With its forest of giant mushrooms and curved bamboo bookshelves, the latest Zhongshuge store nestled in Chengdu’s Yintai Center looks like something out of a fairy tale.

‘My approach is more architectural and holistic than that of most of my colleagues,’ said Li Xiang of X+Living when asked about her interior-design perspective (see Frame #116). How this attitude shapes Liang’s creative process is not only visible; it’s tangible, too.

Through her experiential approach to spatial design, Xiang creates an environment whose immersive character mirrors the world of literature. Indeed, the bookstore could be the setting for an Alice in Wonderland sequel. With shielded areas and reflective ceilings in the children’s zone – which make the 5-m-high store appear much larger than it actually is – the setting encourages exploration of both the space itself and the books on display.

In the lecture hall at the store’s rear, mirrored ceilings have a different effect, making the room resemble a desert landscape. The space adds to the store’s mystical atmosphere and contributes to the playful change in environments from one area to another.

Zhongshuge’s final reading area features more sober interiors for individual study and resting. Despite their restrained aesthetic, these spaces still include moments of whimsy, such as books hidden beneath the stairs.