Ross School - Senior Projects 2011


Student: Yichen (Stacey) Shao

Mentor:  Ned Smyth

Domain(s): Virtual Arts






Title: A Weave of Contemporary With Traditional - A Hutong Interior


(Catalog Entry-You can copy and paste this directly from the Senior Project Resources page by clicking on the digital catalog)

During China’s dynasty period, there are a lot of Hutong surrounded Beijing. Hutong is the name of traditional Chinese narrow streets. However, following the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, a lot of Hutong were disappeared. For my senior project, I used a traditional Hutong house layout with courtyard and separate living spaces for different uses as my original model and re-designed every single piece of the whole house. I mainly focused on how to connect traditional and modern design together in my work and this turned out to be an interesting problem to balance. I have had to learn about architecture, and how to make architectural drawings.  I have also had to clarify my personal likes and dislikes into a professional interior design look. I enjoyed putting ideas together and seeing how they made an integrated whole. Interior design is not only about ideas of space and furniture; but it also requires patience and courage.











   My senior project’s title is A Weave of Contemporary With Traditional - A Hutong Interior. It refers to interior design in the community of hutong; I have chosen to merge traditional; modern; eastern and western styles.

   Hutong is a typical lane or small street in Beijing that originated during the Yuan Dynasty. There are more than 7 thousand hutong surrounding the Forbidden City in Beijing .In the past, Beijing was composed of countless courtyards. Hutongs were formed when people left a passageway between two courtyards to get to the market. As the symbol of Beijing, a hutong has its own layout and structure, which makes it a wonder in the world. When taking a bird's eye view of Beijing, you will find the combination of hutongs and courtyards just like an orderly chessboard with delicate gardens, fine rockeries, and ancient ruins. Hutongs have witnessed the modernization of Beijing. Where there is a hutong, there is a story. When I was young and I went to Beijing with my parents for the first time, I barely remembered anything about the Great Wall, but I clearly remembered the Hutong Houses.

   At the end of my junior year, we started to think about what we would do for the senior projects. Since I’m going to major in Education at colleges, I decided to do something related to education so that I can get some credits on my college applications. However, after thinking about it several times and talking to my advisor Ms. Cross, I realized that I would be doing the same thing for the next 4 years in my life, so I decided to use this opportunity to do something else that I have passion for. At this point, I thought of Hutong and interior design. So I began to redirect my project and then changed my mentor to Ned Smyth.

     After meeting with my mentor, we set up my goals. First, during summer time, I would collect as much information as I could for the preparation of my project. Unfortunately, I couldn’t go to Beijing myself because I was preparing for the coming SAT and because of my summer internship job. Instead, I went to some small towns near my city, which also has similar lanes like hutong, and I took a lot of pictures there. I never made floor plans; perspective drawings and design boards before, so I have to say I started my process from nothing. I had no idea about what I should do.  I met with Ned at least twice a week during the beginning of the senior year and He clarified my goals with me. The first thing I started with was blue print. Fortunately, with the help of my mentor, I found a perfect hutong house floor plan from the Internet by chance. Since a designer had already designed this house as the bubble house, I choose to cut out the design of the bubble so that I could have more space to work on. First I set up my house for an artist family. Then I divided the house into six rooms as shown above and three main areas as Living area, working area and the courtyard. To deal with the color for each room, I used mood boards to select the colors and patterns for my rooms. Based on the color and usage of each room. I started to select furniture. It was not easy as I thought it would be. Interior design is not just picking out a piece of furniture that u like. A good designer needs to think about the size, to match the colors and styles and more. My goal was also to combine different styles and make them work out with traditional Chinese style.

     During this long process, there are lots of challenges for me. The biggest challenge would be language. English is my second language. Also, I don’t know anything about inches and feet. In China, we use meters and center meters but not inches. So getting used to inches and feet really took me a while. The architecture tools are new friends to me as well; I can’t do my drawings without them. I spent a lot time on the 3D drawing especially on the weekends.  I am not skilled in drawings at all and it’s really hard for me to learn the one point perspective drawing skill. But eventually I did one perspective drawing for my living room, so that give people a better sense on my design. Finding the materials for my samples was much harder than I thought. After having done my senior project, I really want to bring Hutong Culture into our real life. Hutong house was designed for a single family including different generations. That means children were close to their grandparents. As I found, many American children do not live with their grandparents or cousins. At this point, I was thinking of the reason for hutong. Hutong is a community; each family is together in its small community. It might be a healthier society if families are together and learn from each other. In the future, I might not be an interior designer because my dream is to be a teacher. However, in my opinion, education is art. Education is about passing knowledge from one generation to another.  This is just like what happens in a Hutong House and its community. The social structure has been changed a lot as it developed.  If we put Hutong culture into the nowadays, I believe people will become closer and closer to each other.


Works Consulted


Global Times. “When Hutong meets chic bubble.” Global Times. 23:24 December 15 2009.



Cheryl Probst. “Beijing Hutong Culture Inn provides look at Fading Way Of Life.” Oct 17,2010.



“Hutong Bubble : Residential Development Beijing, China.” E-architect.



“ Modern furniture” Spencer Interiors



“Kitchen and Bath” KOHLER



“Interior design, decoration and online decorating education.”



Buy my eye.



Bella Mancini Design



Outside Consultant


Amanda Kyser---- A great interior designer. She helped me a lot on how can I start my project and her professional suggestions are really meaningful to me.


Jennifer Cross---- A great art teacher. She helped me a lot on my perspective drawings.