10 Ingenious Home Renovations in China That Defy Expectation

These crafty interventions in China and Hong Kong are a testament to out-of-the-box thinking.

Whether the challenge is to fit three generations of a family in a 366-square-foot apartment or to salvage a historic house, the following projects are up to the task.

Starburst House by HAO Design Studio

HAO Design Studio exploits the awkward angles created by dramatic sloping ceilings in a 1,259-square-foot apartment in Beijing’s Haidian District by inserting a lofted mezzanine and tucking living spaces beneath it.

The open-plan living, dining, and kitchen spaces are located on the ground floor.

Qishe Courtyard by ARCHSTUDIO

ARCHSTUDIO restores a rundown traditional residence in the old quarter of Beijing, then inserts a glass-enclosed, curved veranda to wrap the interior courtyards and provide circulation.

The traditional residence had three courtyards and seven pitched-roof buildings. The goal of the renovation was to rehabilitate the old structures and integrate updated living spaces, using a modern interpretation of a veranda to connect them.

The "transparent veranda" allows natural light to penetrate the building’s interior and connects the living areas to the exterior courtyards. 

Happy Valley Apartment by Lim + Lu

Sliding glass walls, cheerful ceramic tile, and a bright color palette refresh this old apartment in Hong Kong’s Happy Valley, in a remodel led by Lim + Lu.

Glass partitions framed in powder-coated metal slide back to make flexible use of the floor plan in a 1,206-square-foot apartment. 

A Modern Shaanxi Cave Dwelling by hyperSity

A Beijing-based firm converts a dilapidated cave dwelling into a gracious home. The new, rammed-earth volumes are interwoven with small courtyards to bring in plenty of natural light.

The main entrance of the main cave was transformed into a wooden grid facade and glass curtain wall, allowing ample natural light to enter the space.

Pets Playground by Sim-Plex Design Studio

Located in Yuen Long, Hong Kong, this 453-square-foot residence makes easy cohabitation possible for a couple, one of their mothers, a cat, and a parrot. Sliding doors create flexible living spaces for the adults, while built-in furniture is utilized for both storage and the climbing cat.

The two halves of the home can be sectioned off with sliding glass doors—one side for the parrot, and one for the cat.

Intertwine House by Wonder Architects

For this recent extension to a home in rural Yangqing, China, Wonder Architects mimicked the form of the surrounding homes, then wrapped the exterior in green tile. The new addition was then skillfully integrated with the older brick structure on the site.

The tile-clad addition to this existing home in Yangqing, China, hosts the entry, dining room, and kitchen.

A view of the roof terraces show how the old and new structures connect. The mint green window frames on the original structure was a jumping-off point for the new design.

A 1947 Shanghai House Remodel by RIGI Design

Sculptural elements—such as a perforated steel staircase and a bathroom vanity fashioned from bent metal—inform the modern remodel of this 1947 Shanghai house.

Because of its narrow site and messy interior layout, the original apartment was dark and cramped.

The light, clean profile of the vanity gives the bathroom a sense of spaciousness and modernity.

The Sea Captain’s House by Vector Architects

In a sea captain’s home on a stormy coastline in Southeast China’s Fujian Province, a vaulted third floor addition helps to divert rainwater off the facade and frames picturesque harbor views.

A third level extension with a vaulted ceiling.

A House Within Thirteen Steps by L & M Design Lab

A 2017 remodel by L & M Design Lab maximizes a 366-square-foot flat in Shanghai for a family of five that includes three generations. The designers used the home’s diagonal axis to make the interior space feel larger, installed copious storage, and carved out room for everyone’s hobbies—from a piano for the grandmother to an elevated playroom for the granddaughter.

A view of the master bedroom portion of the apartment illustrates how the designers made every square inch of the home multifunctional. The bed platform is surrounded by smart storage and doubles as a stage for singing, or extra seating on movie nights.

Mini Tree House Residence by NC Design & Architecture Ltd. (NCDA)

A remodel of a 370-square-foot apartment with 10-foot-high ceilings utilizes the vertical space with a lofted bedroom that overlooks the trees in a residential neighborhood of Ho Man Tin in Kowloon, Hong Kong.

A tiny apartment in a Hong Kong high rise is named Mini Tree House Residence after its little lofted bedroom.


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