It’s been said that Sheung Wan officially came in to its own when a slew of upmarket apartments blocks and swish restaurants joined the neighbourhood, but the district once defined by its fishy aroma has long been something of a hub for the creative industries. Now you can add Deem Limited to the mix. Opened last November, the home furnishings boutique sticks out from its spot tucked at the end of Hollywood Road for its steel-accented vertical windows as much as for what lies beyond them.
Founded by interior designer and two-decade Hong Kong resident Debra Little, the shop as it stands is an evolution, a work in progress. “I’ve always designed products and commissioned artists within my design work, and for years I thought that would be nice to put that into production … It’s been great because they feed off each other and now I’m seeing people come in because they like the aesthetic,” she notes. Little’s posse of artists and designers are the brain trust behind the shop’s product line, making it more of a showroom — less assembly-line feeling than IKEA, more welcoming than super-trendy G.O.D.
Aside from in-house pieces, Deem’s eclectic collection of artistic furniture, lighting and accessories spans items by established contemporary designers from around the globe (like Brooklyn-based lighting designer Bec Brittain) and vintage pieces that reach beyond mid-century modern (“It’s not really what I’m interested in. We’re sourcing pieces that are more unique and finely crafted.”). As such, that precludes Deem from having a signature style. Walk into the shop and the first thing that sticks out is how uncoordinated everything is. Nothing technically “matches,” yet somehow it all fits together. The showroom looks like a really funky, and cohesive, living room. “That’s what I’m looking for, a common aesthetic. The dialogue between old and new pieces.” The old could change from week to week — Little is picky about what she stocks on that front — but the new includes elegant brass light fixtures, glass accessories made in India and the spectacular brass dining table that dominates the room. If Deem did have a signature piece, this could be it. “I gravitate towards silver myself, but in interiors the warmth of brass works. I love how it patinas and ages … I have that table at home, and now the whole top is stained with ring marks, wine, spills. But it’s fantastic. It has a life and history to it. It’s a metal that changes with its environment and gets better and richer.”
The third element in Deem’s mandate, as it were, is exclusive original art, which was always key to Little’s plan. “We represent about six artists from Hong Kong, China, Europe and Australia … that I’ve worked with for a long time. When we opened I really wanted art to be part of the picture,” Little emphasises. She hopes to be able to begin hosting intimate events in the near future that include exhibitions and talks in the design and art field.
Deem, of course, isn’t the only niche boutique like it to spring up in Hong Kong lately, but it could be the one with the most personality. “I guess it’s the point of difference. We don’t want to be just vintage. We want to offer something to discerning customers that are looking for uniqueness. From the beginning, the space was never a white space, it’s off the beaten track,” she summarises. Not for long.