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Swedish simplicity with an Asian edge
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Clean lines and minimalist styling go head to head with Chinese retro pieces in the home of a seasoned Swedish designer, Alexandra Leyton Espinoza discovers

Swedish designer Eva Molina Biorck sits in the living room of her family home.
Swedish designer Eva Molina Biorck sits in the living room of her family home.

Swedish designer Eva Molina Biorck, co-owner of local home furnishing store Chang&Biorck, is no stranger to Beijing. After 15 years in this country, her family's flat offers up the subtle flavors of her home nation, mixed with a retro Chinese twist and accented by pieces from around the world.

Entering the flat, visitors are first struck by the vibrant colors of mustard brown, burnt orange and green, providing a major visual impact that is softened slightly by floral patterns on interior furnishings.

Some of the pieces of furniture on display in the hall are made in the style of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) - typical in the homes of some foreigners new to China: a small wooden table, a large wooden mirror and an armchair.

"These pieces were bought when I first moved here," Biorck said.

"Like many Westerners, I wanted everything in my apartment to look Chinese."

She said this explained the purchase of a Chinese folding table, bought shortly after she arrived in Beijing.

"I used to live in a small apartment so had to be very practical when it came to furnishings," she said. "This is hard though because Chinese furniture needs a lot of space."

Moving into another room reveals Biorck's other side: the kitchen breathes Swedish simplicity with white walls, clean open areas and masses of light.

The only bright color in this room is the Pappelina plastic rug. Giving the kitchen an uncommon luster and shine, it is soft and comfortable. Pappelina rugs are designed by Lina Rickardsson, an interior designer from Sweden.

Hanging on the wall is a bright yellow picture of a man and woman kissing, signed by American artist Mireille Lemaine. This is one of two colorful pictures Biorck bought on a road trip through California last year.

"I found this painting in a fair at Venice beach," she said.

"It makes me feel happy because it reminds me of the beach. Four of my sisters live in the US."

The living room combines retro chic with modern. A gray sofa, cubic though sleek in design, sits on a bright green MOSS carpet, designed by Swedish designer Gunilla Lagerhem Ullberg.

"I like green because it can brighten up even the dullest room," Biorck said.

"I like Swedish simplicity with vibrant colors, which is very much a reflection of our brand Chang&Biorck."

An injection of color is most obvious in the living room with the two paintings that hang there: close to the sofa is the first, inspired by waves and painted by Chinese artist Chen Yu; the other is a green floral pattern print that brings a 1960s ambience to the apartment.

The white living room table has been imported from Sweden. A Piet Hein design from the 1960s, on it stands a birthday present from a friend - a candle holder made of tin and designed by Austrian Josef Frank for the brand Svensk Tenn.

"I am not a design junkie," Biorck said. "I just appreciate the work that designers put into their items and the history behind them."

One of the most original pieces in her living room is a highchair for her 5-month-old daughter Edda, slightly springy in brown wood with a bright orange strap - made by Danish designer Leander.

"My husband saw it when we were on vacation in Malaysia," she said. "He then managed to bring one back from a trip to Denmark."

Though Biorck's husband, Alex Molina, is from Colombia, the only South American items in the flat are a copper candlestick found in a market when Biorck visited the country and a print by Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, still waiting to be hanged.

The room, with limited natural light, has a sultry vibe. Most light creeps in from a terrace that provides views over a small park below.

"I love it when I can sit there and drink my morning coffee," she said. "There is a chance to listen to my thoughts, which surprises me in such an urban city."

Some of that thinking relates to design work, which for Biorck, is inspired by appreciating a mixture of styles using warm materials and refined lines.

"My Scandinavian taste for furniture is what makes me feel at home, away from home," she said. "It's Scandinavian style with an Asian touch."

(China Daily November 23, 2010)

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