Big ideas for small spaces

Updated: 2015-01-26 16:33

By Xu Xiaomin(Shanghai Star)

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Big ideas for small spaces

Ping Wang describes the family's living conditions as lacking "human dignity, sunshine and air". Photo provided to Shanghai Star

When interior designer Ping Wang was tasked with the challenge of re-imagining a tiny lane house, home to four people, he was shocked at the cramped living conditions, but managed to transform the space into a comfortable family home. He tells Xu Xiaomin how he did it.

Turning a dingy box room of 12 square meters into an attractive modern loft with four rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom may seem like a fantasy, but Taiwan-born designer and architect Ping Wang has done it.

As part of the reality show Dream Renovator on Dragon TV, a small house on Nanjing Road East, the busiest shopping street in Shanghai, was picked from thousands of candidates hoping for a free makeover. Wang was appointed as the renovator.

"When I first saw the place, I was shocked. It was in a narrow lane. It was ridiculously small. It was oppressive," says Wang, who also serves as the design director of Shanghai Ping Design Studio. Most of his projects involve luxury clubs, high-end residential areas and office spaces.

The owner Gu, 68, moved into the tiny lane house in 1957. It barely changed in more than half a century, except for suffering the ravages of time. Gu lives there with his son and daughter-in-law and their young child.

Speaking before the renovations started, the young mother Xu Meixia, said on the show: "I pray that somehow I can give my boy enough space to grow up healthily." At the time, the three-year-old boy ate and played on his bed in the dimly lit studio because there was no room to move.

After his first visit, Wang decided the property was not only lacking in décor but "human dignity, sunshine and air." He promptly accepted the challenge.

He began by tearing down the toilet and kitchen that had been illegally built outside to allow light and air in and then added a horizontal partition into the 3.6-meter-high studio to create two floors.

He added waterproof boards, foldable furniture and movable walls to create more privacy, and big windows to amplify the space.

Within two months, he had transformed it into a two-bedroom home with a study, dining room, kitchen and luxury bathroom. Naturally, the family and audience were thrilled.

"I realize how misguided my views of lane houses were before," he says. "This project was a real eye-opener into how people live in these buildings that date back to the 1930s."

This is not Wang's first time working to improve people's living conditions. In 2013, he helped renovate a 17-sq-m apartment as well as a house with a bizarre layout for local residents.

"Through this weekly TV show I can spread hope and teach more people how to improve their living conditions," says Wang, adding that interior design is not just about decoration but the relationship between people and space.

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