Editor’s note: Four decades of reform and opening up have not only made China the world’s second largest economy, but also changed the way of life of its people. These changes include people’s attitude towards home decor, which a veteran China Daily reporter attempts to analyze.
For more than two years, my wife and I have been postponing the decision to repair and redecorate our apartment. Fifteen years after the last decoration, the varnish on the parquet floor and the paint on the walls are peeling off and the pipes are clogged from time to time. It’s definitely time to straighten things out.
But every time we decide to redecorate our apartment, we are dragged down by the thought of having to rent an apartment nearby for about a year, spend days packing some of the essential amenities, contacting a packers and movers company for move our belongings, including furniture and electrical appliances to the rented apartment and repatriate them once the redecoration is complete.
Also, perhaps before that, it will be necessary to find a good interior design company and negotiate an affordable price. Then we may need to visit some outlets selling furniture and other materials to get an idea of their prices so as not to be deceived by contractors. Also, we have to visit our apartment daily to make sure the right materials are being used and the work is going according to schedule.
We must also be prepared for arguments between family members over decorating ideas and with workers over the use of materials and the pace of work.
I think a lot of people considering redecorating their apartment share our concerns.
Three decades of real estate development have created a booming interior decoration market, which has contributed 3.54 trillion yuan ($544.48 billion) to the country’s GDP, according to a study. And experts say that by 2025 the industry, which has been growing at double digits a year for more than a decade, will be worth 6 trillion yuan.
The term “home decor” was foreign to most Chinese people when I was young. Traditionally, in most places, people painted their walls with clay every few years to make them look like new. Wealthier families used quicklime to make houses brighter. As for the floor, polished bricks were enough to exhibit the nobility and wealth of a family.
In the mid-1980s, when China Daily assigned me a two-room apartment, the only decoration I did was to cover the cement floor with vinyl that had just been introduced to the Chinese market. Five years later, when I moved into a bigger apartment, I had PVC tiles laid on the floor, and then a new product in China. Seven years later, when I changed apartments again, I not only covered the floor with wood, but I also fixed ceramic tiles on the walls of the kitchen and the toilets, all of my own hands.
This was the end of my career as a “do it yourself” decorator. With rising incomes and people looking for a better quality of life, hiring interior designers to decorate apartments has become common.
A standard interior decoration company is usually composed of designers, engineers and workers, and interior decoration can be customized. For years, Western-style home decor has been considered trendy, with some families installing a bar counter in their living room. But since the bar counter and stools were too high for comfort, many asked workers to lower the counter and shorten the stools.
For a while after that, Japanese-style sliding doors and tatami mats were all the rage, followed by the Scandinavian decorating style.
Today, the traditional Chinese style is making a comeback. But many people realized that they needed more time and money, and more skilled workers to decorate their apartment in the traditional Chinese style.
Speaking of costs, they vary according to the needs of a family or an individual. While less than 1,000 yuan per square meter is considered affordable for most families in cities, between 1,000 yuan and 2,000 yuan is considered an average standard. Anything above 2,000 yuan per square meter is considered luxurious.
Although we have not decided when to start the redecoration, my wife and I agree that we will go into a simple redecoration. And with the money thus saved, we will buy Russian oil paintings and Iranian tapestries to brighten up our apartment.
The author is the former deputy editor of China Daily.