A House within Thirteen Steps / Limu Design Studio

A House within Thirteen Steps / Limu Design Studio

A House within Thirteen Steps / Limu Design Studio - Shelving, Bedroom, Windows, BeamA House within Thirteen Steps / Limu Design Studio - Windows, BeamA House within Thirteen Steps / Limu Design Studio - Door, Glass, BeamA House within Thirteen Steps / Limu Design Studio - BeamA House within Thirteen Steps / Limu Design Studio - More Images+ 42

  • Architect In Charge: Liu Jinrui
  • Design Team: Feng Qiong, Guo Lan, Luo Di, Wang Jianqiao, Jiao Xinyu, Tang Xuan, Yang Ying, Zhang Dongqing
  • Project Manager: Guo Lan
  • Urban Consultant: Wang Sufan
  • Structural Consultant: Tang Xi
  • Technical Consultant: Zou Mingxi,Hou Xiufeng, Cai Xingjie
  • Acoustic Consultant: Yang zhigang, Wen Lisen, Wang Mengmeng
  • Decoration Design: Zhou Yu
  • Construction Drawing: Limu Design Studio
  • Construction Drawing Design: Lai Wuyi
  • Construction Supervision: Li Xiaolong
  • Photography: Hu Yijie
  • Client: Dream Home in Dragon TV
  • Acknowledgement: Duan Hong, Ni Yi, Zhou Yu, Shi Jun, Yuan Bin, Xu Hui
  • Construction Supervision: Li Xiaolong, Shenzhou
  • City: Shanghai
  • Country: China
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A House within Thirteen Steps / Limu Design Studio - Windows, Beam, Bedroom
Cui Linglong in the living room

Text description provided by the architects. Ten years after EXPO-2010 which made the south of Shanghai attractting global attention, the avantgarde temperament in this region fades and a strong smack of everyday life takes the position. Among thousands of households this case of house renovation brings a poetic Garden of Eden in the bustling world.

A House within Thirteen Steps / Limu Design Studio - Windows, Beam
© Yijie Hu

Overview of the Project
This project is presented in the Dragon TV program Dream Home IV (episode 8). The Project is located on the top floor of an old flat in Shanghai. The house plan is L-shaped with no more than 34m2 in measurement and thirteen steps from the north to the south. Here live five people in three generations. The grandparents move here from Zhangye (in Gansu) to take care of their two-year-old granddaughter but they are extremely unaccustomed to the damp weather and rice as staple food.

In this house within thirteen steps, the insufficiency reduces using space and living quality, and meanwhile restrict the various hobbies of the family. Grandpa, a previous tenor, now has to lower his voice. Grandma as an artist has to give up piano. Father can not dance in the house and Mother lays aside her artistic brushes. Other interests like yoga, sports and fitness, tea-tasting, movies and board role-playing games all have to give way to the reality of little room and trivial things, leaving burbles of the toddler as the poetic expectation of the family. 

A House within Thirteen Steps / Limu Design Studio - Shelving, Bedroom, Windows, Beam
Master bedroom view

Extension - the Jade and Exquisite Study       
Before renovation, linear space cause much inconvenience in living activities and eye-communication, while each of those hobbies needs a large square room. However, it’s important to change the height(2.7m-2.9m) and width(3m) due to the fixed structure of the old flat that allows almost no removal and replacement. How could 34m2 small house appear to be enlarged and be sufficient while there is no room for horizontal and vertical extension?

The answer of the designer is to intensify diagonal line just like the Jade and Exquisite Study.

The utilization of oblique space after reconstruction
A House within Thirteen Steps / Limu Design Studio - Countertop, Sink, Beam
Cui Linglong in the entrance

The Jade and Exquisite Study is a visiting spot in the Surging Waves Pavilion in Suzhou. Three rooms connect diagonally with each other in the end of zigzagging walkway. The sequence of repeat makes diagonal room more spacious (because they can be used as either three separate rooms or one combined). In the same way is the house transformed. First, the porch, the entrance hall and the grand’s room compose a prototype of the Jade and Exquisite Study so that the sight distance is prolonged from 1.7m to 6.2m. 

Before & after for the plan

In order to extend the sensed depth when entering the house, the exposed structural beams are covered with wood skin and act in scenic cooperation with the wardrobes in the grand’s room. As stepping inward, one can see the green shadows outside the grand’s room dancing in the breeze. 

