Design for All

If JCAW were a film, it would definitely be an independent

From its Central office, six-year old JCAW Consultants plans events, produces furniture for export from its China workshops, and does interior design for commercial and residential space. Joseph Chang, originally a fine arts student educated in New York, is a designer with a healthy respect for the past and understands the tactile appeal of paper books over tablets.

Is that your graffiti art in the hallway?
Yes. I love interesting elements and also things sophisticate with characters, anything showy will be nono to me. With my fine arts background, the street arts are very admirable to me with their different forms so I spent 2 days to put my graffiti in my hallway.

Would you call that your aesthetic?
In a sense, yes

You do a lot of charity work.
We did a lot of work for the poor before Chinese New Year. It’s just so different. I’m happy to contribute my knowledge to [a variety of] projects and I enjoy meeting peoples; I’ve become friends with some clients after the fact. That’s how I make a living but that’s not all. I want to do something more meaningful. And it is to mutual benefit. I contribute with my knowledge and the recipients “give back” when I learn more about ways to improve all living standards.

But how does interior design help the needy?
Some of our disadvantaged clients are going to the markets after they close simply to eat as cheap as possible. So they can’t afford a few dollars for even tidying up, never mind decorating. The walls are cracked, windows don’t close properly … So my crew and I will repair the windows and repaint and clean up the “junk”. Sometime kids don’t even have a proper desk for their homework, so we reorganise the way they live. It’s about functionality and improvement of things that are more fundamental.

What’s your take on Hong Kong interiors?
There’s always room for improvement anywhere. Designers need to think outside the box more. The biggest difference I’ve noticed between Hong Kong and other places is that, for unknown reasons, many local companies and possibly users tend to do everything fitted. If I put myself in a user’s shoes I would prefer something more “me”, that reflects my character. It’s why I encourage clients to treasure hunt with me, to pick up accessories. Tiny spaces demand customised work, but a bookcase or desk … what’s the point of fitting it with so many choices in the market – from Ikea to designer pieces.

So a good designer …
The designer’s job is space planning and developing or improving the user’s beloved elements in a more efficient and graceful manner. A good designer doesn’t stick to one particular style. I range from contemporary minimalism to baroque. I admire different elements and different palettes.

And the key to good use of space?
First you have to look at owners’ preferences. Do they have five cats, six dogs, tons of books, 200 pairs of shoes and they throw a lot of big parties? It’s got to be compliant with their lifestyle but I have to pick up on the most important elements. It’s a matter of give and take. We can’t have everything we want sometime.

Do developers have to start building better?
Yes. But of course they’re coming from the business side. Another thing that gets on my nerves is that many buyers are going for what’s “prestigious” or “luxury” and I value my clients who treasure historical properties. I love those old structures.