Zhouzhuang, Near Shanghai, Known As The “Venice Of The Orient”
Opening its doors this month, the Blossom Hill Boutique Hotel seamlessly blends the best in modern global and ancient Chinese design, whisking guests off to the Ming Dynasty without depriving them of cutting-edge convenience. Located in the southern Chinese water town of Zhouzhuang, a village with a history of over 900 years around 1.5 hours away from Shanghai, the hotel sits among well-preserved ancient homes with views of the waterside. Known as the “Venice of the Orient,” Zhouzhuang’s deep historical wealth, cultural background and unique local traditions make it a perfect getaway for stressed Shanghai residents or visiting tourists looking to escape the noise and pollution of the big city.
Designed by Shanghai-based Dariel Studio, Blossom Hill Boutique Hotel is a complete renovation of three separate Ming Dynasty-style buildings, originally built in the 19th century by three brothers to serve as offices and homes. Eventually, the buildings were divided into four sections — a museum, tea house, guesthouse and abandoned space — before gradually falling into disrepair. For Blossom Hill, these four sections have been transformed into a 20-suite boutique hotel that retains the initial spacial unity of the original building while preserving its architectural integrity and heritage. Dariel Studio spend almost six months repairing and altering the buildings, no small task considering major reconstruction efforts like reinforcing main beams and adjusting the ground level had to be done.
To retain the Chinese design heritage and history that saturates the structure, designer Thomas Dariel came up with a concept centered on the 24 seasons of the traditional Chinese solar calendar, dividing rooms into four seasonal areas laid out according to sun exposure and natural light intensity during the day. The color palettes in each room, which range from light yellow or bright orange to deep purple, represent the characteristics of each season. Further embedding the culture and environment of Zhouzhuang into the hotel, each room is named after a flower, ranging from Lotus to Cymbidium.
Choosing to carefully renovate and update — rather than gut — the hotel, the design team collected and noted every decorative element, window frame and even e on the property before construction began, in order to ensure everything that could be reused would be reused. Sections of the hotel that were too degraded to be repurposed were reproduced by the design team. New patios connecting the old main structure feature special pattern-carved beams and pillars in the style of the original building. Additional rooms are thoughtfully laid out to combine traditional Chinese culture and design with a more Western-style modern luxury. Blossom Hill’s library includes a fireplace and baby-grand piano, echoing a traditional Parisian salon, while the Ming-style chairs in the hotel’s restaurant sit among French-patterned ceramics.
As Thomas Dariel recently told Jing Daily of the new hotel:
It’s been great to be involved in preserving and renovating a building with such heritage and culture, especially as the only foreigner on the project. We try to respect Chinese culture with the hotel, but at the same time we’ve sought to implant some European elements into the native architecture. I’ve been so pleased at how it’s progressing, because the building was essentially destroyed by flooding and weather conditions…the building was completely damaged a year ago, when we started.
I felt it was up to me to give the building a second life, which is an important motivation for a designer. Because a designer gives life to a space, and that’s why I’m so proud of this project.
Blossom Hill Boutique Hotel
No.110, Zhongshan Road, Zhouzhuang Town