ZIINLIFE LIFE STORE || Cafe, Library and Furniture Showroom in One

It’s one of those places that will instantly become your favourite weekly visit.

I have a place that serves this purpose in Vancouver, and upon my visit to the Ziinlife Life Store in the Fudan University neighbourhood in Shanghai, it seems I’ve found a new favourite spot to restore balance to my mind. A cafe, library, gift shop and furniture showroom all in one, you will likely spend endless hours in this lifestyle store.

Ziinlife Life Store is the brainchild of Ziinlife Furniture, a reputable Shanghai furniture brand. Its mission is simple, to design and deliver quality design furniture at a reasonable price. Since its establishment in 2013, Ziinlife has since grown its repertoire of designs to be showcased all around the world, including at renowned creative outlets like NYC x Design Festival. The brand’s designs has also accumulated numerous accolades, including the EDIDA CHINA 2018 Young Design Talent of the Year, 2018 Gold Idea Design Award Best Designer / Design Team of the Year, 2018 Shanghai Design Picks Award and the 2017 Gold Idea Furniture Design Award.

Inside the three-storey Ziinlife Life Store, there are spaces customized for your different moods. A quaint library for members holds a variety of design and architectural volumes to inspire and calm the mind. An individual can freely absorb all the knowledge in their room in peaceful resolve. A small outdoor courtyard is open on sunny days to welcome guests to enjoy their coffee or read a book outdoors.

The first floor also houses a collection of home objects, including a stylish black Minion table and Mickey and Minnie Mouse dishes for holding your odds and ends. Other personal items such as minimalistic notebooks and patterned scarves will invite you to wander the space examining each piece with wonder.

The standout Minion table, bound to become a centrepiece in a modern home.

A cafe space on the first floor serves as semi-private studying spaces for university students and also a relaxing coffee spot to catchup with friends. Every detail in the cafe space is thoughtful and playful, as portrayed in the photos below. The wall decoration showcases a special collection of walking canes, produced in small batches to a favourable responses; so much so that it is now proudly on display in the eclectic space.

On the counter you will notice a small retro radio, which turns out to be a cute portable menu as you turn the dial to reveal the various menu items. The chairs are from the Ziinlife collection, in whimsical hues and shapes, creating numerous photo-worthy moments as you immerse yourself in the space.

The cafe experience is carefully designed to change with the hour of day, with natural light streaming in from the tinted windows casting colourful shadows in the cafe space. The windows are tinted varying shades of pink and yellow, so if you visit at just the right time period, you may literally view the world through ‘rose coloured’ lenses.

Yellow tinted shadows cast on the café bar counter.

The second and third floors house Zinlife’s creative and whimsy designs, such as their lamp inspired by Pixar’s logo embodying the brand’s animated lamp character.

The designs are thoughtful and tailored to consumer living trends, with space-saving, multi-functional pieces that elegantly transform to enhance spacious and functional living.

The second floor showroom.

The design process of each piece considers how the end user will interact with it, resulting in ergonomic and tasteful pieces that accentuate a modern home. There are numerous pieces that piqued our interest with its thoughtful details. Below are our best picks.

One of our favourites is the Startup Chair, created with armrests that appear to be shortened and lower than usual at first glance, but is actually specifically created to help seniors rise from their seated position by providing additional support. Note that one side of the armrest is flat, while the other is rounded, indicating the direction of the ‘flow’ of the design. It is these small, almost undetectable details that sets Ziinlife’s designs apart from the rest.

The Startup Chair.

Another cabinet doubles as a dining table, saving you space during the day and keeping your collectibles safe within the storage cabinet. The bottom cabinet doors fold out to provide support for the dining table, an elegant solution using modern design.

Ziinlife also developed the Leaper Lamper, inspired by the animated Pixar lamp. The playful design is on display in the showroom in a blush pink hue, its curves portraying the fun-loving nature of the Pixar brand.

Down to the decorative accessories such as cushions, Ziinlife designed a pair of sofa cushions to celebrate special Chinese occasions, inspired by the minion characters in the movie ‘Despicable Me’. Together, the two cushions create the Chinese character for ‘double happiness’. Definitely a product thoughtfully tailored for the Chinese market!

The Small-World Table pictured below is ideal for people with young children in the home (or those who want to avoid bruises from picking up dropped items from below the table). This is because the cushioned underside of the table considers how young children gravitate towards such ‘hiding places’ to play their toys; such a design will help to alleviate the worry of children bumping their heads as they emerge from their play space. Only a designer who has lived with children or invested a significant amount of time observing the interaction of people and furniture could come up with this idea. This is truly attention to detail.

The special item we reserve for the last is the Sunrise Table, a vanity table design that considers the Chinese belief to avoid having mirrors in the bedroom facing the bed, while also succeeds in delivering a flexible design fit for a modern home.

The mirror can be rotated upright during the day for a personal space where one can prepare their hair and makeup for the day. when the mirror is not in use, it can be rotated down and concealed. Smart design that adheres to old traditions and new creative design standards - a perfect example of the Chinese proverb ‘two birds one stone’.

A special space within the second floor showroom acts as a modern loft display home, highlighting how Ziinlife designs are both practical and functional for small spaces. A bar / dining table smartly saves space with its accordion design that allows one end of the table to ‘roll-up’ to against the wall to make more space.

Compact sofas and multi-functional side tables are paired with interesting decorative pieces such as the Enlight Casement; here, a spotlight is shone through the encasement, which lights up the rear diamond pattern.

A flight of wooden stairs leads up to the second floor where the bedroom is, using open white railings to give the perception of a more open, airy space as opposed to a ‘closed’ design stairwell. Their bed headboard design also shows the designer’s attention to detail, because you can adjust the angle of the bottom half of the headboard to support your back. We would venture to say a good majority of us tend to read in bed before we sleep, whether it’s a book, magazine or news app, and one of our key complaints would be the lack of back support with rigid, straight headboards. This design is certainly a life saver for those with back pain!

From the bedroom, a suspended bridge corridor takes you over to the flex space, where you could set up as a meditation space or a small library, where you can enjoy your morning coffee or tea and wake up to the day’s news. We certainly had a tough time bidding goodbye to all of the innovative designs we saw, but it was time for us to experience the pastry chef’s creations in the cafe space.

We sat down to enjoy a few of the delicacies available in the cafe, all of which demonstrate the masterful techniques of the pastry chefs. It was during the holiday season when we visited, and the cakes were all designed for the holidays; a santa’s hat and a cute pink present complete with ribbons greeted us. A shiny apple hid a smooth mousse and spiced apple cubes with cinnamon, warming flavours perfect for winter.

Their pour over coffee is served on a unique, rippled serving tray, and if you order your caffeine to go, their drink sleeves are designed to reveal different cute proverbs as you twist and rotate the sleeve. Whether it’s their furniture or culinary creations, the Ziinlife team designs each item for human interaction, and when their customers realize the attention to detail, it will trigger a smile and delight in their hearts as they recognize the efforts that went into design not just the product, but the experience.

A uniquely designed serving tray.

Rotate the cup sleeve to reveal different playful quotes.

Ziinlife Life Store is a must visit for design enthusiasts and serves as an eye opener for anyone who may feel that today’s design creations focus too much on the ‘wow’ factor without ergonomic, practicality and functional considerations. Here at Ziinlife, you will again believe in design with a human touch.


No.88 Jinjia Road, Yangpu District, Shanghai

(+86) 21 6568 0309

Hours: 10AM - 10PM

Photos by Florence Leung