Then the living room, the entrance hall and the kitchen make up of another Jade and Exquisite Study, extending the sight distance again from 3.5m to 7.4m. Through these methods the previous narrow spaces are integrated, and the horizontal distance is extended. 

A House within Thirteen Steps / Limu Design Studio - Table, Windows, Beam, Bedroom
Sight communication between the upper and lower space

Making the most use of the oblique space saves precious wall space, they are used as the storage space for 22㎡, accounting for 65% of the total interior area.

A House within Thirteen Steps / Limu Design Studio - Lighting, Bedroom, Beam
Rammed earth wall Like the Danxia landforms

01 Entrance
The Peach Colony writes, “At first it was found to be so narrow that only one person could pass through it. After walking forward for a few footsteps, he discovered that it led to an open air…”


After walking pass the long narrow corridor, one steps into the porch which is deliberately compressed in order to arouse a depressed feeling before turning relaxed, at the same time spares enough room for storage. Continuous light strips define the outline of an honorable ceremonial entrance of the house. Gleaming in the warm light is the intriguing Jade and Exquisite Study.

A House within Thirteen Steps / Limu Design Studio - Shelving, Chair, Beam, Windows
Linear lights create a sense of ceremony for entrances

In large scale of whiteness was the wood-skinned beam connecting with wooden cabinet, stretching far across the end of the house. The depressed feeling intrigued by narrow porch and strip light then is released.

A House within Thirteen Steps / Limu Design Studio - Table, Bedroom
Logo for new home on white wall

At the moment of hesitation, the wood-colored logo on the white wall immediately catches one’s eyes, which signifies the host’s family name “Qin”. The grand’s house is also within reach of sight. Within this tension and release, the feeling of the entrance is largely improved.

The white wall, the black frame, the wooden beam, the diagonal room, and the poetic conception of the secluded courtyard deep in the bottom of the story. 

02 Kitchen
Considering that the family is more accustomed to the northern dietary habits, the kitchen is designed in two parts with a hidden sliding door in between, trying to insulate the smoke while guaranteeing the transparency.

A House within Thirteen Steps / Limu Design Studio - Countertop, Lighting, Bathroom, Sink
Inside and outside kitchen separated from each other but keep sight transparent

In order to avoid boredom in cooking meals, part of the wall at the height of eyesight between the grant’s room and the outer kitchen is replaced with glass so that the landscape drawing in the grand’s room reflects into the kitchen as a showcase. Imagine when Grandpa is cooking in the kitchen, Grandma is playing the electric piano, and two look toward one another in accord, then you will appreciate how narrowness fosters intimacy.

A House within Thirteen Steps / Limu Design Studio - Door, Glass, Beam
Watch outside kitchen from inside kitchen

The inner part of the kitchen is U-shaped with 2m long cooking bench and 0.88m multifunctional sink, facilitating cooking and living. The outer part is linear and the extensible black stone bench stretch up to 1.7m to serve as either a noodle-cooking board or an eating table.

A House within Thirteen Steps / Limu Design Studio - Countertop, Sink, Kitchen, Windows
Compact and efficient inside kitchen
A House within Thirteen Steps / Limu Design Studio - Facade
View and borrow scenery

03 The Grand’s Room
The grand’s room integrates four kinds of functions into merely 5.4m2 square room, including tasting tea, playing the piano, sleeping and dressing up. The designer chose a whole piece of glass as the window so as to introduce as much green as possible into the room. The hidden sliding door is also well-designed that could fold in 90° in the corner to fully cut off the light and sound outside at night and maintain accessibility in the daytime. The horizontal showcase-like window, also accessible to be covered with a board at night, again relieves the oppressive feeling of the narrow space.

Elderly Room
A House within Thirteen Steps / Limu Design Studio - Windows, Lighting, Countertop
Transparent sight view

Inside the integrated furniture hide two piano stool and one dressing seat, showing the thoughtfulness of the designer. 

04 Living Room
The partition wall in the living room is replaced with a more flexible one made of wood, giving enough space in north-to-south direction during the day. 

Living Room
Activity & sight view analysis

Rammed Earth Wall
The background wall behind TV is decorated with rammed earth, not only because of its fine-grained quality, various color and practicality to insulate noises (which was ever a cause of conflict between neighbors), but also a symbol of Danxia landform in the host’s hometown. The rammed earth wall extends from the entrance hall to the master bedroom door, signifying both space transparency and family nostalgia.

