Keeping it in the FamilyIt’s one stop shopping over at Wanchai-based Chun Shing Design And Engineering Ltd,. The interiors, management and furniture design studio has built its business and reputation on the grounds of maintaining design and execution control by never sub-contracting any part of the process in completing its residential, office and retail projects. Square Foot chats with Chun Shing partner and interior designer Steve Cheng.

Did you always work in interiors or did you come from another background?
I studied industrial design in Vancouver but when I came back to Hong Kong I got interested in interiors, though I still design furniture. The fundamentals of the process are similar but it was still new. Then I partnered with a friend that is a contractor and we created CSID. We offer one-stop shopping so to speak; we design and do the physical work as well.

Past Projects
What are the most difficult elements you have to deal with when working here?
Space. The lack of storage is always an issue. Most apartments here are under 900 square feet, and very often 300 or 400 is what you’re realistically working with. No one wants their home to look a mess and have their stuff all over the place and so not enough storage is something that’s requested all the time.

And I would say labour is quite expensive, and clients often wonder about that. It does increase costs and can affect the end result — labour costs can potentially affect the final look if you have to cut corners. It has to be worked into the budget.

Most designers won’t impose their style on anyone without the go ahead but do you have any kind of style or concept that defines your work?
I bring an awful lot of nature into the apartment — as much as I can. There is concrete everywhere in Hong Kong and most people would like some kind of a view. So normally I use a lot of natural materials, like solid woods and leathers and things like that, and bring in some green — plants, anything. So my design concept is very natural even if you have to bring it inside.

You picked that up in Vancouver? Green mountains out one window and ocean out the other.

Oh yeah. You can breathe there. In Hong Kong every window looks at another window or at a concrete tower.

Have you noticed any trends gaining traction over the last while?
I’m seeing a lot of “raw” materials, things like, ironically, concrete walls and rusty metals that bring some roughness to the design. I’m don’t work with metals too much — I find them a bit cold — but I do work concrete into my design. It’s also hard to work with in furniture.

It reminds me of that worn look. When I was living in Vancouver I saw people take old furniture, modify it and make it into a new piece all the time … Before I came back I did buy some pieces from the ’50s and incorporated them into some [spaces] and they do lend a nice touch to the overall design. But I find that “old” look is difficult to convince people of in Hong Kong. Hongkongers tend to throw things away and prefer new stuff.

Well there are four busy IKEA stores here.

[Laughing] Right! It’s also one of the reason B&Q didn’t work. That DIY concept is a hard sell here. No one has the time or the space.

Wish List
Where is CSID going to be in five years?
Funny you ask. I did talk with my partners about this recently. We’re planning on the furniture idea we just talked about. I want to find some loft space that we can use to modify old furniture and create new pieces. That’s sort of the plan in five years. We’re confident in making it work, making it look good. Packaging will be important because in Hong Kong it’s all about the package.