See how this old Chinese house got a major modern makeover

World Today

A major home renovation in Shanghai has Chinese internet users abuzz. The Zhou family’s three-floor home in Shanghai’s Shikumen neighborhood was tiny and difficult to navigate. Each floor was about 12 square meters (129 square feet) and the bathroom was only one square meter (11 square feet). An attic provided an additional 1.6 square meters (17 square feet) but the family was still stretched for space.

The family of five — comprised of Yuan Zhou, his wife, son, and elderly parents — also had to aid Yuan Zhou, who is disabled and has hemophilia, making it impossible to climb the stairs. Yuan Zhou slept on the bottom floor to avoid the stairs and sharing a room with his parents, which meant his father had to sleep in the closet.



The kitchen of the house. Photo from SINA


The child has to do homework on the stairs. Photo courtesy: SINA

Yuan Zhou’s son had to do his homework on the stairs. Photo from SINA.

Photo from SINA

Yuan Zhou struggles with the stairs. Photo from SINA


Photo from SINA

Photo from SINA


Photo from SINA

Zhou has to sleep on the ground sometimes when he aviod climibing stairs and stay in the same room with the elderly.

Photo from SINA.

Amid their difficulties entered Pingzhong Wang, director of interior design at Ping Design Studio in Shanghai, who learned of their plight and wanted to help Zhou family renovate their home.

The task wasn’t easy.

The family home shares the same stairs with their neighbors, and so any renovation needed their neighbors’ approval. After a lot of back and forth, Wang revised his drafts several times until they agreed.

Want also wanted to install an elevator so Yuan Zhou didn’t have to climb stairs, however the size of the house didn’t allow for the elevator that Wang had originally designed.

Wang stayed up for nights to redesign his plans and finally come up with a solution.


The ground floor of Zhou’s house often got flooded and was extremely damp, so Wang elevated foundation of the house and added a waterproof layer.

The ground floor of Zhou's family after renovation. Photo Courtesy: SINA

The ground floor of Zhou’s family after renovation. Photo from SINA


Wang built a separate stairway and doors so Yuan Zhou didn’t have to share the stairs with his neighbors anymore.

Photo courtesy: SINA

Photo from SINA


The home was very dark, so Wang replaced the concrete doors and front wall with glass and added a skylight to provide more natural light.

Photo courtesy: SINA

Photo from SINA


The skylight. Photo courtesy: SINA

The skylight. Photo from SINA


Wang chose a hydraulic elevator for Yuan Zhou which was smaller and quieter than a traditional elevator. It’s also more suitable for low-rise buildings.

The hydraulic elevator that is installed in Zhou's house. Photo courtesy: SINA

The hydraulic elevator that is installed in Zhou’s house. Photo from SINA

Zhou looks at the elevator surprisedly. Photo courtesy: SINA

Zhou is in awe of the new elevator. Photo from SINA


The old house was built in 1911, and Wang  wanted to let some of the original bricks remain to honor the history of the house.

Photo courtesy: SINA

Photo from SINA


Wang left the original wall as a decor. Photo courtesy: SINA

Wang left the original wall as a decor. Photo from SINA

The Zhou Family was in shock after seeing their “new” home.

Photo courtesy: SINA

Photo courtesy: SINA

(Slide right for before, left for after)