Coming from a textiles and product development background, Suzy Annetta took the long way around to interior design. The Melbourne native is a welcome rarity in an industry concerned with appearances: she’s blessedly straightforward and sees spaces and how to fill them from a decidedly creative point-of-view. Square Foot chats with the gregarious director of Studio Annetta about budgets, quality fade and where Hong Kong needs to improve.
Are you a designer by trade or did you come from another industry?
I had actually wanted to be an architect, but at a school careers day I found out that I would have to drop basically all my artistic subjects for maths and science, and quickly gave up on that idea. It was not until I moved to Hong Kong seven years ago that I started working in the field, and then started the company a bit over a year ago. I think I knew I wanted to be an interior designer from about the age of 13. I’m just not sure why it took me so long to do it.
What influences your work?
I’m inspired by a lot of things — travel, fashion, jewellery, art and the decorative arts, particularly the work of French designers from the early to mid-20th century. I love that they were the first real modernists, refining and distilling the most essential elements, creating the most elegant and timeless designs. I find that all of these influences manifest themselves in my work in different ways — jewellery is a great source of inspiration when designing lighting or other interior accessories. Let’s face it; they are the jewellery of the home.
You started designing your own lighting because you couldn’t find what you needed. Why is lighting so complicated, and what else needs to change about supply and process in Hong Kong?
There is nothing particularly complicated about decorative lighting, so I’m not sure why there is such a lack of good designs on the market. I was fortunate enough to find a great supplier who has craftsmen who hand make each piece to my specifications. They are all made from solid materials, and the idea is that these pieces are an investment and should last for generations. We have plans for other products in the future … and I have always wanted to design my own line of furniture.
This is mostly driven by the fact that there is such a lack of good product available to designers like myself in Hong Kong. I find that there is IKEA, expensive European brands, and really not much in between. It’s very frustrating when working for residential clients who have just relocated here, as I’m sure they expect to be able to source everything that is made in China. The truth is, most of it gets shipped to the United States or Europe, and completely bypasses Hong Kong.
A lot of designers would argue the opposite. That everything is made in China and quality fade is an issue.
Yes, that is a concern. Made in China doesn’t necessarily have to mean low quality though, there are still great craftsmen working there … and they have a long tradition of fine art and craftsmanship. I think unfortunately a lot of it has been lost, as we are also seeing in the West. I counter this by sourcing in other countries in the region like Vietnam and Thailand, which are still budget-friendly, but offer a slightly higher level of craftsmanship and quality at the moment. I think a lot of it boils down to pride in their work, and if something is mass produced, anywhere in the world, you just don’t get that.
Would you like to see any of these old industrial buildings rezoned for residential space? Would you like to take a crack at one?
Absolutely I would! The price of real estate in this city is already so prohibitive, and spaces so tiny, it would be great if [those] industrial spaces could be used for other purposes, including residential. If I were given carte blanche on such a space, I would love to fit it out in what I call “industrial luxe.” I’m really into brass at the moment, and I think this can really work in an industrial space if mixed with other warm materials and not-white walls — which are far too sterile for my liking.