11 December 2016

GUEST POST BY BRENDAN DAVIS, aka "Son of Scribbler"

Guest Blog by Brendan Davis

December 11, 2016
Beijing, China

Hello, dear readers and friends - virtual or otherwise - of my Momma, aka the Scribbler. We have often discussed the idea of my doing another guest blog, and after many false starts, here it is!  A few quick notes as I begin:

- Those who know me, know that I'm primarily a communicator. That's true, but it's also a nice way of saying that sometimes I talk a lot, at least when I have to. So for this post, I'm going to try to talk as little as possible, but will instead share a lot of photos, and -- with Scribbler's permission - I'll expand on anything you're curious about in the Comments section.  (Permission granted!)

- Also, as will be evident by the post if you don't know already, I live in Beijing, China.  Moving here was what actors and directors call "making a strong choice", and boy, was it ever!  Why did I do it? So many reasons: a lifelong cultural curiosity, a strong local demand for my very specialized knowledge and skillsets, and many unique business opportunities to use all of the above. On a personal level: I'm single, no kids, no mortgage, and will likely not be able to say all three of those things in the next few years if I'm lucky, so the timing for such a grand adventure would never be better that it is right now, and was when I moved, so here I be. 

- And in terms of my experience being here, I truly love it roughly 97% of the time, and the other 3% I have what local expats call a "bad China day".  Frankly, that batting average would be impressive if I was living anywhere, even at a resort on Hawaii, so I'll take it. In other words, YES, there are unique frustrations here just like there would be anywhere, but I've found that most of them (aside from traffic and pollution) are more about the ability or inability to communicate and/or understand and respect the cultural norms in a given situation, rather than the result of some grand conspiracy against outsiders, and luckily I've learned to deal better with such minor frustrations for the most part, so I'm grateful for that.

- And, as many of you have already seen Scribbler's updates re the dishes I sent her, I thought you'd like a peek at the shipping guy packing them up halfway around the world just a few weeks earlier.  

Mom Gift packing 

He is the regular guy from that company for our building and I see him a few times a day - delivery for damn near everything is VERY big here - and the other day, I told him how happy we were that everything made it safely, showed him the pictures, and thanked him; he was so proud and happy too, and he wanted me to say as much. 

I hope you enjoy.  Now, on with it! :)

First, an overview of what I do and why I'm here. By training and experience, I'm a film producer. I've also taught that subject at University, and have consulted on East-West cooperation in that area specifically for several years now. Initially I moved here in order to do a little of each while I focused on some new creative projects of my own, but life presented me with a fantastic curveball that led to my helping build a new company here in Beijing, Adamas Film, in a beautiful office space with some wonderful partners. 

Work and Work Views  

My office

Family style dinner

This restaurant...

...where we sampled a bug!
Steve Barr and Brendan

Tiger and Brendan

Christmas in the office

At the risk of sounding like a cliche, I truly couldn't ask for a better group of people to be in the trenches with every day. My CEO is a brilliant guy of high integrity and broad vision which syncs perfectly with mine; the other senior partners in the firm are all extraordinarily accomplished at what they do; and our staff are rockstars who make the crazy volume of work they do look effortless.  We just recently brought over and signed a top Western screenwriter, Steve Barr, to create the screenplay for an epic action-adventure film for us called ORACLE, and we are now in the thick of the development process. More on that as it all comes together. 


Since this is a (sometime) design blog, though, and since the Scribbler thought her friends might be able to offer me some tips, here's a glimpse at my home life and personal space...

The first thing to understand is that rents here vary hugely. There is inexpensive shared housing and tiny apartments with zero amenities for the poorer folks, and at the other end of the scale, there are ultra luxurious apartments and penthouses that would - and do - make the super rich who live here very happy and at home. In between, there is a large middle, ranging from the spacious but run down places that are commonly rented and shared by younger people and recent graduates up to high-end properties aimed at wealthier expats or international executives with a generous housing allowance that would look at home in a Beverly Hills hotel (and cost about to rent as a similar suite would per night, too). 

As a side note, there are basically no "single family detached" houses as we know them in the West, outside of the fantastic and huge villas found in several extraordinarily exclusive enclaves far outside the city where celebrities and other elites stretch their fortunate legs, so basically everyone is in a box of some sort. The question is, what kind of box suits you best?

Since I am firmly in the middle of the pack here, I opted for "nice, modern and safe, but small". After a ridiculous amount of looking and dealing with the unavoidable rental agent world here, I found the perfect place for me.  (The rental world is a blog post in itself, but basically, properties don't usually maintain their own rental office but instead, outsource it, and fake postings in order to run bait and switch routines on desperate would-be renters are so common that once someone finds a trustworthy agent, they hang on to them for dear life.)

I found a neighborhood and agent that I liked (through a referral, of course) and after seeing a few apartments, a studio I liked popped up. It is in a great, gated and secure neighborhood in a convenient location, with thoughtful, well-maintained  landscaping throughout and a nice shopping mall just across the street. 

