Chinese by genetics, Indonesian by birth, Dutch by residence and Italian by experience (among others) Cynthia Lie-Breit’s approach to interiors comes from a long career in fashion. As director of the year-old boutique Discovery Bay design studio Bricks & Mortar, Lie-Breit brings a sociable European aesthetic to her designs and a grounded attitude to executing them. Square Foot talks with Lie-Breit.
Your background is fashion. How did you come to start Bricks & Mortar and go into interiors?
I used to work for the Moncler Fashion Group in Italy and when they opened an office in Hong Kong they asked me to join. I had always done interior design projects in the past — it was always for fun. And when some of the projects were [featured] in design magazines I thought, “Maybe I should do more with this.” I was looking to go back to work after I had a baby, and I was looking for something I could do on my own and manage my own time. Bricks & Mortar grew very organically.
Describe your aesthetic. Do you think your fashion background has any influence?
In a way I think there is, [unconsciously], a fashion influence. It’s about the way I look at materials, colours and contrast. If I were to describe my style it would be focused on natural materials. Materials play a key role in establishing the mood. By using contrasting materials such as warm wood with cool stainless steel, rustic bricks with polished concrete or stone with minimalistic glass you can transform a dull place into a far more vibrant environment. I also try to make use of extensive glazing and internal windows, it is the lighting that truly brings spaces alive and allows the rich textures and character of a home and its materials to be appreciated. Bring the outside in! The use of plants, vertical gardens and curtains can be enough to signal a shift in area function without the need of using a solid and artificial division, they also help to soften up the home.
What have you worked on so far that stands out for being a challenge or really enjoyable?
I’ve had very diverse clients so far but people come into my home and what catches them immediately is the kitchen. So the projects I’ve been doing so far have a kitchen as the centre point of the house. After having lived for seven years in Italy for me the kitchen was always what kept the household together. So I’ve always put a lot of attention on that. I’m even thinking about putting a focus on just kitchen design with Bricks & Mortar.
What do you see as a theme or trend emerging for 2013?
I’m seeing a lot of requests for open space living, clients like to built in a degree of flexibility to the design that will allow the structure to evolve according to the shifting needs, priorities, lifestyle and family requirements. This is the kind of flexibility that gives long life, character and individuality to a home.
Bathrooms have not only grown bigger but they have also become the focus of considerable design attention. As homes have become more important as refuges from the stresses of everyday life, the bathroom has emerged as a refuge within the refuge. Until not so long ago it was not unusual for bathrooms to be the smallest room, designed and fitted for utility rather than comfort. Its role as a private sanctuary now comes to a very close second [to its primary function].
So where are you going to be five years from now?
I see a gap in the market in project management. Of course the design part is there and that’s the fun part and always will be, but managing the project is equally important if not more. I’d like to expand but I don’t want to get too, too big. I’d like to keep it boutique, working for people who appreciate design.