Shanghai Homes: Hunter Gatherer

When an expat home gives new meaning to the word travel.

by Cidonie Richards | Thu, May 18, 2017

Stepping into the Thomas-Hunter abode is like stepping into a home where you know you’re going to embark on a few adventurous nomadic tales. There’s not a corner, wall or area in the house that doesn't feature some exotic piece, statue or artifact from some faraway land and this is what sets apart homes from those who have “holidayed” to those who have really “traveled.”

Born in New Zealand and raised in Australia, Vanessa first became an expat in the mid ‘90s when she moved to Argentina. Later meeting her husband, Jeremy, they moved back and forth to Australia and overseas to countries like Russia where their daughter (now 13) Isabella was born, and to India, Nepal and recently to Shanghai for their next adventure. 

“I know it’s a little crowded, and I have been told by good friends that they don’t think I can fit another thing in, but when I look around at everything it brings me peace because it reminds me of all the good times I’ve had in the countries I’ve lived in.”

Vanessa Thomas-Hunter

She attributes her flair for collecting mostly from her time spent in India where she used to trawl trough very old, dusty and dingy markets and bazaares to find hidden treasures.

“Like in Shanghai where everyone says ‘oh I have my vegetable lady and my fish guy’ who they trust, I used to have my brass man, and my wood man, and my antiques people who would find special things for me because they knew what I loved.”

Vanessa’s style is anything but mainstream, with an obvious nod to tribal appeal and with an Indian and Indo-Portuguese flair mixed with slight European accents. While there are small amounts of Chinese style starting to creep in, Vanessa says it’s much harder here to find what she likes than was the case in India.

“Many of the vintage markets are gone here now and the retail shops only mass-produce everything, so I find it hard to find really authentic vintage-style Chinese pieces here.” 

When asked to point out her favorite pieces from such a large collection, she instantly points to the large pink Hindi god statue above the fireplace. 

“I know it’s ugly ... I’ve been told by people it is, but I just love it. It’s so imperfect; the eyes are crooked, and it has an odd expression, and it’s pink after all, but there’s a beauty in it being so imperfect, and that’s what I love about it.”

Vanessa also points out the large red cow in the entrance way, a couple of Nepali wooden statues and some vintage framed pictures by the stairs, all of which have some magical story to accompany why she purchased them.

This is the kind of home where you could sit in wonder discussing the tales of every purchase and be wildly entertained for hours, but the biggest takeaway from having a home rich in traveled collective pieces according to Vanessa is “to buy what you really love”, she says. “If you fall in love with something when you see it, and it literally speaks to you, just don’t hesitate. That’s my advice.”

Get the look

Steal the style with these fresh options for your home.

1. Wedding tribal figurines/¥1,090, www.indigo-living.cn

2. Beaten metal gold plate/¥179, www.indigo-living.cn

3. Butler's Tray/¥1,250, www.casapagoda.cn

4. Rattan basket with handles/¥459, www.zarahome.com/cn

5. Gold mecurized glass candlestick/¥89, www.zarahome.com/cn

6. Rhino brass metal hook/¥59.90, www2.hm.com