In Taipei’s Daan District, where moonlit markets, bars and glittering boutiques dominate the townscape, tranquility secretly dwells in the residential interludes. It was this rare breathe-easy quality that inspired a Canada-returned family to find their moorings here. “Having spent close to a decade in Canada, the owner was in search of a natural environment for his wife and their two kids, and immediately fell in love with this place. It’s a very quiet residential area with many schools,” says Jin Chen, a former antique dealer and founder of ECRU Studio.
Jin is a self-proclaimed decorative minimalist, and this 220-square-metre, three-storey ground floor apartment is a true-blue reflection of his understated design ethos. After all, there’s something to be said about the rugged, almost-unfinished shell with its Dinesen oak floors, rough plaster walls and organic timber interplays. “The design process was about adding layers and layers, but paring back to the minimum at the same time, to create simplicity and achieve a sense of harmony,” Jin recalls, referencing the old-on-new pastiche of materials, colours and textures that manifest in the antique limestone and fresh oakwood floors, contemporary furniture and characterful vintage vignettes. Full-height windows and 3.6 metre-high ceilings, “a rarity in Taipei City”, project a larger-than-life presence, dovetailing perfectly with the pared-back setting.
The house is rooted in duality, posing as an equal mix of classic and contemporary, symmetry and contrast. It features contemporary cocoons with eclectic details and old-world flair. The living room, for example, masquerades as a jewel box of mid-century French and Italian furniture, with a boucle sofa, a period Maison Regain curved coffee table, Rene Gabriel armchairs and a mid-century table lamp by Tommaso Barbi. A Boulbon Club armchair by am designs and a vintage French wood box sculpture lend a modish flourish, but it’s the timber and polished plaster ceiling beams that really shine through as the pièce de resistance, channeling an earthy, town-meets-country appeal.
Each space has a distinct aesthetic identity. Take the dining room, for instance. Separated from the lounge by a high-polish, black frame, the air here carries the slightest whiff of an à la mode log cabin. The Dinesen oak floor makes a familiar reappearance, warmly underpinning the antique French table and Charlotte Perriand rush dining chairs. A vintage Italian 1950s chandelier tips its hat to the glamorous side of life, while black, custom-made wall lights strike a swish contrast to the unfussy, plastered walls. “The vibe is rustic, primitive, yet modern,” muses Jin. A vintage Italian marble sculpture quietly presides over the realm. An antique limestone floor gives the kitchen a decidedly outdoorsy feel, while natural-cut Olavi Hanninen stools present an organic offset to the straight-lined surroundings.
The master bedroom could easily pass off for a Parisian boudoir. The fixtures are tamed by soft furnishings, the scale by signature detailing. Antique doors, salvaged from an old French castle, adorn the doorways, in a whimsical fairytale twist. The furniture scheme marries old and new, with French 1950s armchairs, vintage Italian wall sconces and a pair of antique red column-turned-nightstands conjuring up a classic backdrop for new-world elements. By the same token, the Pierre Chapo reading chair, Saori wall lamp by Kazuhide Takahama and Workstead wall lamps, deliver a brilliant object lesson in modern minimalism.
It’s not every day that you come across a home that brings the best of the past and the present. This one’s that exception—holding a mirror to Jin’s bare-bones design mastery.