Getting away from China’s megapolis Beijing, Shanghai or other huge cities is a real treat. A long train ride can take the curious traveler to a country side and lifestyle that they have long since thought only existed in paintings and tales from another era. Skywells Hotel in Wuyuan revives the ancient stories with a touch of pure luxury.
The authentic retreat in the Southern hills of East China, four hours away from Shanghai, in a 300-year-old Huizhou-style house features the regional architectural features of narrow courtyards, hence the name Skywells.
Arriving in the 900-year old car-free village is like entering a different world.
An Englishman and his Chinese wife who were based in Shanghai found this rough gem on one of their explorations of the countryside and decided to dive into an adventure and complete life-change.
While the original structure of the building was still intact and didn’t get destroyed during the 20th century turmoil in China, it was long neglected and in dire need of renovation and restoration.
The mansion allowed glimpses of its past elegance and grandeur as merchant and business inn 300 years ago, or orphanage managed by a wealthy spinster, but also has definite signs of having been a work office of the commune during Chairman Mao’s reign.
The original and traditional elements of the Skywells building were painstakingly kept in the public areas. Local artisans and experts restored timber frames, decorative carvings, wood and stone work as well as the original tiles on the roofs.
However, the designers and owners felt that curious travelers from today’s civilization probably would not have been comfortable in the century-old living quarters. The 14 suites and private quarters are remodeled with the latest amenities and contemporary modern designs displaying warm and cool neutral colors with the occasional color accent.
The suites that are all facing inwards don’t have generous windows but latticed panels on the walls and use high-quality artificial lighting to make the spaces bright and friendly. The thick outer white brick walls keep out the heat of the 1,3085 square meters property and build a unity within itself.
The restored Huizhou house dating back to the Song dynasty with the carved friezes and the Mao quote murals has already taken home a few architecture awards since its opening in 2017 including ICONIC Awards, RED DOT Awards, ABB LEAF Award, and shortlisted at INSIDE Awards at the recent WAF in Amsterdam.
All the awards, though, don’t do it justice. One just has to pack up the bags and head out into rural China to experience it.
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Source: photos of Skywells are courtesy of v2com