Sherri Donghia loves fusion design because, she says, it reflects who you are and never goes out of fashion. In Donghia: The Artistry of Luxury & Style (Bulfinch Press, HK$312), named after the high-end textile and furniture company her cousin Angelo Donghia founded in 1968, she pays special attention to texture, colour and light in explaining how to create interiors that have tension and balance. Donghia's designs are not for perfectionists who like hard lines, stern hues, soulless minimalism or sterile formalism. What makes her tick are set-ups that take their cue from the Japanese philosophy of wabi sabi, which asserts that imperfection gives an object beauty and soul. The best section in the book concerns fabric, which provides the easiest way to change environments. A good mixture, she says, combines the plush (velvet, chenille, mohair), the smooth (poplin, chintz, sateen), the nubby (tweed, boucle, embroidery) and the organic (linen, hemp, raffia). A common mistake for first-time decorators, however, is over-emphasising plush or pile fabrics. Apart from feeling too heavy and warm, these textiles absorb light, denying your eyes the stimulation afforded your fingers.
Never short of good ideas, Suzanne Trocme is in the spotlight for two reasons: her first collection of furniture, which was inspired by the versatile little black dress, and her book Hot Homes (Arum Press, HK$480). The writer-turned-designer, who is special projects editor for Wallpaper* magazine, ventures into homes in the sweatiest parts of the world to illustrate how to create cool (literally) environments. The book features a variety of abodes in cities, by water and in the wilderness, and
is divided into three main chapters - terrain, materials and colours and furniture - each of which offers solutions to bring temperatures down. Readers already familiar with Asian solutions to tropical heat will be interested in case studies from, for example, South Africa and Ibiza.
In Korea Style (Periplus, HK$351), the eye is excited by not so much what's in a room than what's been left out. Common to the 24 homes, studios and public and heritage buildings featured is a restrained aesthetic that relies on spatial beauty and all things natural: unpolished stones, unfinished wood, untouched landscapes and plants that are the result of weather and time, as opposed to human effort (think Japan's 'tortured bonsai'). Japanese and Chinese influences in architecture and interior design are undeniable, although, as authors Marcia Iwatate and Kim Unsoo point out, a distinct Korean style emerged in the 1960s as the principles of the modern movement were combined with those of Korean vernacular architecture. Many of the designs underscore a valued minimalist way of life. Architect Cho Byoungsoo's 'Square Within a Square' house, for example, is an exposed concrete box with small openings that focus on an open-air courtyard pool.