Critical Stylings

Critical StylingsAfter almost seven years, Grovens Living continues its quest to create chic living spaces for all

Like so many of us, designer Jo Gray landed in Hong Kong one day on business a decade ago and never left. The UK native set her sights on creating a comprehensive boutique design studio focused on clean lines and functional chic you can breathe in. Square Foot has a refreshingly frank chat with Gray.

Your background is fashion, so what do you say to sceptics that don’t think the two industries reconcile?
Fashion and interior design are totally related — look at Diane von Furstenberg and Claridge’s London, or Armani, Versace, Ralph Lauren, Ferragamo … all are involved in interior design from hotels and residences to furnishings and fabrics; [both are] fields of design that appeal to the senses. Transferring your aesthetic and skill set from one to the other is not a great leap — this is my strength.

My partner Jeff Ovens’ training as an engineer means he understands the complexities of the technical and construction elements of interior design, and this is what makes Grovens Living such a powerful team.

What do you see as Hong Kong’s great untapped design resource or practice?
Preserving old building I believe is something that should be practiced more in Hong Kong. Too often large developers buy up large chunks of land with existing perfectly acceptable and workable buildings already on them with no regards to preservation. Hong Kong should look at Europe and the United States and learn how they have preserved pieces of history and turned them into something far more beautiful that a shiny new glass skyscraper.

If you could sit in LegCo for one day, what one property “law” would you pass?
That you are not allowed to create more than one bedroom for each 600 gross square feet of space in an apartment. Hong Kong flats often have too many walls, resulting in ridiculous, cramped rooms, which are often almost entirely unusable. And also that net and gross areas for apartments are abolished and replaced with “true” floor space area numbers only. This is misleading and an underhanded sales tactic.

What do you think developers or designers occasionally lose sight of when working on a project?
Ironically, the end-user who is most often overlooked. Some designers are more concerned with pressing their own vision or aesthetic onto a client, rather than listening to what the client wants. Some developers create fantastic residential complexes, but there are also those who aim for maximum profit by squeezing in as many flats as possible onto a floor, resulting in interiors which are so badly laid out it is insane. We’ve seen kitchens where you can only open the door of the built-in refrigerator by 10 inches because the kitchen door itself blocks access. How crazy is that?

What’s on your wish list?
My wish list in general is that we keep providing our clients with top-notch service and a [flat] that they love to go back to at night and call home. Projects on my wish list would be to get involved with a preservation project of some of the old commercial spaces in Hong Kong and help turn them into amazing exciting new living spaces. Or create a beautiful boutique hotel or home (for myself) in an old Chinese walk up.