Hutong Tea Party: An old Hutong courtyard house reincarnates into a charming tea room – thanks to Arch Studio’s creative refurbishment

Project: Hutong Tea House | Design: Arch Studio | Location: Hutong, Beijing, China | Photos: Wang Ning

At just a mere 450 sqm, the Tea House cafe project by Arch Studio located in a historical building is a breath of fresh air within Beijing’s traditional Hutong district. Flanked by five old traditional houses and temporary corroded steel houses, the building was originally a venue for company business meetings, but has been converted to a tea cafe when poor management left the space in dire conditions. Arch Studio started off with the design of the project with a thorough analysis of the building conditions and discovered that the materials actually dated back sometime before the Qing Dynasty.

“From the structure of the wood and the size of the grey bricks, we could tell that the relatively old north wing predates the Qing Dynasty,” the studio says. “From the already decaying wood structure on the east and west houses, we deduced that the houses were only remodelled during the 70s and 80s. Additionally, judging by the wood structure on the building’s south side, we could not deny the fact that it needed repair. The repair design was selective because it had to factor in the building’s age, as well as its financial and historical value.”

The refurbishment work carried out in the room within the north wing was a minor process – Arch Studio only replaced the seriously damaged portion of the space with bricks. Repair in the north room, however, was controlled to ensure that it doesn’t compromise the room’s historical features while the south wing’s reparation works were aimed to give the room a basic style through partial renovation of the roof and wall.

After the East and West wing had been demolished, they were rebuilt into a wood structure with a pitched roof. A flat “curvy corridor” was also implemented, resulting in a gallery space to create a smooth transition from the past to the present.

The architects explain further: “Generally, in Chinese traditional buildings, a gallery is a space formed with one half outside, and the other half inside. It is winding and changeable, scatters randomly and offers visitors a welcoming ambience. The curvy gallery in this project were extended from the outside to the inside of the old buildings like tree branches, blurring the boundaries between the courtyards and houses while changing the dull and narrow impression of the courtyards.

There is a great contrast between the light, transparent and pure white gallery and the heavy, aged and dark old buildings, which makes the new-built part fresher and the original buildings older, creating a communication between new and old.”

The curvilinear gallery splits into three distinct courtyards which offers each tea room its own views while creating a transition between the public and private spaces. What’s intriguing are the lightweight glass curtain walls which are designed to appear as if they are floating above the ground and at the same time reflecting the bamboo landscapes outside and the old building features inside the tea room, resulting in an ambience of the new and old under one roof.

“The curvy gallery also supports the structure of the old building,” the architect says. “For instance, we used steel beam columns to partially replace the decayed wood beam columns of the original building to make the new and old ‘grow’ together.”

6 thoughts on “Hutong Tea Party: An old Hutong courtyard house reincarnates into a charming tea room – thanks to Arch Studio’s creative refurbishment

  1. Lauren

    Wow, that is absolutely beautiful. There are such clean lines, and modernity to the space. I absolutely have to visit. I love my tea anyway, and this gives me an extra reason to travel there! It has such a feeling of zen when I look at the pictures, and that is an important component when trying to relax and just drink tea. Thanks for the article on this hidden gem!

  2. Nehpets

    This is amazing! I would seriously consider doing something like this in my own home. It’s just so.. peaceful and.. geez could you imagine waking up to a space such as this?

    I just noticed the kitchen in that one shot. If I ever start my own restaurant I will need to revisit this site – book marked for future reference.

    Thank you!
    – Nehpets

  3. Jonathan

    Arch Studio did a remarkable job with the Hutong Tea House. I did not expect it too come out so nice. I love the old with the new idea. It’s an excellent idea to preserve history and then to modernize. It’s the best of both worlds. I can’t believe the poor management of this place before to let such a beautiful place or one that had so much potential go to waste. Bravo to Arch Studio.

  4. Jude


    Thank you for this post, I enjoyed looking at the pictures and fantasizing about living there. I love how nature is incorporated into the construction in a very elegant and modern way while still retaining it;’s organic qualities. Would love to visit there one day! I would like to visit the rest of the country too.

  5. Henna

    Wow, this place is amazing, it has a great feeling of calmness to it. I love the mix of all the different materials, soft and hard, old and new. I love tea and have always wanted to visit Beijing, so this would make a great travel destination. Are you aware of any other Arch Studio projects? Would be interesting to learn about them too.

  6. Matt's Mom

    Oh my gosh, the Hutong Tea House is absolutely beautiful! They have done a great job. I love the inside trees, that are really not inside. I just love the way the glass surrounds them, and then they open above for the sunshine and air. Shoot this would be a great architectural design to use with a nice and large size home. Thank you for sharing, great and informative post!

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