The story appears on

Page B8 - B9

February 28, 2010

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature

Country house an idyllic getaway

ENTERING through wrought-iron gates to stand in this secluded courtyard covering 2,000 square meters, it's easy to see why the owner fell in love with the place. You are greeted by a delicate and serene garden, a house of black tiles and white walls, and the charming rural landscape. It feels like being in a scroll painting.

Architect Hua Lei, managing director of Chapman Taylor Shanghai, had always dreamed of building his own house. His English wife Corinne had fond memories of the 500-year-old family cottage in Yorkshire and missed country-style living away from hectic city life.

In 2002, Hua found a peaceful plot outside of Zhaoxiang Town in Qingpu District and had the chance to build a weekend retreat "in the middle of nowhere." With a restricted budget, they wanted a low-key, modest house, with simple, honest materials.

The property's focus is rural charm and comfort - that is, a lifestyle that is humble, unassuming and above all, cozy. Colors are soft and subdued and accessories are simple and pretty but never fussy.

"Having my own special place was something I constantly dreamed about. I think building your own home the way you would love to live is one of the most rewarding projects one can do. It fulfilled a sense of belonging," Hua said.

He was keen on creating their countryside idyll so that it played up the locale's natural features and architectural styles. "I didn't expect a relaxing retreat with industrial finishes like contemporary concrete and glass house.

Local conditions

"I preferred retaining the traditional local flavor and incorporating elaborate Jiangnan-style elements to create a rustic yet welcoming home suited to local conditions and context thanks to its low profile," Hua said.

He took nine months to build his perfect getaway. And according to him, the entire process was very exciting and rewarding.

The simple architectural lines play with the proportions and balance. The open, flowing design allows the interior to be in sync with its rural surroundings. And this house is an example of how a home can be built without spending too much money.

Hua used many recycled, local building materials such as old doors, floors, black bricks and the local butterfly-shaped roof tiles. Colors, shapes, sizes, windows and roofs were designed and crafted in keeping with the original style of the region.

"It is satisfying, fun and economical to reuse old building materials from dumpsters at construction sites," Hua said. This is certainly a "green'' practice since it makes use of most local materials.

And the home incorporates a range of eco-friendly concepts, though on the surface it looks like any standard local folk house.

There is an abundance of visual surprises both in the interior and through unexpected views of the surrounding landscape. Brick and wood used in both exterior construction and interior detail add to the coziness of the home.

The house plan offers a "lived-in" ambience that creates a comfort level that can be lacking in larger, less personalized homes.

A neutral palette was initially chosen but some way into the project the couple felt that it could all end up being a bit drab. The solution was clever: their friends contributed left-over furniture and accessories which perfectly enhanced the open feel interior design.

"The 'cottage' style can incorporate a wide variety of styles and patterns, but the underlying commonality is the charm," Hua said. "We want visitors to walk in and feel immediately at home."

Soft greens, yellows and creams create a warm palette. With its soulful mix of furniture and contrasting textures, this country house really works the "feel-good" factor.

As an experienced architect, Hua knew exactly what he wanted his home to be. Its various functional areas are cleverly designed to encourage interaction between the hosts and their guests.

Hua kept in mind when planning the layout to give enough space for everyone to feel comfortable.

Downstairs houses the spacious living and dining room, the open kitchen and the main bedroom. When cooking and living areas are unified with an open plan, Corinne doesn't feel isolated and the time with friends and family becomes more interactive and joyful.

The main bedroom keeps its intimacy but has windows offering views of truly natural landscape. "Wherever you are in the house, the natural element is always present. You can see it from the living area, the kitchen and the four bedrooms. But I managed to connect the bedrooms to the best views outside," Hua said.

Nothing beats waking up on a weekend morning after a long week's work and opening the window to be met by a view that is impossible to see in the city.

The staircase leads to the much lower second floor where you can find a kids' play area, a TV room, and two children's rooms.

The focus is on adding cozy touches throughout the space. And the beauty of a holiday house is the trend to imperfection. You won't find polished shiny gloss on the floors.

Instead, everything seems to have been refurbished years ago. To keep things fuss-free, everything here has a purpose or two - nothing is superfluous.

Thanks to Hua's unique design, combined with his respect for the environment, the family has the year-round escape they dreamed of, where they can relax in front of the fire on a winter's afternoon and soak up the sun on the patio in the breezy summer.

"A 40-minute drive away from our city home we have created here an idyllic second home where we spend weekends and holidays with children and many friends," Hua said. "It is a leave-it-all-behind retreat, the perfect antidote to city stresses.

"And the house is superb value, especially when shared amongst friends. It provides an ideal base for parties and gatherings."


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend