Balancing ActSome designers are inspired by great artists or notable architectural trends, but interior designer Man Wu is more motivated by how he can marry artistry with functionality within the most basic parameters of a space. Square Foot talks with the founder of Wanchai-based Design Sector.

Can you tell me a little about your background and how you got into design?
I studied interior design at Caritas Bianchi College of Careers in Hong Kong, and finished in 1999. I started off working for many other companies, in retail design, residential and corporate design. I started Design Sector just about two years ago. We do all types of interiors but we’re most busy right now on residential projects.

What inspires you?
I have no specific style. I look for simple lines and shapes, and I wouldn’t say I had a particular style. I will say I try to balance the artistic and the functional. Balance is important. There’s always a need for more storage and things often need to be enlarged for that, but on the other hand that doesn’t always lend itself “style”. A lot of artistry is no good on the functional side. Sometimes we have to work in 300 or 400 square feet … In Hong Kong there just isn’t the space to work with. Prices are high and everyone wants to maximise what they have. That is the most common request I get: more space. Over half out clients need space maximised. Some people already have the space but then they need more natural light or they need their rooms enlarged. You’ve seen it before: you open a door and one, maybe two steps maximum and you’re literally in your bed. This is a common “error” in Hong Kong residential design.

Past Projects
Have you have done any projects that stand out as a personal favourite?
All of them. [Laughs] I could never say one. We do so many projects I could never choose one over another.

What kind of requests are you getting again and again these days? What do people seem to be concentrating on?
Budget. I think the budget is being considered far more carefully now. With smaller budgets we’ve just done the design work, studied how to use the space, and left the actual work behind for contractors. That makes it hard to expand or modify it down the road. I would say, of course, sustainable design is becoming more commonly requested and we hope to do it as often as possible. As far as style is concerned, most of our projects are referrals from existing clients so that means they have confidence in us anyway. The choice wasn’t just made from photos. They are familiar with our work, how we use colour and space.

Wish List
What would you really like to try your hand at?
I would love to try a multi-level unit, something that’s three levels. A penthouse or a duplex, or a small building that included a front and back yard or a garden. Something bigger where there’s a vertical area to work with. Designing a vertical space would be great fun for me.