Practicality Principles

Practicality PrinciplesLRD Ltd takes a refreshingly candid approach to interiors

From interiors to landscaping, construction to custom furnishing, for residences and a limited number of small offices and boutique hotels, effusive veteran designer Lotta Rojens has seen it all in her two decades in Hong Kong. Square Foot chats with the mind behind the eponymous Lotta Rojens Design.

Have things changed at all in the 20 years you’ve been working?
A lot. I think today the local population is more current than they were 20 years ago. They’re more into trends, and obviously recently the environmental aspect has come into play. That was non-existent 10 years ago. I remember when I came here, and being European, Swedish, I wanted to work with natural materials and texture. That was a big question mark 20 years ago. People understand that now.

If that’s your “thing” it must make your job easier.
Absolutely. But my “thing” really is to be able to meet my clients’ needs and wishes. You talk about a style … I can’t have one. I work with too many different people with different budgets, different needs. When clients tell me they loved working with me because our tastes match that’s a mark of achievement. I should not be reflected in my clients’ projects. I don’t think I’ve ever done something that’s “me.” I don’t want a certain style. You take your client a little bit further than what they think is possible, but clients should open the door and say, “I love my home.” MY home.

Are the basics, flat design and such, changing too?
Nothing has changed. It doesn’t matter: small flat, big house, I face the same problems. There’s a waste of space and the practicalities of living are not addressed at all. And as you said, developers want to maximise the land but they don’t have people in mind. We have to be able to live in [our] space. It’s a major problem in Hong Kong and I don’t think anyone’s made any progress on it. It’s very sad in the bigger picture. The property industry’s control hinders creativity.

Are there properties you enjoy working with, and what’s on your wish list?
[The old walk-ups] are more interesting. Most are older buildings so you can do more. And people who buy those spaces are already interested in doing something special. I’m working with a house now on The Peak that’s from the ’40s — there’s architecture there. Someone put some thought into it, and that’s nice, to be able to bring it into the modern era. I would love to do a restaurant. I don’t like large scale, so I’d like to a small restaurant that can be personal. That would be a challenge for me.

Do you get a lot of silly requests to use Ikea product?
I’m a big fan of Ikea! Obviously … it’s Swedish! [laughing] When you work with tight budgets and schedules, it’s ideal. As important as design is, you need to meet time and cost. Most people come to me when it’s already too late, with a tiny budget and grand ideas. In those cases it’s great. It’s low budget but for what you pay the quality is great. Small businesses want a fun, approachable office, but they don’t wan to spend too much. Ikea? Fabulous. It may not last but you start with a small business that may grow. Wait for the next step. Oh, I can identify any product in the catalogue!