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Found in the historic Xintiandi neighbourhood of Shanghai, a new Mediterranean-inspired café and restaurant creates a tranquil urban respite. Designers Linehouse characterizes the space as a “vertical journey of refined rusticity.” The local studio renovated one of the city’s Shikumen houses — a 19th-century residential typology inspired by both European and Chinese design traditions — and has transformed the 620-square-metre historical building into a modern three-storey eatery, dubbed Gaga Fresh. While every floor boasts a distinct mood, a sleek, bright, and open ambiance pervades throughout the restaurant.

Main staircase decorated with exoskeleton graphic and rope panels

The ground floor, designed to be a café by day and social bar by night, draws its inspiration from the adjacent courtyard — and earthy coastal elements. While green-glazed lava stone walls nod to the garden’s olive trees, timber-framed accordion windows open to the exterior, dissolving the boundary between indoor and outdoor space in quintessential Mediterranean fashion.

Garden view of the first floor
First floor cafè

The restaurant’s main dining room is housed on the second floor. Whereas the café was lined with green glazed walls, Linehouse instead opted to define the upper restaurant level with white-washed flank stone. Here, an open kitchen is outfitted with dark tiles — imbued with coffee grounds — a Parilla grill, and a guest-facing chef’s table. Designed by Studio KAE, the tiles (as well as the “coffee lights” found on the ground floor) are made from coffee waste applied to the ceramic using ancient pit burning technology. (These design choices were part of Linehouse’s larger effort to minimize waste throughout the project.)

The large rounded table and Santa & Cole lantern
Second floor kitchen

The dining room’s centrepiece is a large round table illumined by a Santa & Cole paper donut lantern. Made of layered timber, the ceiling also plays into Gaga Fresh’s coastal theme, and blends seamlessly with the surrounding wooden pillars.

The third floor honours the building’s historic roots. The pitched roof is lined with traditional Chinese grey roof tiles and held up by exposed wooden trusses. Designed for private events, it features a wine room and connecting balcony overlooking the pedestrian streets of the Xintiandi quarter.

Third floor

In keeping with the Mediterranean theme, the wall framing the staircase is decorated by a vivid relief — depicting abstracted exoskeletons of sea animals — as well as panels made of woven rope. Evoking fossils, the off-white graphic treatment spans the full three-storey height of the building, creating a bold focal point in an understated design. According to Linehouse, the rope and exoskeleton wall is a modern representation of the sea. The studio says it hopes the graphic will “elicit a sense of change and movement” and likens their work to “the journals of a wanderer through the coast.”

The exoskeleton graphic
A Shanghai Restaurant Evokes the Mediterranean Coast

Designed by local studio Linehouse, the three-storey restaurant creates a visual representation of a coastal journey.

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