A House within Thirteen Steps / Limu Design Studio - Windows, Beam
Rammed earth wall extend to the master bedroom

The rammed earth wall is totally handmade and is only 150mm thick to spare more usable room. Hiding behind the background wall is a full-length mirror used for dressing and dancing practice.

Picture Frame
The former strip window is divided by the mezzanine into square frame-like openings, transforming direct western sunlight into diffuse reflection of light. The window frame captures beautiful scenery from sunrise to sunset as a unique picture in the house. 

A House within Thirteen Steps / Limu Design Studio - Lighting, Bedroom, Bed
Window | Frame

Flexible Furniture – Table
Although the noodle-cooking board in the outer kitchen can be used as eating table, another folding eating table is designed to meet the demand of big family meals. 

05 Game Zone on the Mezzanine
The host’s mobility makes the mezzanine possible to be a game zone. The 2mx2m square mezzanine is enclosed with ropes and central-glassed board and shaped as an interesting fairytale land. The whole space is covered with software and the ladder is able to slide and laid in a small angel on account of its convenience. The game zone is like a treehouse in the fairytale, with the providential attention and privacy, softness and delicacy, interest and safety. 

Game Center

06 Master Bedroom
The 12m2 master bedroom is the largest room in the house which accommodates many kinds of activities: sleeping, working, singing, dancing, painting, yoga, fitness, role game playing and movies, etc. Every square inch of wall is of significant use in meeting these intricate demands.

Master Bedroom

The bedroom floor is partly lifted as a bed for sleeping, a performance stage for singing, or the spectator seats for watching a movie. The wardrobes on both side provide enough storage room. Underneath the bed are six boxes with activity names carved on the surface, which contain all equipment for various hobbies and a folding baby crib. The folding desk can extend up to nearly 2m for two people to work. The wall is painted with drawing board paint for children to create graffiti works. The hidden full-length mirror is just at hand. The most challenged design, however, prove to be the mini singing hall. 

A House within Thirteen Steps / Limu Design Studio - Shelving, Wood, Table, Beam, Countertop, Chair
Desk, amp, dresser

Mini Singing Hall
In order to provide grandparents with a better space for practicing voice, the rammed earth wall has to extend into the bedroom to insulate sound. Meanwhile, the designer adjusted the length-width ratio of the room by setting wardrobes rightly.

A House within Thirteen Steps / Limu Design Studio - Sofa, Windows, Bedroom
© Yijie Hu

The designer added a continuous vocal cavity to the bedroom and made the ceiling tilt, with grilling breaking acoustic reflection in order to homogenize the acoustic characteristic. All the surface of the furniture is fine-grained and thickened to reduce absorbing of the sound. Finally the 10m2 narrow space gains a perfect effect of 0.6s of the reverberation time. 

A House within Thirteen Steps / Limu Design Studio - Sofa, Wood, Beam, Chair
Singing hall with wooden ornaments

Beside the renovation in space and function, the project has improved warmth, humidity and air quality of the house through a type of blood capillary system to keep constantly comfortable physical conditions, as it is in the hometown Zhangye, 35% in humidity and 26℃ and continual fresh air.

Zhangye, the host’s hometown, is two thousand kilometers away from Shanghai. But it is within thirteen steps in this house from the southern landscape to the northern scenery. Within thirteen steps is endless nostalgia and care.

A House within Thirteen Steps / Limu Design Studio - Bedroom
Complete activity space

As the LOGO indicates, which prototype is character “Qin”, the top three lines signify the earth from hometown, the bottom part “He” is like a boat indicating water from the south area, and in the middle of the logo “Ren” is like a big roof sheltering “He” below – “He” represents the two-year-old toddler Mibao. The entire logo appears like a smiling face, a witness of renovation of house and life. 

Back to the intention of the renovation, like thousands of other ordinary families struggling in Shanghai, this family deserve full joy of life apart from bitterness in child-raising. We hope the project can enlighten thousands families like this case and bring more kindness to people living in this land.

A House within Thirteen Steps / Limu Design Studio - Table, Beam
Skylights as a viewfinder frame

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Project location

Address:Shangnan Road, Pudong District, Shanghai, China

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Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address.
About this office
Cite: "A House within Thirteen Steps / Limu Design Studio" 10 Nov 2019. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/882827/a-house-within-thirteen-steps-limu-design-studio> ISSN 0719-8884

Interior space

十三步走完的家 / 立木设计研究室

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