A Chef’s Cozy 320-Square-Foot Beijing Hutong Home
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Name: Starry Xiao
Location: Guozijian — Beijing, China
Size: 320 square feet
Years lived in: 9 months, renting
Starry Xiao’s hutong home is nestled among the throngs of mom and pop stores selling incense for visitors to Beijing’s famous Lama Temple. Within its blue walls, however, it radiates a completely different kind of aroma. A local chef, Starry is known to make use of every corner of his tiny kitchen to whip up elaborate brunches for his girlfriend. Meals are punctuated by the many fragrances from his extensive candle collection, such as books in a library and oak moss. All of this adds another layer of depth to a snug loft, which makes up for the lack of floor space.
Beijing’s hutongs are iconic, historic neighborhoods that are made up of traditional courtyard homes. Over time, landowners have added on structures within some of these courtyards, creating a cramped maze of small homes. While this type of development means a tenant’s window are often blocked by ancient tree trunks (and their neighbors’ walls are a mere arm length away), Starry wouldn’t have it any other way. He cooks at nearby restaurant White Tiger Village, and values the hutongs for their community. “I love this environment — this is why I stay in this city,” Starry said. “This is the real way to experience life in Beijing.”
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: A mix of Nordic elements with a modern touch.
Inspiration: My inspiration comes from everywhere — everything I see in the different places I’ve been.
Favorite Element: My candles and candleholders.
Biggest Challenge: Figuring out how to arrange so much stuff in a tiny room. I kind of planned it out before I bought everything, but still, I bought a lot and the space is quite limited. I cannot sacrifice any more space.
What Friends Say: My space is cozy, chill, and delicate.
Biggest Embarrassment: The stairs, which occupy a lot of space. The original design is super weird — when they build these kinds of spaces, they don’t really care about the layout or space used.
Proudest DIY: My tea table. The bottom is an Ikea table from the original landlord, but I put a new board on it that I ordered from Taobao.
Biggest Indulgence: Candles and incense. One of my friends became an aroma therapist and she taught me how aroma can help you with your health and help you sleep.
Best Advice: Try to find the beauty of life. Aesthetics are a very personal thing, but I think everyone can create their own unique beauty.
Dream Sources: Any shop abroad. I really love shopping while traveling.
Hot Plate — Miji
Vintage Mauviel Copper Measuring Cup — Vintage Market in Bangkok
Rug — Taobao
Nightstand — Taobao
Bedspread — Muji
Pillow — Ferm Living
Lamp — Taobao
The Round Dorm Shelf — Ferm Living
Bluetooth Gramophone — Gramovox
Vase — Changmai wholesale market
Desk — Taobao, made to measure
Clothing Rack — Taobao, made to measure
Ändlös Candlestick — Ikea
Kaleido Trays — HAY
Sake Bottle — Yardbird, Hong Kong
Designer Candle — White is Good, Beijing
Light — Taobao
Shelves — Muuto Design
Chair and cushion — Ikea
Ceiling Light — Taobao
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