔潔的畫作成功奠下完美氛圍。

LIPS FOR DAYS A hy­per­re­al­is­tic pen­cil com­po­si­tion by Zhang Shu­jian adorns the wall op­po­site Sara's bed, al­lud­ing to its im­por­tance as the very first art­work she ever ac­quired.完美活現畫家張書箋以超級寫實主義風格繪畫雙唇,睡房中的畫作是屋主首件藝術品,有著重要的象徵意義。

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