Keith Chan Shing-hin has made haste with his design career, starting his own firm, Hintegro (www.hintegro.com), five years after graduating from Polytechnic University's School of Design. Chan specialises in residential and commercial interiors and is known for a tidy aesthetic and his ability to open up notoriously cloistered Hong Kong apartments.
How would you describe your practice? "I always describe myself as a multi-disciplinary designer. I majored in interior design but the programme at university was very diverse - I studied product and graphic design, even fashion. When we design a fashion store, we try to find out how fashion customers behave and what would attract them. I'm not a pure interior designer - I try to learn what I can about a project and put everything into the interior."
How do you find out what your clients want and what the space needs? "In a residential project I try to become friends with the clients. I need to understand their lifestyle, how they eat, cook, sleep. I understand that from chatting - not only by asking for a design brief - because when they are relaxed they tell me a lot about themselves. Then I can put their lifestyle into the space."
You do a mixture of residential and commercial work. What's the balance? "The government has put in a lot of regulations to [cool] the residential market, so these days it's dead. I have a lot of clients who are rich but aren't willing to invest in their properties right now. This year I'm mainly doing commercial - maybe 90 per cent commercial and 10 per cent residential. I wish it could be half and half."
What kind of commercial work? "One of the projects was an investment bank, very small, maybe 10 staff with two bosses. They do private banking for clients mainly from [the mainland]. It was challenging because it was the first time for me to do an A-class building or anything financial. Clients from the mainland like gold and bling-bling. I made it a little more low profile and used copper.
"I also designed a hair salon, Salon L, in Tsim Sha Tsui. The salon is in the basement so we designed a cool staircase and entrance to draw people in. It's yellow and black, energetic yet cool. It's the biggest salon in Hong Kong at the moment, at 5,000 sq ft.
Any retail? "Another project was Belford Jewellery, a shop in The Galleria, Central. It was a rebranding job for a traditional local diamond shop. [They design and produce the jewellery] themselves and the clients are mainly local rich ladies. [Belford] was actually my first client - when I was in university the boss was [looking for] student helpers and I was selected. After graduation, they kept hiring me as a window display and exhibition booth designer and then designer of their new shop."
What is Hintegro's strongest sales point? "We're good at mixing textures. Our style is neat and tidy but if the materials are boring, the project will be flat. If we're using simple forms, straight lines, right angles and white, we'll use different types of white - marble, wallpaper, acrylic - to make the space more interesting."
What are people looking for in a flat these days? "I have a lot of clients who are of a similar age to me, 30-something, and they do not cook at home. The kitchen isn't as necessary. So if you're cooking only noodles or simple meals, we'll enlarge the living room and create a bar table and open kitchen for the meals. The boundary between spaces has become blurred. We're using iPads and laptops to work so we do not need a desk, just a comfy space to sit."