This Surrealist Library Offers An Escape From Reality

This futuristic book shop aims to create a calming sense of escapism, similar to that of being absorbed in a good book...

Shanghai-based design agency X+Living is known for their whimsical, futuristic and playful designs. Each creation has it's own look and identity, but they are all equally surreal and dream-like, leaving our office open-mouthed in awe and wonder.

Run by Li Xiang, the female led architecture practice injects both residential and commercial spaces with imaginative, Escher-like interiors, from these striking commercial spaces to this space-saving Shanghai apartment. Now they've just unveiled their latest project; a futuristic Zhongshuge bookshop in Beijing.

The new Zhongshuge bookshop, which sits in the Galeries Lafayette department store in Beijing, features circular doorways and windows that lead from room to room, offering tantalising glimpses into the rooms beyond. The bookshelves act as both a canvas and a wall, while the round doorways soften the long rows of bookshelves and create a feeling of intrigue and discovery.

At 1,110 square-metres (11,948 square ft) this is by no means the largest Zhongshuge bookstore (some are three times as big as this), but clever design elements like the mirrored ceiling and reflective floors help make it appear larger than it is.

The design was inspired by Chinese classical gardens, with different areas (including a bamboo forest, kids area, cafe and study room) all connected through these circular doorways. These doorways feature illuminated steps that camouflage into the backdrop with a library-inspired wallpaper.

The designer also incorporated comfy window bench seating to inspire customers to stop and read, and lose themselves in a book.

The circular holes were inspired by moon gates, not only connecting each room but also framing vignettes and views into other spaces, enticing customers to keep exploring.

The bookshop has a cafe too, with more mirrored ceilings, and curving shapes and tables in varying sizes, creating a whimsical atmosphere.

The arrangement of the tables mimics the gathering of ancient people in a famous Chinese painting titled Qu Shui Liu Shang after an ancient Chinese wine-drinking game. This game is also linked to the ancient story of the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove – which ties in with the bookshop's Bamboo Grove inspired room...

This room boasts a lightness and clarity, with the soft-hued wood, white floor and reflective ceiling.

Walking through the bamboo branches is meant to evoke a sense of escape and calm, similar to that which you get from being absorbed in a book. The views through the bamboo stalks to and from this space are beautifully peaceful and clean.

The study hall uses a more central symmetrical layout, inspired by traditional Chinese architecture.

Lighting behind paper panels in the privacy screens create a warm glow.

And finally, there's also a fun and whimsical children's library with X+Living's signature cartoon-style designs.

The designer used simplified lines and figures to create a cartoon city that sits upon a map of the world.

This is the third Zhongshuge store that Li Xiang of X+Living has designed, with previous ones having an entirely different look – bar the mirrored ceilings.

The design firm is working on three more bookshop designs at the moment.

Lotte Brouwer

Lotte is the Digital Editor for Livingetc, and has been with the website since its launch. She has a background in online journalism and writing for SEO, with previous editor roles at Good Living, Good Housekeeping, Country & Townhouse, and BBC Good Food among others, as well as her own successful interiors blog. When she's not busy writing or tracking analytics, she's doing up houses, two of which have features in interior design magazines. She's just finished doing up her house in Wimbledon, and is eyeing up Bath for her next project.