Home exterior views & neighborhood pix 

The interior before:
Home pre-move in pix 

The bath --
that is the washing machine and the drying rack to the left.

The complex was built in 2012 so it's  pretty new, and my unit has only had two occupants previously, so it's in great shape. Once I got moved in, I at first tried to leave the bed in it's original position, but the bones were good. 

The Interior After:

When I first saw it, I knew that I'd end up rearranging it significantly--

The mechanicals are to the right of the window.

Dining table/desk
with TV as computer monitor.
The cabinet unit behind is the closet.

Home -- moved in 
--but I quickly decided that flipping it around was in order. I also moved the couch off of the wall and turned it 90 degrees to allow for a view of the window, and to make the space flow better. I also did something with the fancy TV that was part of the deal: instead of keeping it on the TV stand with drawers (it's the thing at the foot of the bed that I've clamped a little fan to), I moved it to the combination dining table / desk so that I could hook it up to my computer for editing work on a movie I'm trying to finish 

editing station setup 

and then flip it around for watching movies off of my laptop at the couch (which I also move as required) when I find a free moment. That doesn't happen very often so this is more in theory than in practice. ;) I have since turned the TV stand into a mantel of sorts 

TV stand turned mantel where I meditate and store personal items and generally get a lot more use out of it than I would otherwise. 

(Mom's note:
I love the plate and stand!)


Scribbler thinks you'll get a kick out of my tiny kitchen, which in true local fashion does NOT have an oven, only has a small 2-burner stovetop, and in which I do not have a microwave, which one buys separately but that I don't like to use. 

Kitchen today 

People here don't bake at home, and I am gone so much that I eat out almost every meal.  I heat water for coffee or tea and eat the occasional take-out here, but that's about it - for now. 

In terms of things you can help weigh in on, there's a list! 

- I know the walls are plain; I have several paintings being framed right now that will liven it up, and I think a few mirrors placed strategically will open the space up a lot;  (Mom's note:  a large mirror over your mantel/console will really open it up since it will be perpendicular to the window at the back wall.  You're welcome!)

- I'm also thinking to move the couch BACK to the wall, slide the far bedside table out and push the bed / TV stand / other bedside table down a couple of feet, put the extra bedside table by the bookcases as a side table, and - drumroll - find a wingback chair and ottoman that I'd like to be my main sitting position when I'm reading or relaxing;

- And as far as that kitchen goes: I would like a nice combination toaster oven like I had for years in LA, that offers various baking / reheating options. I'll have to order such a beast, since none are available locally in stores. Any recommendations of or brand / model number or features I should look for? Luckily almost anything is available online here, so if I know what to order I CAN get it. Probably. ;)  (Mom's note:  lots of people are very fond of the Breville.)

What do you think? Any leads, ideas or other helpful suggestions are greatly appreciated!

Okay, thanks for reading, let me know if you have any questions, and I'm looking forward to your design help! :)

Brendan Davis


  1. Hi Brendan, nice to meet you! I love the 'mom inserts and quotes' in this post :) Us moms always like to add our 2 cents. In your case, though your mom really knows what she's talking about! I knew she would like the plate and stand on your meditation area (great idea, BTW). You've really organized the space to get maximum use. Nicely done! I like the idea of a comfy chair and ottoman for you. It's nice to have that in addition to a sofa. It's interesting there's a door that locks to the kitchen. Anyhow, I don't own a toaster oven but people who do LOVE them. I also live without a microwave. It's a minor inconvenience that I have adapted well to. Healthier too, I think. Looks like Beijing has some beautiful areas like right outside your window. I think of pollution when I think of China but that's probably a little unfair. Design idea: Paint the wall behind your bed a dark, moody blue.

    Can't believe how uncluttered your place is. Your work sounds fascinating. My son is a huge movie buff. He took arts and culture management at College but isn't currently working in the field. I hope he does eventually, as it is his passion (music and film). Sorry this comment is so long!

  2. Brendan this is so cool to make your acquaintance and that of your new digs, new life in China. I am a huge fan of your mom's, so any decorating advice she's given, I agree with!
    I have been studying your space, and I like your idea of moving the one bedside chest in order to move the bed closer to the window wall. Here's a thought....maybe you could stack the two bedside tables to create a sort of chest of drawers, and give that side of the wall some height (on the side of the bed where you intended to keep the one). You'd have to have some sort of grip pad between them to stabilize (maybe like a waffled rug pad or silicon mat of sorts).
    I like the idea of the couch back on the wall, but to keep that wall from looking so low and so homogenous (couch, credenza both on the same plane) compared to the rest of the space (bookcase, headboard and perhaps stacked bedside tables), maybe you could angle the couch somehow, creating a 45° angle from the end of the bookcase in, toward the wall, the chair on angle in the opposite corner facing the couch, or vice versa (but you probably want the window view from your chair, right?). Once you get your wing chair and ottoman, it'll be easier to see how that'll all balance better in terms of placement.
    As for toaster ovens, I just logged on to our Consumer Reports account, and your mom's right again - Breville is top-rated (Smart Oven Pro BOV845BSS if you want their specific model recommended), with Cuisinart coming second (Chefs Toaster COnvection TOB-260N). Breville Smart Oven BOV800Xl is 3rd.
    So, is Tiger the CEO of the company you work for and like? Great photos of the area....doesn't appear to look polluted from the shots you shared. Again, thanks for the peek into your world.
    Rita C at Panoply

