Crossing the entrance to the Wheat Youth Arts Hotel is an unconventional experience. It is reminiscent of when, as a child, you used to go to schoolmates’ houses and their bedroom became a fantastic new world waiting to be discovered. You are not simply entering a hotel, but a place that beckons with its index finger and winks at you. Inevitably, you immediately forget what you have left behind you, absorbed by details that attract your attention.
The entrance is also unusual: it is housed within a shopping mall in the Binjiang District of Hangzhou, China, a city that is attracting more tourism and is experiencing an industry and property boom. The hotel is provocative, irreverent and intentionally beguiling. Rather than annoying guests, it invites them to participate in the “game of playing the game”, making them humorous, yet always elegant, stars. The hotel’s magic touch is all thanks to the X+Living firm and its founder LI Xiang, a designer who took pleasure in amusing people who, when they arrive in the hall, are welcomed by a large orange-yellow “hello”. Or, overpowering traditional methods of communication, visitors can admire everything on offer by looking directly inside a case positioned like a painting.
The lobby, which is highly organized, resembles a studio or living room with bookcases on all the walls and a series of alcoves made of glass for relaxing on sofas and chairs custom-made by the firm, like all the rest of the furniture in the building; the reception is designed around a recess with a ceramic dog that plays the double role of welcoming guests and marking out a boundary with its chain. In this room, the designer took inspiration from Chinese checkers for the design of the stools and of the large panel that decorates the wall with a world map.
The corridors are aesthetically “dry”, but visually powerful thanks to their striking graffiti and skittle-shaped decorations on the ceiling that are reminiscent of bowling. Li Xiang aimed to stimulate recreational activity by placing a piano in the corridor of each level – “a communication tool between foreigners,” he explains – and an easel with a lot of canvases and pencils inside the bedrooms. The rooms, stripped of excess, cleanse the mind and set you at ease thanks to the minimal furniture in which even the wardrobe is reduced to its essential function, along with the bed, desk, bath tub, which is embedded in the wood, and the TV, which is totally concealed by a sliding painting.
If you then want to spend time in the hotel’s coffee shop, you can continue to dream, contemplating the tiny figures of parachutists suspended below the light fixtures, because Xiang believes that “flying is the most graceful posture for embracing the world.”
Client/Owner: Zhao Jing
Location: No. 9, Tai’an Road, Binjiang District, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China
Hotel operator: Hangzhou Wheat Tip Hotel Management Co., Ltd.
Interior design: X+Living/LI Xiang
Design Team: FAN Chen, CHEN Dan, WU Feng, ZHANG Xiao, REN Li-Jiao
Furnishings, Main suppliers: custom-made, designed by X+Living
Lightings, Main suppliers: custom-made, designed by X+Living
Photo Credits: SHAO Feng