October 28, 2019

Archstudio Transforms Beijing Residence into a Hall of Mirrors Boutique

At Mirror Garden, a smoke tree in a courtyard outside appears like it’s inside thanks to dozens of mirror-glass panels on the boutique’s walls and ceiling. Photography by Wang Ning.

Playing with illusion for the Mirror Garden boutique in Beijing, Archstudio made the most of its site located in a traditional urban hutong. The narrow alleys were once populated by courtyard architecture dating to the Yuan Dynasty. Though many have been bulldozed, Archstudio founder Wenqiang Han has made a career of sensitively modernizing the ancestral buildings. After he merged five of these historic abodes into a teahouse, its husband-and-wife owners asked Han to help them with another project: converting a recently built residence nearby into a shop for the wife and a dining-event space for the husband, and adjusting the exterior of the building to blend with its centuries-old neighbors.

Half of the basement’s walls and ceiling is clad in the same panels but embedded with four-color LED strips. Photography by Wang Ning.

Encompassing only 3,000 square feet across three levels, Han employed a series of mirrored panels on walls and ceilings to not only seemingly enlarge the space but also add an element of playful disorientation. Furthermore, the panels amplify the natural light coming in from the former house’s existing court­-yard; embedded LEDs along their edges allow moods to be changed at will.

Its rear wall contains built-in aluminum shelving for shoe and accessory display. Photography by Hong Qiang.

The ground floor is accessed through a small atrium, essentially a foyer that opens to the antiques section. Farther in is the central atrium, where a new staircase is bordered by a 20-foot plant wall that ties into the tall smoke tree growing outdoors in the courtyard. “The central atrium combines the stairs and the house’s original structural frame,” Han explains, “while the vertical greenery provides vitality and vigor.” Avant-garde women’s and men’s clothing are sold on the lower floor, displayed either on wires suspended from the ceiling or in back-lit shelves. Its open plan and lack of permanent fixtures make it easily adaptable for events.

Flooring throughout is terrazzo. Photography by Wang Ning.

Events happen more regularly on the second-floor dining space, which is flanked on either end by terraces. Han installed a continuous L-shape counter that can morph from kitchen prep to dinner table. “The openness lets guests interact with the chef,” he notes. “And the ingredients are mainly from established hutong restaurants, but they are transformed here for new tastes.” Just like what the architect did with their surroundings.

 Formerly a residence, its 2004 neoclassical brick facade was painted to blend in with the surrounding centuries-old buildings. Photography by Wang Ning.
The central atrium’s steel staircase is adjacent to a 20-foot-tall green wall with live ferns. Photography by Wang Ning.
Treads on the basement staircase are painted steel. Photography by Wang Ning.
A terrace adjoins the private dining room on the second floor. Photography by Hong Qiang.
Garments in the basement are hung from steel wires. Photography by Hong Qiang.

> See more from the October 2019 issue of Interior Design

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