  3. Hi Brendon,
    I totally enjoyed reading your guest post. The photos of the area around your apartment and office make it look like a park setting. So interesting to see how people live there. The kitchen is certainly tiny, but since you eat out so much it's probably not a problem for you. I am not going to offer you any design advice b/c I am not very good at design and you already have an expert in your sweet Mom. So glad you were able to come an visit and I know it made our Mom so happy. Cooks Illustrated had the Smart Oven by Breville at the top of their list. I hope you will share more photos once you get your new chair and ottoman. Dianne

  4. What an exciting life you live! You are right to take all the adventures you can now, but in reality, a family doesn't have to hold you back from travel and adventure if you make the decision to explore with them.

    I'd love to see that apartment after the "Scribbler" treatment! It looks very . . . "manly" now! Hahaha! My sons love working in videography, so I recognized that software instantly. They'd love to have a large TV like you do to edit on. Have a wonderful time living your dream! Not many people get to do that. All your Mom's readers can tell how much she loves you through her writing. Thanks for the update!

  5. Hi Brendon, How nice to meet you! What an adventure you are living now, so exciting. I've traveled to Europe several times but nothing as exotic as China! Your work sounds like a dream come true, doing what you love. Living in another culture and experiencing all it has to offer is exciting to me. I enjoyed seeing where you work and live. I could offer up a few ideas but nothing I like as much as what you have already done and your mom's expert advise. You can never go wrong with her advise! Please do come back and show us the after when you've finished decorating. I have one question for you, did you have any problems getting accustomed to the food? It's interesting and I'm sure delicious.

  6. It is so great to hear about your exciting life in Beijing from your very own words Brendan! I am glad to hear you only have the occasional "China Day" I can only imagine the challenges you face daily. I think you're apartment looks perfect for a modern man, and I'm sure you're rarely home, but it looks like a cozy place to relax and get some work done in peace and quiet. What a fabulous experience! I can see Ellen's twinkle in your eyes and hear her voice in your words. The first thing I thought of was this guy needs art! So send some pics after you have it up!

  7. Hi everyone! Thanks for all the nice and thoughtful comments so far. I really appreciate it and will be using many of the suggestions...

    - I'm going to look for that Breville toaster oven today, with the help of my assistant;

    - I found and have already ordered a chair and ottoman that I like for delivery; it's the Strandmon from Ikea, in a dark blue color.

    - I've also ordered a nice mirror for above the TV stand and a floor mirror for a space that was created when I moved the bed back. That plus the things that are being framed should help the walls a lot.

    - I can't actually paint the walls - they are a very fancy, fine-patterned wallpaper and I don't think the owner would appreciate that :) - but I like that general idea; maybe I will do a wall hanging behind the bed in a complimentary color or pattern?

    - I don't quite have enough room to put the couch at a 45 degree angle but I like that idea.

    - I've already moved the second bedside table out and pushed the bed and related things closer to the window, and the difference is impressive. Just the extra 2.5 feet of floor space really makes the space feel so much more open - nice!

    - Stacking the two tables to make a chest is a good idea if I get something else for a bedside table, but honestly, I don't have enough clothes here to need that much storage.

    Backstory: before I moved, I weeded out my closet very carefully, kept only the best of what I had, and gave away everything else to a charity in LA that I support called The Midnight Mission. Maybe when I do the follow-up post I'll include photos of inside my closet so you can see just how little stuff I have. A large part of the move was a conscious decision in minimalism, to pare my life down dramatically, and I'm keeping it that way. Less clutter = more room to think and relax, both of which I need in abundance whenever I finally get home in a given day. ;)

    Okay, off to the office I go now! Thanks again for all the great comments and ideas; looking forward to more, talk soon!

    - Brendan

  8. Hello, Brendan! First of all, I want you to know that I want to be your mom the Scribbler when I grow up. She rocks out loud! I'm fascinated with your career path (I'm a broadcast/film major, and I worked in TV when I first graduated from college), and I think you're very brave to live in China. I think it's great that you don't have many China Days. :)
    I look forward to your follow-up story including a look inside your closet (of course I'm interested in closet space....I'm a girl!)

    You'll have to keep us posted about your movie projects, too!

    How do you celebrate Christmas in China?

    Merry Christmas!

    Ricki Jill

    PS I enjoyed reading your post and the comments. You got some great advice!


I love nice comments! So leave me one already!

Featured Post

GUEST POST BY BRENDAN DAVIS, aka "Son of Scribbler"

Guest Blog by Brendan Davis December 11, 2016 Beijing, China Hello, dear readers and friends - virtual or otherwise - of my ...