05/29/2008 - 05/29/2008
Yeye and nainai's apartment is 85 square meters (approximately 915 square feet), two bedrooms, one living/dining room, a bathroom, a narrow kitchen, and an enclosed porch.
When you buy an apartment in China, usually it comes unfinished. That means plumbing and electrical services have been installed, but there is no kitchen or bathroom installation (sinks, toilet, stove, counters), no windows, and you have a bare concrete floor and walls in all rooms.
That 85 m2 area includes a proportion of the stairwell, however, amounting to one third of our landing because there are 3 apartments on this floor. We're on the fourth floor (quite desirable in a seven story building); there is no elevator. The floors above us have only two apartments each.
Directions are very important in Chinese homes, not only for strict adherents to Feng Shui. Everyone desires to have south facing windows or balcony; in fact it's best if your apartment or home is lengthwise east-west, to maximize the length of your south-facing windows. I don't know about the reasoning in Feng Shui, but I can see practical and traditional reasons for this desire, and it boils down to sunlight. The sun is very important to cleaning your clothes and linens, not only because it dries them when wet. People will leave out clothes and bedding in the sun long past dryness, believing the sun itself is doing some cleaning. And I believe that is true. Ultraviolet light would kill some bacteria (and possibly some viruses?), and probably helps get rid of other sorts of infestations (mites or insects -- although I don't believe anyone would live with these today). I can imagine that it would help break down or sterilize other organic matter (skin cells, oils, hair, etc) that would attract mites and parasites.
This preference creates an interesting new dimension to architecture: as you are designing a building, keep in mind that every buyer wants south-facing windows. Now what?
Buildings are frequently oriented for cardinal directions, not simply squeezed tightly into a given piece of property. Look at the buildings in our own Village 27, for example. The area covered by Village 27 is lengthwise northeast-southwest. For an American developer, the practicalities easily lend themselves to orienting buildings that way. And a pair of the buildings at the southwest end of Village 27 are indeed oriented this way: they were built first and sold first. (They are also dreadfully ugly, I might add. Perhaps the developer hadn't hired architects at that stage?) All the rest of the buildings, though, are designed to offer direct south-facing windows, porches and patios.
There are four buildings identical to ours.
Buyers want south-facing windows. Not everyone can have this ideal, of course.