Shanghai's Xintiandi provides a fantastic model of how to re-purpose old buildings to achieve aesthetic and commercial benefits. It was on my list of places to check out, and I stopped by several times (though I still have no clue how to pronounce its name). Housed within these historic buildings are restaurants, cafes, bars, and shops, and the space as a whole is perfectly suited for people watching.
Aside from the site of the 1st meeting of the CCP, the other 'historical' attraction in Xintiandi is the Shikumen Open House Museum which gives a glimpse into the domestic life of a middle class Shanghainese family living during the 1920s. Here's a sample of various rooms; perhaps a few of you will draw inspiration for your next renovation project... keep me posted!