JC Vision founder Joseph Chang plays with space with a dash of attitude
The personality of a designer matters; in the realm of interior design, it matters a great deal.
JC Vision founder Joseph Chang has a personality just as sharp as the colours and decor at where our interview takes place – the whimsical Dada Bar + Lounge, an arty space at Tsim Sha Tsui inspired by the Dadaism art movement where imagination goes wild.
The award-winning designer is man of few words, but he has an opinion and sticks to it.
While it’s widely assumed such designers may feel more at ease sharing their work with the public, my conversation with Chang proves he is not your typical interior designer.
How did you get into the industry?
The moment came when I was lying in bed one night reflecting on my life and thinking, “I’m too young to not be doing something I love”. I made the decision to get a master’s degree and things just fell into place from there. When it’s right, it’s right.
What do you do in the morning?
I’m an early bird. I put on my fleece jersey each day for my morning jog and think about my to-do list. I also sing “Bad Romance” at the top of my lungs on my way to the site.
What does a design mean to you?
If a design is a product, I will make it a perfectly round white ball, you never know if you’re looking at the same side or holding it the same way. It can roll, spin, sit still or even bounce. It’s one idea or item that can be interpreted in many ways.
Any advice for young designers or architects?
Not allowing self-judgment or letting fear get in the way. There were so many things that have happened along the way and are still happening today – that, in my mind, fear can sometimes be a very positive thing if you can confront it. Channelling that fear and uncertainty into creativity and positivity helps a lot.
Who has inspired you the most and why?
Ironically, I find a lot of inspiration from my peers, not from looking at their projects, but by spending time shopping the markets with them. It’s amazing what someone else finds or points out and references as a use. I believe everything is an ongoing education, the more time you spend, the better the education.
What’s your design aesthetic?
People tend to describe me as sophisticated luxury. I think I admire anything humble and with senses of humours, these are very important. I like working with my clients’ homes, their hopes and goals and add my experiences and expertise to them.
How does travelling connect to your work and inspire you?
Travel not only allows me to personally refresh physically and mentally, it’s key to rejuvenate creatively.
How would you describe your design style?
I don’t see myself having a “style”, in fact, I believe the term “style” refers to past movements. I would rather say my sensibilities and philosophy are about embracing contemporaneity with a sensual, but minimal language. All objects and spaces speak to us, it’s important to not necessarily over embellish to keep a certain truth of the space, but they should be able to touch our sensual side.
A celebrity’s home you would like to design for?
Carolyn Murphy for sure. I love her and follow her on Instagram.
Any tips for people wanting to refurbish their homes with low budgets?
We don’t really need to get new things to make a new space. Try “shopping” in your own garage, basement and remix elements from other rooms.
Has your design style evolved over time and what has influenced your design aesthetics?
I take inspiration from the things around me, the people around me, current and historical events, and art. For me, architecture has always been the driving force behind my designs. And, with that being said, every region inspires a different style of design.
What else do you do apart from designing?
I had my gallery in Brooklyn years back for my own paintings, it was some time after my college days; my mother was a painter and obviously that was very much an influence for me. I first started oil painting because most great masters used oils. I also spent time to improve my techniques on acrylic paintings so in fact sometime I use frescos for my projects.
I’ve earned a degree in floral design. Like my paintings, when time is permitting, I create flower arrangements in different forms and I love tall and banquet-style grand centrepieces which require lots of skills in structure and floristry. But now this is only an enjoyment of leisure for me.
Why did you pick this jacket? (on the photo shooting day).
This is the oldest jacket in my closet; I hate it so much and want everyone to know I hate this jacket.
What’s your stance on gay marriage and interfaith couples?
Love isn’t anything about gender and religion. I’ve been with my partner for many years and we are still in love.
What’s the first fragrance you’ve ever used?
It was Hugo Boss. I stole a sample from my dad’s bathroom, he had three or four there so I took one.
Who are your style icons?
I always change, but I love Will and Daniel Sturridge, they are just chic and very good looking men.
How do you see expensive tastes?
I do have expensive tastes, but more correctly, I love to mix things together, they can be high and low. Being obsessed with expensive things isn’t a smart way about style.
What kind of animal would you be and why?
A horse maybe. It shows strength, is smart and is able to function alone or as part of a team.
What would you change if you could turn back time?
Do nothing. It’s better to change the present than the future or the past. Never play with nature because she is a harsh mistress.
Where would you call home if you didn’t live in Hong Kong?
New York City for sure, I love NYC because there is something new to see or learn every day. I am inspired by the people I meet – there’s no definition of a “New Yorker”.
My (former) neighbourhood – I lived on the Eastern edge of the West Village – one block in any direction is filled with a different spirit and cool boutiques and restaurants.
How would you describe yourself as a person?
I love glamour and fabulousness, which is obvious. I love twisting whatever is around me in the culture. I love diversity. My dad was a merchant and my mum was a painter, I bring all of these things to my jobs.
The worst job you’ve had?
My biggest mistake was many years ago once doing an entry hall in six colours, it turns out you can go overboard (laughs), but for sure it was a good learning experience.
Can you name a few things that would improve our quality of life?
Work hard, put family first, take care of your skin, maintain good habits, buy the right clothes, be charitable, and buy at least one great piece of art that means something to you, and, don’t discriminate, that isn’t cool!
What are the traits you deplore the most in yourself?
I’m compulsive in everything I do. I can’t shut up most times.
And the most important lesson life has taught you?
One of the most important lessons, working in interior design has taught me, is that you should be truly kind to everyone. Not only is kindness important, but the genuine nature of your kindness too, people may not remember what you said to them, but they will not forget how you made them feel.
Quite commonly, I see people (and myself) too closely associate their personal identity with their works. While there’s definitely something to be said for caring and displaying passion for what you do, there’s such a thing as taking it too far.
When you find yourself becoming heated, overly emotional, it’s important to take a step back. We all have a whole life outside of work, and jacking up our stress levels will neither make a job better nor make you a happier person.