Question: Pace Magazine
Answer: Thomas Chan

(1) Question: You mentioned many times of intuition in your designs. Do you think that it is an inborn capability, or is it acquired through cultivation?
  Answer: I believe that it is mostly acquired through cultivation. I was fairly objective when I studied design and right after graduation. I dared not make any bold design without first obtained others¡¦ recognition.

(2) Question: Having engaged in interior designs for many years, do you like household designs or commercial designs? And why? If someone says, ¡§your household designs are better than your commercial designs¡¨, do you agree?
  Answer: I like both. In fact, I cannot understand why household designs and commercial designs should be divided into two different categories. Except those for my own use, designs for clients, regardless of household or commercial, are commercial designs with a design strategy. Take my clients for example. I often did commercial design for them first, then they came back asking me to do household design; in some cases vice versa. In fact this indicates the clients' absolute confidence in my designs. If you want to differentiate the two kinds of designs, household design aims at design of a space which is absolutely suitable and harmonious to the owners, and not for their friends or guests, hence there is no need to take account of comments from others. Commercial design is based on the intended commercial uses and objectives of clients, and aims at attracting customers of the client, more than just solving problems in design. To achieve these objectives, a detailed strategic planning is required. Successful designs should be able to help clients in achieving or surpassing their planned commercial objectives. This can be seen in the numerous expansions in lousiness of restaurants, furniture chain stores and fashion shops designed by me. This means a success for me, shop owners, clients and their customers.

(3) Question: ¡§Excessive intentional work will lose the intimacy of a residential house.¡¨ As a designer trying to avoid plain, dull designs, how do you think of this statement?
  Answer: Excessive intentional work may lead to a failed design. But residential designs do not always need intimacy; it depends on the objectives or the owner's requirements. If no specified requirement is proposed, I intentionally make residential design a controlled design.

(4) Question: You use artworks very sparingly and carefully. Rather, you use materials on walls and structures to provide focal decorations. Do you have any basis for such method? Or are you in search of something? Does it relate to your saying that ¡§human forms part of the art within the living environment¡¨?
  Answer: Certainly it does. But I am not searching for something; fundamentally, my design style does not belong to that of a Minimalist. Mine is a concise style in pursuit of a combination of reality and imagination, which is touchable, which can be expressed with various use of materials, lights and images. My design style is just a Clarity Visual Expression that is created by continuous adoption of new materials and new techniques. Employment of artworks is a component of that technique. If the house owner is also taken into account and gets involved, then the whole space becomes a stage in life.
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(5) Question: Design styles went through the periods of Baroque and Gothic extreme decorations, and then accepted the Modernist doctrine of denying decoration; can there be any new language for the current designs? Both minimalism and strong decorations are contained in your designs; also you have mentioned that it is your style to seek constant change. It seems that we are incapable of the reincarnation of another powerful and mighty ideological trend. Have the present design thoughts become outdated and unpopular? Are we not making progress any more? Or, is the big melting pot of design now an optimal expression of the current styles? What do you think of it?
  Answer: I agree that design techniques have now been turned into a big melting pot with the globalization of information technology, resulting in less and less regional distinction in designs especially in the interior designs for fashion shops which is advertising international brands with no geographical distinction. But just like fashion, styles may come back at certain intervals. The 70s¡¦ fashion style currently sweeping across the globe is not a rebirth of the 70s¡¦ fashion style, but a design seeking variations from the same origin. My design style belongs neither to Minimalism in the 80s¡¦ nor to that of Eileen Gray in the 20s¡¦; some of my stronger decorative designs resemble Neo-classicism, but they are not a reproduction of Neo-Classicism. They are a recreated style pursuing variations from the established rules. Look to the future, interior designs will be an Intelligence Design combining information and technology of the day.

(6) Question: Some people say that ¡§too many colour give unsatisfactory results. This is the same as many people talking at the same time in one room, even though on the same topic, you will soon get tired.¡¨ Can your share your experiences in colour application with the readers.
  Answer: That's right. But sometimes you can use many colour to create fewer colour. For example, to use green colour, I may create green by using yellows and blues. I seldom use gray with Shade Tones. I may blend the Shade Tone with bright colours. This is why in many projects even Monotone minimalism is used they will still feel warm rather than cold.

