Designs on Coupling

Newly wedded architects Vince Lim and Elaine Lu believe compromise is key to building a home together

The flowers are arranged; the chocolates are half gone. It is now time to consider committing after a romantic Valentine. And for many couples, that means moving in together. Yet how do two completely different people, with different tastes and preferences, make that leap? Add to the equation the typical tiny footprint of a Hong Kong flat with barely room to swing a cat, and you get a recipe for potential disaster. So how do architects and interior designers make it work?

“Compromise,” states Elaine Lu. One half of Lim + Lu, a young Hong Kong multidisciplinary firm that specialises in interior design, furniture and products, Lu married her life and business partner Vince Lim in a private family-only Koh Samui ceremony this month. The former Cornell architecture classmates founded their company in New York where they both got their feet wet—Lu designed retail spaces for Tiffany & Co. while Lim worked for architecture giant KPF.

“My dad had this Happy Valley flat that needed some renovations after the last tenant moved out,” explains Lim, referring to their home and pseudo showroom. “He thought it would be a cool project for us. We started thinking about how to re-do it in late 2015, and moved in last April.”

“My style is more light and airy, more colourful and linear,” notes Lu. “Vince likes massing, black and white schemes, and solid forms. One of the biggest pieces we compromised on was our dining table. Vince wanted four legs in each corner, in black, while I wanted a central support. We ended up going with geometric supports—a cylinder and a box—in brass.”

“I wanted to stretch out my legs at the table,” adds Lim. “That’s why my favourite spot is in the middle, in between the two supports.”

Lim explains that the flat’s design has been organic, and has morphed to become a showcase for the type of work they do as well as reflecting how they wish to live. “We are strong advocates for flexible living,” he states. “We like furniture that change and adapt, and can be moved around.”

Lu refers to a coffee table with removable white marble surfaces set within a light brass frame, using materials that recall a round table situated in what they term the pink room. “We didn’t want to define rooms by function, which we wanted to keep flexible,” she elaborates. “The pink room can be a guestroom with a pull out double bed when we have friends over, but it is also a place to have tea, to work, and where we display our collection of objects.”

Another advantage of having flexible furniture is it allows accumulated possessions from a couple’s life together over time to be rearranged and reorganised organically. Spaces breathe, with room to expand as treasures from trips, shopping excursions and gifts find their own niches. Although Lim and Lu designed much of the flat’s furnishings and accessories, they sourced lighting, chairs and building materials at Shenzhen’s Yizhan Centre.

“My favourite space is the bathroom,” Lu sighs. “I really wanted a bathtub…”

“Since I don’t take baths, a shower would have been fine with me,” interjects Lim, looking at the claw footed tub they eventually installed.

“My advice for couples planning to move in together is to let go of the small things,” concludes Lu. “Figure out what your priorities are.”

“Our aesthetics are pretty similar—so we didn’t have any arguments,” notes Lim.

“We had some arguments—Vince just forgot about them,” argues Lu, laughing.

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