Tom Doctoroff, CEO, Asia Pacific at JWT, made it into the New York Times with his renovated lanehouse in Shanghai. Making China or Shanghai to your home is not easy for expats. “The experience of buying this home and renovating it, Mr. Doctoroff says, has helped him understand his adopted homeland far more than a decade as an expat living and working in Shanghai did.”
The New York Times:
Another favorite part of the home for the (French interior) designer (Baptiste Bohu) is the gray brick feature wall in the living room, which echoes a common design theme of colonial Shanghainese architecture immediately recognizable to those familiar with the “shikumen” tradition, in which colonial-era expatriates built homes that combined both Chinese and European elements.
The décor is diverse, reflecting different aspects of Mr. Doctoroff’s life, from his travels and life in Asia — a traditional Balinese statue stands in the living room — to his family, with antique chairs inherited from his grandmother among his favorite pieces.
Mr. Doctoroff, 52, who was born in Detroit and educated in Chicago but has lived in Asia for much of his adult life, has never been suited to the one-size-fits-all style of serviced apartment living, so brought a lot of his furniture with him when he moved to Hong Kong from the United States in 1994.
“Furniture has always been emotionally important to me because I’ve always been rootless,” he said. “I don’t want to say it makes up for not having a traditional lifestyle, but at least it’s something that grounds me a little bit.”
It was this desire for a more “grounded” existence that motivated his search for a property to buy in Shanghai.
Moreover, the experience of buying this home and renovating it, Mr. Doctoroff says, has helped him understand his adopted homeland far more than a decade as an expat living and working in Shanghai did.
“The renovation was really when I learned about the difference between China and the U.S. in a commercial sense,” he said. “The lack of protection and the dog-eat-dog nature of the process and the ambiguity of all things that are open to interpretation, I didn’t realize until I did this.”
Though there have been pockets of resistance among his mostly elderly neighbors — some of whom have been residents of the lane for decades and resented an interloper buying up a whole house for himself when a single dwelling is usually shared among several Shanghainese families — Mr. Doctoroff has found most residents to be welcoming.
“One neighbor across the way, he’s 82 years old, and one National Day he invited me over and they had a calligraphy organization for the lilong,” he said. “I went there and acted as the foreign guest and expressed appreciation, and since then, people have been very nice.”
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