Chinese Residential Architecture: Suzhou Apartments |
Suzhou Apartments Epitomize the Very Best of Old Meets New

Suzhou Apartments Epitomize the Very Best of Old Meets New

"The juxtaposition of old and new shows an interesting dialogue between tradition and the modern lifestyle"

Written by –
Jess Ng
on February 21st 2018
Born and raised in the UK, Jess is NONAGON’s resident historian turned marketer turned writer, drawn to Hong Kong by the lure of dim sum breakfasts and bustling city life. A foodie who loves to cook, food occupies 70% of her brain 90% of the time. When not eating, Jess can typically be found buried in a book or obsessing over making NONAGON’s Instagram #feedgoals.

Historic House Renovation in Suzhou


Eiichi Kano

What do you get when you pair traditional Qing dynasty architecture with a modern minimalist interior? If these Suzhou apartments are anything to go by then I believe the answer is a calming – almost zen-like – oasis, steeped in history and beauty, yet offering all the modern conveniences of the 21st century. Basically, the very best of old meets new.

Traditional Chinese Qing dynasty exterior with courtyard |

Historic Suzhou

Located in China’s ‘Venice of the East’, these stylish serviced apartments were once the ancestral home of architect IM Pei. After restoration late last year by B.L.U.E. Architecture Studio, the apartments now stand as an experiment and exploration of urban regeneration in a historic area, paving the way for the modern revival of Suzhou.

Floor to ceiling doors open to a tranquil courtyard garden in a traditional Chinese restoration |
Traditional Chinese architectural details in the courtyard area of renovated service apartments |

The site consists of a traditional Chinese garden complete with four ancient wooden structures dating back over 100 years. The garden further boasts four contemporary concrete blocks which were added in the 90s.

Warm contemporary bar area in a restored Qing dynasty traditional wood structure |

Design Inspiration

Speaking of the design inspiration behind the renovation and restoration process, the team at B.L.U.E. Architecture say their main priority was to “inherit the spirit of the historic house, not just by preserving and restoring its appearance, but most importantly by recreating its spatial experience”.

Communal zen spa set within a traditional Chinese Qing dynasty restoration |

“The house once belonged to one family. Even though it is to be transformed into serviced apartments, we do not want it to be separated into several isolated rooms. In fact, after the transformation, 55% of the space is communal, allowing visiting tourists, guests and neighbors to meet and communicate here. The definition of home has been expanded both in terms of concept and space.”

Contemporary living space with natural stone and walnut wood textures set within a traditional Qing dynasty restoration |


In the older wooden structures, natural stone and walnut wood textures were used to create a simple yet inviting look. The finished space is a far cry from the original sparse, damp shell, worn down by years of disregard.

Sunlit home office in a traditional Chinese Qing dynasty restoration |

Although B.L.U.E. Architecture strove to maintain as much of the original structures as possible, this was unfortunately not always possible.


In our design, we did not strictly follow tradition. We brought some very modern ideas and concepts to the old house. This in itself was already a challenge, but there were also a lot of difficulties in solving the contradiction between the traditional architecture space and modern lifestyles. For example, adding a bathroom on the second floor of the old wooden structure building.

Minimal Asian-influenced contemporary living, dining and kitchen space with oak wood and gray terrazzo flooring |

Modern Design

For the newer concrete buildings, the studio opted for a minimalist aesthetic with lighter oak woods and gray terrazzo flooring. This helps to create a more relaxed and modern atmosphere for the private living quarters.

Minimal Asian-influenced living space with industrial-inspired accents and sliding glass doors |

“By boldly introducing the modern design into the historic space, the juxtaposition of old and new shows an interesting dialogue between tradition and the modern lifestyle.”

Modern bedroom design with wood accents and bold black wall |
Minimalist living room with large window and plant detail |

Indoor Outdoor Living

When asked what their favorite part of the space is, B.L.U.E. Architecture immediately referenced the garden space. Their love for the outdoors was so prominent that in rooms that had no courtyard, the designers inserted a terrace. In doing so, they were able to maintain “an open relationship between the courtyard and the interior”.

Bathroom overlooking a traditional Chinese garden |
Modern minimalist zen garden with water feature and white walls |

Overall, these apartments are an inspiring lesson in sensitive historical restoration. At the same time, B.L.U.E. Architecture have not compromised in designing a comfortable space suited to its thoroughly modern residents. The result is a truly unique and special home that combines the very best of the past and present.

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