How a Young Startup is Adding Color to China's Real Estate Industry

Shelly XuProfiles

Meet the young startup that brings art, design and consulting together to China’s commercial real estate market. Image courtesy of Made In House.

It all started with an urge to bring more creativity into China’s real estate industry.

After graduating from École hôtelière de Lausanne, Switzerland’s top hotel management university in 2018, Jill Gu worked in a hotel consulting company in Singapore on strategy development and branding projects.

Gu’s working experience helped her grow in-depth expertise and insights into the hotel and commercial markets. After returning to China, she joined a commercial real estate company working on hotel-style apartment projects.

“The time I spent abroad made me realize the importance of holding a long-term vision in the real estate industry,” Gu told The Org. “Architecture, design, public art and public events impose such a positive impact on the city and its residents. They are part of the culture and become symbiotic with the city.”

It was with this vision that Gu founded Made In House (MIH) with two other colleagues, Chris Shao and Bryce Cai, who specialize in design and art.

“We discovered there is a lack of creative content in the real estate industry,” Gu said. “In the past, the real estate industry was driven by the GDP growth in China, but when it arrives at the bottleneck, the competitiveness will be demonstrated in the creativity side of it.”

Gu says they also believe the real estate industry could “carry and fulfill more social responsibilities than it does right now, especially in environment, art, and culture,” and they are ready to push the agenda forward.

About “Made In House”

Founded in September 2020, MIH is a full-service creative agency focusing on creative consultancy and art advisory based in Shanghai, China.

MIH creates impact and longevity for brands seeking to define their place in China's commercial real estate landscape. By helping companies build out their brand architecture with a tailored voice, MIH aims to create both impactsand relevance for the contemporary Chinese audience.

The agency's services include commercial strategy, brand development, graphic design, content creation and public relations.


Jill Gu, Co-founder and Strategy Director at Made In House. Image courtesy of Made In House.

China’s commercial real estate landscape: Creativity will prevail

China’s commercial real estate industry has grown rapidly over the past five years. According to an industry research report from IBISWorld, the industry revenue is expected to increase at an annualized 2.9% over the five years through 2021, to $326.8 billion.

Such increase in revenue also comes from foreign investment. MordorIntelligence says recent NBS data shows Foreign investors have significantly increased their presence in China's commercial real estate sector, investing around $11.5 billion last year, a record since 2005 and up 61.5 % Year-on-Year.

In addition, according to a global commercial real estate services company Jones Lang LaSalle, 56 % of China’s commercial property investment went to Shanghai, which is considered a stable and long-term investment destination among investors both, from home and abroad.

However, with the development of the economy and technology, the emergence of new models and business forms, and changes in consumer behavior, ideas, and habits, traditional businesses can no longer meet public needs.

A report from Souhu predicts that in the next 5 to 10 years in the post-epidemic era, the commercial design industry will revolve around creativity in culture and technology.

The purpose of design is to serve the people who ultimately use the product. As consumption upgrades in people’s daily lives, individuals’ pursuit of life quality is increasing. The report says In the future, commercial designs will become more humanistic in terms of concept, scale and space relationship, distance, materials and so on.

Accessibility of public transportation, low-carbon, smart, healthy and sustainable design will be key for any commercial space. The rapid development of technology including 5G, virtual reality technology, along with the integration of online commerce, smart devices will also push businesses to engage with their customers and clients in a more creative way.

Meanwhile, according to One Wei Design, a relatively new concept of “cultural commercial real estate” is also entering the market. Such design comes through historical or fashionable cultural themes, creates unique scenes that are different from daily life, and form highly personalized themed commercial spaces to meet the specific cultural experience.

“I believe the real estate industry in the future will not just be the brick and mortar,” Gu said. “It will evolve into the content creator, in culture, art, entertainment or technology. We can already see the evolution happening.”

Introducing international elements into China’s creative market

Within less than a year, “Made In House” has taken part in projects such as commercial planning, art galleries, art consultancy and design assistance.

In June, the company became the partner of “Design Miami/” to curate its first design forum exhibition in China. On November 4, the first “Design Miami/ Podium x Shanghai” kicked off its 11-day collection-level design art exhibition.

Supported by Shanghai Bund Investment and Development (Group) Co., Ltd., Shanghai Huangpu District Culture and Tourism Bureau, and the co-organizer “Han and Tang Culture,” the art event explored design as “an art form through 20th century and contemporary works, while drawing on the historical relationship between Chinese culture and exquisite objects, and making new interpretations in a global context.”

As Design Miami/ Podium x Shanghai’s first collection-level design event in Asia, the exhibition opened to the public for the first time, attracting 33 select international and regional galleries and studios from around the world.

“The exhibition created an unprecedented design and art environment and helped bring high-quality resources to the Chinese market,” Gu said.

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