Living in China,  My Life,  Renovating Old Chinese House

Welcome to our new home!


Our cat Sam Sam wants to welcome all of you to a tour to our new home! It’s far from finished, renovations rarely are completely ready, but it’s a place we proudly call home now.


You can see the layout of our house in an earlier blog post to help you figure out how all these rooms come together. In total we have six rooms, dining room, living room, storage room, kitchen, bathroom, balcony and a small backyard. The first picture is from the front door looking towards the kitchen. That small area in between is called 天井 atrium in Chinese and it lets the sunshine and the rain inside. A Chinese friend of mine told me that having rain to pour inside, to the middle of the house, brings good luck.



Aside from putting new tiles, we did nothing to our kitchen yet, because we just didn’t have the budget for it right now. So what you can see here is a mess with too much stuff and not enough space to put it. I’m going to try to find some kind of temporary solution, but kitchen renovation has to wait for now.




The room we needed to be the most comfortable and completely ready is the bathroom above, it’s also the most expensive room in the house at the moment. I chose the tiles to bathroom, and kitchen, my self and I think it turned out pretty nice! I bet we have the most modern looking bathroom in the village.



From the kitchen you can get to our small backyard that is a work in process.There are countless number of tiny pieces of trash and scrap metal in the ground that needs to be picked out. After that we can start planning to plant some flowers.


We have a well in the backyard as well which has plenty of water. The well water can be used to washing dishes and cleaning the floors for example.


In the first floor we have a big room in the middle, medium room on the left and two smaller rooms on the right. Because of the good all building, our first floor is quite comfortable even during the Summer and the temperature must be several degrees lower than in the second floor. Here we set up a dining room that is the center of our home during the Summer. One of the smaller rooms is our bedroom for now as it’s, even now with 32’C, cool enough to sleep with just an electric fan.IMG_5848

The stairs lead us to the second floor that turns into a sauna during the Summer. As the roof is flat, all the sun light comes straight in and the thick walls keep it hot.


The layout is the same as in the first floor, big room in the middle and three other rooms surrounding it. In the living room we have our sofa covered with quilts to protect it from our cats’ paws. We have a ceiling fan in the dining room and in the living room, but it doesn’t quite reach the sofa area. Living room is the right place during the cooler evenings and during the Winter.


On the left door we can get into our new bedroom with brand-new furniture. As we haven’t bought an AC yet, it’s impossible to sleep there during these hot Summer months. But the soft bed is waiting for us when we finally buy the AC next month or so.


On the right side of the living room on door leads to our home office. Later on I will also buy my own office desk, when my husband will move his computer here as well. I’m still in a need of more drawers and space to put my stuff in.

The other small room is for our new wardrobe which didn’t fit inside the bedroom. I’m not sure if we can dress there during the Summer because of the heat, but at least in theory we do have a walk-in-closet!




One of the best part in our house is the big balcony on the second floor that is perfect for barbecue parties. We just need to get more balcony furniture to accommodate more friends and then it’s time for a housewarming! The big hole in the middle is the 天井 atrium I mentioned earlier in this post.


So this is our home for years to come. I remember coming here for the first time almost a year ago and even though it was then covered in trash because of dirty tenants, I could see the potential inside. Of course there are downsides to living in an old house in the village, most of them having to do with hot weather and humidity, but having a real house in Guangzhou is absolutely worth it even with minor inconveniences.


  • Alva

    That’s a beautiful home Sara!
    Remember your post about the “Not average expat house in China?”, well see how time you have a better than average expat home for you both.
    I love that bathroom, is actually very similar to the one in the apartment we live at this moment. The kitchen has plenty of space, so don’t worry about it. Is one of the biggest kitchens I’ve seen in a looong time if by space you mean storage options if you have Daiso (Japanese store, whatever you buy costs you 10rmb) you can have a look. If not, Taobao has wonders.


    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    I’m just few kilometers from that old home, but so much has changed during these years. For the better :)

    There is Daiso in Guangzhou and I also looked some option on Taobao as well. I really like to buy stuff from Taobao as they can deliver almost to the front door, much ,more convenient than carrying things your self from the city.


    Alva Reply:

    Btw, how old is the house?


    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    It’s actually only 30+ years old, which in Finland wouldn’t be considered old at all. I used to live in a building from the 1930’s for a while back in Finland. But in any case this house is built in an old way, something you don’t see in the new houses.


  • Anna Zech

    I love the old Chinese style! It has so much more character than those expensive expat appartments. I really love it. And the best is, it is your home.
    I will be looking for a place to live together with my husband next month. I am really excited because it is the first time my husband and me will be having our own place! i can’t believe it!


    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Wow, good luck for the apartment hunting! Keep me posted on how it goes.

    If you ever come to Guangzhou I’ll give you a tour :)


  • chinaelevatorstories

    The bathroom looks great! And the house has a lot of character, which is really nice if you compare it to the newer high rise buildings where every apartment kind of looks the same.


    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Even in this village people build the new houses the same way and cover it with the same tiles. They are like copies of each other. I’ve always loved old houses, guess that’s why I used to study history back in Finland.


  • T

    This is really cool! How far are you from the Guangzhou city center?


    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    It takes about 1.5 hours by bus+metro to the city center. We should get metro station here in a few years though.


  • ordinary malaysian

    Wow! What a transformation! Now the house looks really nice and livable. Tiling the floors and walls and the bathroom gives the place a clean and neat look and was a good idea. With a few more touches here and there, you will have a place that you can really be proud of to call home. Maybe a few more tall plants on the balcony to give a true sense of the outdoors and shade would finally bring everything together. And maybe, you would want to rough tile the floor here too. I like the overall light colour scheme that you have given to the interior of the house. Congrats on having a home of your own, and one with some character to it!


    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Great ideas, thank you! There is so much potential to make this place even better and it’s going to be great to see it transform through the years.


  • Timo

    Somehow I have the feeling that every houseold with at least one European in it got the very same Ikea shelves. We have the same one just different boxes (red and white) however now that we prepare our own move to Germany we got to sell all that stuff.

    Seems the renovation work went pretty well, I still face the trouble of renovating completly kitchen and bathroom in our new apartment :(


    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    I read the post about your renovation and it seems like a lot of work as well! How come the apartment got into such a bad condition.

    We actually bought these Ikea shelves from a German woman who moved back home, so you are right, we Europeans tend to like the simplistic design even though not all Ikea products are fit for this humid weather.


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