In Just 31 Days, These Historic Chinese Ruins Were Transformed Into a Chic B&B

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By Lucy Wang
After suffering years of neglect, a pair of dilapidated stone villas has been brought back to life with a $88,000 budget.

In a testament to the incredible speed of construction in China, the decayed ruins of two historic stone structures on Zhejiang’s Dahuanglong Island have been reborn as a stylish bed-and-breakfast in less than 40 days.

Commissioned as part of the popular Chinese reality television show Beautiful House, Beijing–based studio Evolution Design Architects was given a budget of 600,000 RMB (approximately $87,965 USD) for construction and interior design, as well as just two months to complete the transformation.

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Separated by an elevation difference of approximately 13 feet, the renovated structures are oriented towards views of the East China Sea.

Separated by an elevation difference of approximately 13 feet, the renovated structures are oriented towards views of the East China Sea.

The buildings are set close to the edge of the weathered cliffs on the east side of Dahuanglong, an island in Zhejiang, a province located southeast from Shanghai.

The buildings are set close to the edge of the weathered cliffs on the east side of Dahuanglong, an island in Zhejiang, a province located southeast from Shanghai.

Impressively, the architects completed the project slightly under budget and in just a little over half the time allotted—construction only took a total of 31 days.

A view of the ascent towards the property.

A view of the ascent towards the property.

When the architecture firm first saw the site, the two existing structures had fallen into severe disrepair with caved-in roofs and crumbling walls. 

Since the television program celebrates adaptive reuse and a back-to-nature aesthetic, the architects restored the two buildings and added modern elements, including ample glazing and a new reinforced concrete extension to better embrace sea views.

"The ‘new box’ on the site is made to be relatively inconspicuous," say the architects of the boxy, concrete extension. "In the presence of the time-honored beauty of 70-year-old houses and the supreme natural landscape, any fresh elements seem unnecessary and charmless."

"The ‘new box’ on the site is made to be relatively inconspicuous," say the architects of the boxy, concrete extension. "In the presence of the time-honored beauty of 70-year-old houses and the supreme natural landscape, any fresh elements seem unnecessary and charmless."

The restored historic buildings are used to house the bedrooms, while the new extension comprises the communal spaces as well as a rooftop deck and a flight of stairs that mitigates the site’s approximately 13-foot change in elevation.

The smaller of the two existing buildings, this renovated structure houses two bedrooms. A glass overhang was installed above the passageway linking the historic structure with the concrete addition.

The smaller of the two existing buildings, this renovated structure houses two bedrooms. A glass overhang was installed above the passageway linking the historic structure with the concrete addition.

Concrete steps lead up to the concrete's extension's roof deck and also connects to the courtyard of the second building.

Concrete steps lead up to the concrete's extension's roof deck and also connects to the courtyard of the second building.

The wooden rooftop deck is edged with river stone.

The wooden rooftop deck is edged with river stone.

Completed late last year, the adaptive reuse project covers an area of approximately 2,900 square feet and was mainly constructed from locally sourced granite, concrete, and steel. The minimalist interiors are dressed in modern furnishings and natural materials.

Formerly used as a kitchen, the space next to the master bedroom has been turned into a living area. Retractable shades cover the glazed ceiling and are remotely controlled.

Formerly used as a kitchen, the space next to the master bedroom has been turned into a living area. Retractable shades cover the glazed ceiling and are remotely controlled.

"We pay too much attention to how good a building looks on the outside while ignoring what lies inside," note the architects. 

"Perhaps we need our houses to be pure, low-key, reserved and less ‘noble’, and if a TV program can entertain the public and still convey a notion that makes people more aware of the vital relationship between environment and human-made structures, encouraging them to care about our own living environment and maximize their own spatial delight and spirit made possible by architectural aesthetics, then what harm is there in making such a process entertaining?" 

A swing, fashioned from string and driftwood, hangs from the ceiling of new the concrete addition.

A swing, fashioned from string and driftwood, hangs from the ceiling of new the concrete addition.

A massive folding glass wall opens to connect an open-plan living area to the outdoors.

A massive folding glass wall opens to connect an open-plan living area to the outdoors.

Faced with a giant wall of glass, the new concrete extension houses an open-plan living area, dining room, and kitchen.

Faced with a giant wall of glass, the new concrete extension houses an open-plan living area, dining room, and kitchen.

Seen at night, the sumptuous living area features modern furnishings and a long wood-burning fireplace.

Seen at night, the sumptuous living area features modern furnishings and a long wood-burning fireplace.

The upper building was renovated to house the master suite and adjoining studio.

The upper building was renovated to house the master suite and adjoining studio.

A timber beamed ceiling adds a rustic touch to the modern master suite.

A timber beamed ceiling adds a rustic touch to the modern master suite.

In contrast to the historic setting, the master bathroom is outfitted with modern fixtures including a double vanity, freestanding tub, shower, and toilet.

In contrast to the historic setting, the master bathroom is outfitted with modern fixtures including a double vanity, freestanding tub, shower, and toilet.

The master bedroom overlooks panoramic views of the East China Sea.

The master bedroom overlooks panoramic views of the East China Sea.

A look at the site plan.

A look at the site plan.

Here's the floor plan of the lower building.

Here's the floor plan of the lower building.

The floor plan of the building at a higher elevation.

The floor plan of the building at a higher elevation.

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Evolution Design Architects 

Design Consultants: Wu Yanzu and the Star Team 

Interior Design: Liu Shaohua, Han Yue, Yu Hongye 

Structural Design: Chen Xiaofei 

Mechanical and Electrical Design: Liu Qiulong 

Engineering Director: Peng Naiying 

Building /Construction: Jixian Third Construction Engineering Co., Ltd.