Nanxun Blossom Hill

Matt Dougherty • January 31, 2018

Photos: Nanxun Blossom Hill

Nestled within the “Hidden Book Town” of Huzhou, the boutique Nanxun Blossom Hill hotel is a transformation of three Ming Dynasty-style buildings into a 20-room property with a decidedly East-meets-West design, thanks to Shanghai-based Dariel Studio. In fact, one of those historic villas was originally constructed in 1930 by Liu Chenggan, Nanxun’s wealthiest citizen at the time, to house his impressive book collection. This informed the firm’s design and played into the “hidden” theme used throughout, revealing the history of the Nanxun and Qiushuli  villages. “There is an elegance in the leisured lifestyle of the people of Nanxun, which has endured since the time of Chenggan, and which we sought to capture in the individuality of the design,” explains founder and lead designer Thomas Dariel.

Because Chenggan gained much of his wealth from the silk business, the designers used it prominently throughout the space, particularly in the restaurant. Blue and red fiery strips made from raw silk “fly across the ceiling as a fantastic visual spectacle for the guests,” Dariel points out. In addition, knitted geometric-shaped silk screens are used to divide the various functional areas into different spaces while also adding to the hotel’s romantic and clandestine themes.

Mystery is injected into the space by  combining traditional Chinese design with a modern Western aesthetic—a signature of Dariel’s style. A long, paved path inside the hotel, reminiscent of Shanghai’s alleyways, leads to a Western-style building and connects the reception to the rooms with four Chinese characters engraved at the top on the exterior. The first two name the small streams that ran through Jiayetang, while the second pair resemble Chenggan’s mantra. In addition, the golden toad on the gatehouse was the logo for his silk business.

Each of the 20 guestrooms  “correspond with the historical and cultural significance of the town,” Dariel explains. Orange represents the farmland in rooms decorated with bamboo weavings and vivid artworks depicting local living. Green rooms represent gardening, while a blue pattern on the wall nods to ocean waves in the fishing rooms. Celadon-green and ocean-blue Lazy Susan coffee tables  “add a touch of humor and romance,” he notes. Throughout public spaces and the reception, guests undergo a surreal emotional experience that is both whimsical and clever, notably with flying table lamps that “portray a French style of playfulness and freedom,” he says.