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Out with the old, in with the new decor
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The upcoming Chinese New Year is the most important celebration in the Chinese calendar. During the days before the festival, we give our home a thorough cleaning and decorate to create a festive atmosphere.

Traditionally, Chinese families hang chun lian, or spring couplets, on both sides of the door to usher in good wishes for the New Year. They paste paper cuts of upside down good fortune fu characters or other patterns on gates, windows, walls and lamps.

Vases of flowers are put in the house to add atmosphere to the home. Living plants symbolize growth and flowers represent wealth and prosperity.

If traditional Chinese decorative items are your thing, a collection of quality artifacts can be found in Esydragon on Taikang Road.

A collection of various tiger shoes, porcelain ball tassels and Qi-Qi tassels are just some of this shop's highlights. The beautiful hand-sewn shoes are thought to carry within them magical wishes for protection and this is why Chinese parents make their children wear them.

The fierce tiger faces are often used on children's clothing to frighten away evil, as well as to bring the strength and courage of the tiger to the wearer. These little shoes can also brighten your home as they make a whimsical wall or bookcase decoration.

Another shop you must visit is SH Decor, which is also tucked away in this vibrant arts and culture street. The lovely boutique sells brightly colored, modern porcelain house ware and designer candles with traditional Chinese flair.

The South Korean designer Laura Lee created all the items, inspired by Chinese culture and traditional patterns.

The gorgeous porcelain jars decorated with tassels in bright colors, the fine bone china tea sets and newly created wine cabinets are among the best choices for New Year decorations.

"Keeping things simple and natural with a good sense of aesthetics, will help yield a more 'modern' look during the Spring Festival," said Rossana Hu, founding partner of Neri and Hu Design and Research Office (NHDRO) and Design Republic.

"Using traditional decorative items in a non-traditional way can add an interesting spin to the look, and make people think a little about what they are looking at."

For example, instead of platters of oranges, use a modern plate and fill it with red paper cut-outs. Use oranges like flowers and make a huge centerpiece with some bamboo birdcages on a dining table. Place dried red chili peppers in bundles on a silver plate on a coffee table.

"Instead of buying ready-made poetic couplets, write them yourself on red paper with simple black ink. The hand-made look will give a more natural feel and add a personal touch as well," Hu said.

She recommends using some pieces from "neri & hu" to add a nice touch to an interior such as the Stools when placed in a small grouping. The People Series vases placed on a table top look good, as do the zisha teacups with candle motives or small bud vases placed in a cluster. All the lacquer pieces are great for table tops because of their "modern Chinese" look.

The Zodiac Puzzle incorporates various abstracted notions of Chinese culture and identity in its design elements: The circular boundary is analogous to a cyclical worldview, within which the 12 animals in a sequential order occupy their space; the circle within a square wooden box echoes tai-chi, another Chinese cosmological emblem. It is also a good option for the traveler looking to bring home a piece of contemporary China.

Hu explained that Neri & Hu is a home furnishing brand that reflects a collective vision of modernity balanced with heritage. "It is a free expression of who and where we are, demonstrated through touch, scale, passion, craft, perspective and quality. It brings home a new domesticity," she said.

Founder of Jooi Design Trine Targett recommended beginning in the New Year with a new vitality in the home after a good Spring cleaning. "In Scandinavia, we pay attention to the detailing in our homes. The decor needs to provide the right energy and feeling to enjoy it more.

"My recommendation is pairing down, spend the time removing the clutter and mix and match a streamlined look with some great accent pieces of antique, art deco furniture and contemporary soft furnishing."

At Jooi Design, part of the product range is designing products that fuse contemporary aesthetics with subtle Chinese inspiration. Targett recommends the Disc pillow. The silver or gold circle is hand-stitched on their signature silk in the ancient embroidery technique called "couching." The Quad line of pillows are offered in vibrant red, green or plum colors, all fantastic colors to liven up the decor of a home. You can mix or match these pillows easily with others due to the fabulous versatility of color tones in the Quad pattern.

In celebration of the Year of the Mouse, Jooi Design's cheeky "Roney the Rat" tote and accessory case and his rugged "Uncle Kool" hipster messenger bag are available in contemporary colors. Till February 17, the showroom will have a special launch promotion for the new products.

A quick stroll around Yuyuan Garden also reveals an array of all the usual items such as spring couplets at lower prices. In the week before the New Year, some flower markets are devoted to New Year blossoms, just simply walk around to find potted picks for the festive season.

Design Republic
Address: 5 Zhongshan Rd E1., Shanghai

SH Decor
Bldg 41, 248 Taikang Rd, Shanghai

Jooi Design
Studio 201, 2/F, International Artist Factory, 210 Taikang Rd, Shanghai

Bldg 11, 210 Taikang Rd, Shanghai 

(Shanghai Daily February 4, 2008)

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