(7) Question: Could you tell us your views on Chinese interior designs?
  Answer: Chinese interior design started quite late. I do not mean no interior design existed in China in the past. However, the designs of Chinese villages, palaces, courtyards or houses were mainly concerned with buildings, and interior decoration was only part of buildings. But there has been much expansion of scope in the past decade. Today, building designs are made in accordance with the functions of interiors in mind so as to facilitate internal and external spaces integration and to reduce waste when modifying building after completion. In terms of concept, the advancement of media information all over the world has rapidly changed the attitudes of mainland Chinese in accepting new things and ideas. Add the development in tourism, and the information brought back from business trips and returned students abroad, interior design in China is no longer knowledge from outdated books, but are actual experience obtained from field trips and site visits. Many of these people will not just copy the western designs, but are able to blend their designs with the local cultures. Modern interior design in China is at a positive development stage. Its progress many not be as fabulous and rapid as that of the Modern Chinese paintings, but it is a force to be reckoned on.
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(8) Question: Can I ask you a personal question? It appears that you have been very reserved in your conversations. Your designs are lively, and your writings are passionate: yet you are discreet in manners. Does it indicate that you have seen through the vanity of life? Or is this your character?
  Answer: Clients in both Hong Kong and China raised the same question. My answer is I don't know and I cannot help it myself.

(9) Question: When did you begin taking up projects in Mainland China? Did it happen as coincidence or by intentional arrangement? You work in Mainland as a designer from Hong Kong and people from both regions have different concepts and ideas. Have you encountered any case of cultural difference? As a designer, you contact fair and beautiful things every day, but China is still in her initial developing stage, and there are great gaps between rich and poor. Do you feel the contradictions among them? Do you feel uneasy when facing arbitral imposition of all things Hong Kong / Western on Mainland Chinese?
  Answer: I was commissioned to do the sample-suite designs for the New World Garden Villas on Ersha Island, Guangzhou in 1995. It was jointly developed by New World Development (China) Co. Ltd and Guangzhou Urban Real Estate Development Corporation. In the same year, I was asked to do the design for the Guangzhou Garden Hotel on its tenth anniversary celebration. Thereafter, I did sample-suite designs on Ersha Island for several developers, such as the Huacheng Garden, Hongcheng Garden. And also for Guangzhou Fulin Restaurant, some large-scale factory buildings and several residential club buildings. My projects in the Mainland were focused in Guangzhou in the early years, by now my design works have extended to other cities such as Beijing, Wuhan, and Shenyang. Working in the Mainland as a designer from Hong Kong I certainly have ideas and cultures different from the people in China. Just like people in Hong Kong and Guangzhou are different, people from Guangzhou and Beijing are also different, though the gap is gradually closing. The rapid expansion and relocation of enterprises in China have undoubtedly sped up the communications between regional cultures. Difference in wealth between rich and poor is a worldwide phenomenon. If you work in Mainland China now, you may find that the business leaders have a quite positive working attitude and desire towards new things. The pursuit of western things is progressing at the same pace with the traditional cultures. The slogan ¡§to raise personal quality¡¨ is frequently heard in today's China. What the Chinese need to do is to catch up with or surpass the development of developed cities in the world. I do not feel if I have been imposing thing from Hong Kong / western on Mainland China project.
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(10) Question: Frank Lloyd Wright said in his earlier days: ¡§The most satisfactory house should be one that the furniture positions are taken into account in the beginning of the design and that they are made part of the building.¡¨ Do you agree with that? How do you practice your design with furniture? What furniture brand, and which furniture designer, do you like best? And why?
  Answer: I agree with it absolutely. As a matter of fact, I began most of the building designs except for residential houses in China from construction stage up. Furniture layout and interior designs are carried out at first so as to design a building from the inside out. Furniture designs by Andree Putman and her former company named Ecart International are my favorite. She is more than a furniture designer, but an all round talent and she has great influence on my designs. She is a representative in Cleanliness, simplicity, Harmony and Timeless Interiors.

(11) Question: you use quite a lot of glass, obscure glass and mirrors in your designs. Is it because you specially like these materials? Wright once said: ¡§Honest to materials are more difficult than creations in design¡¨. Each material has its own character, a technique applicable to one kind of material may not be appropriate to another kind. Lots of natural materials are used in your design. Do you agree with Wright said?
  Answer: I am not too honest to materials, but rather, I try to search for new ways of combining various materials to generate new finishes. I can say that I support environmental protection since I seldom use wood, which is only used if I need to create specific finishing touch. I like to use stones, glass, mirrors and metals in my designs.
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