Ride the lift to the wrong floor of the Fo Tan building that houses Danny Fang’s studio and you might find yourself eyeballing pig carcasses being prepared for char siu bao.
One level down, however, the Dutch product designer’s unit is clearly marked: stencilled on the wall by the entrance is his jumping man logo and surname in Chinese, both in flamingo pink. Next to them is a bicycle horn you squeeze to trumpet your arrival.
The quirkiness continues inside the 1,200 sq ft unit but once the doors are closed, the grim(i)ness of the industrial building vanishes. Beyond the foyer, decorated with Fang’s computer art, your eye is drawn towards verdant beauty visible through a wall-to-wall bank of windows.
“It’s set up so that wherever you are you can look outside,” says Fang, who four years ago provided some of the heft to turn a meatball factory into a studio where he worked and, until a couple of years ago, slept. Instead of building walls to delineate private and public spaces, however, he created a curtained-off mezzanine for his bedroom and a long side platform for the office.
Both structures not only demarcate “rooms”; they also provide capacious storage areas beneath. “[The unit] was too narrow to have proper partitioning for living and work,” says Fang. “Underneath is for big things; furniture and stuff like that. I have a lot of junk.”
But one man’s trash, as they say, is another man’s treasure. Fang, whose name comes from his paternal Chinese grandfather, surrounds himself with curiosities, prototypes and other items that plot his professional history. The Dutchman, who graduated from the Design Academy Eindhoven, in the Netherlands, in 1998, was head of products for Marcel Wanders before moving to Hong Kong in 2006.
Two mementos from his six years with Wanders are exhibited above cupboards lining a wall: Fang helped develop the Fishnet Chair, which sits beside Wanders’ famous Knotted Chair, and built the cabinets from crates and industrial felt. The fabric, procured online, improves the acoustics of the unit, which has bare concrete walls and ceiling plus a resin floor. The textile also comes in handy as a pinboard on the cupboards. From their doors hang Fang’s latest designs: clever dog leads launched via a successful Kickstarter campaign late last year.
Also taking centre stage are papier mache pendant lamps Fang designed for Hive, a design collective guided by the Philippines’ Kenneth Cobonpue.
Along with items that have gone into production are one-offs and creations of designer friends. To meet a tight budget, Fang reused a pallet-style table, complete with hinged trough for cables, he built for his first office in Hong Kong, at Kowloon Tong’s InnoCentre. And on a side wall is a slim cabinet (designed in 1997 by Matijs Korpershoek) held together with magnets.
The work of some other friends – four female Swedish designers known as Front – is in the private zone, which can be closed with black-out curtains (turning it into a photographic studio).
This space, accessed from the office, accommodates just a mattress, a punching bag and simple metal shelving filled mostly with the belongings of Fang’s wife, Kelly Chan, of beach-fashion label Vicious Venom. Two years ago the barrister-turned-designer, who now shares the studio for work, moved with Fang to Sai Kung partly to appease their Tibetan spaniel, Gizmo, who was frightened by the monster trucks rumbling around the building.
On the day of our photo shoot, however, Gizmo is only too happy to revisit all corners of the unit, and to help show off its sunny qualities that had attracted Fang to the flat in the first place.
“The light is the most important thing in this place and the whole studio is built around that,” says Fang. “You spend so much time at work so, for me, it’s important to feel comfortable here.”
Kitchen Above the inexpensive black cabinets is a counter finished with leftover bathroom floor tiles. The pallet table (HK$9,000 for 1.8 metres) was built by Danny Fang for his previous office. The Rockefeller chairs (HK$1,490 each) are available through Fang Studio (12/F, Block B, Wah Luen Industrial Centre, 15 Wong Chuk Yeung Street, Fo Tan, tel: 3188 8121; www.fangstudio.com). The Checkmate papier mache pendant lamps (HK$1,700 to HK$3,900 each) were designed for Hive (www.designbyhive.com) and are available from Fang Studio. The rug was a gift and similar sheepskins are available from Ikea for HK$459. Above the fridge are vases, designed in 2005 by Hella Jongerius (jongeriuslab.com), for Ikea. They are now held in museum collections, including that of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (www.stedelijk.nl).
Office To delineate the work area and living space, Fang created a mezzanine level with plenty of storage in its base. He built the work desk and covered the back wall with industrial felt (about 42 yuan/ HK$50 yard) from world.taobao.com. To one side of the open office is the bathroom; to the other are steps to the bedroom. A CLIC dog lead, which Fang designed and sells through High5Dogs (high5dogs.com), lies on a Kian Gradient-collection wicker chair (HK$2,100; available through Fang Studio).
Storage The bank of crate cupboards with felted doors was built by Fang. Above the cupboards are two designer collectibles by Marcel Wanders (marcelwanders.com): the Knotted Chair (left) and the Fishnet Chair.
Bedroom (above and below) Displayed on the bedroom platform is a shelf Fang designed years ago for Moooi (www.moooi.com), a company co-founded by Wanders. The mice are available from bearbrick.com. Fang acquired the punch bag from his muay thai teacher. The Svarva floor lamp was created by Front (www.frontdesign.se), designer friends of Fang, for Ikea’s 2009 collection. Even with the curtains drawn for privacy, Fang can see the view from small windows at the head of his bed. He built the stairs and designed Cuddles (HK$35,000), a beanbag elephant, for conservation group Elephant Paradise, which receives 10 per cent of sales. The bedside lamp came from Ikea years ago.
Bathroom The bathroom enjoys green views and incorporates a laundry area. All hardware was bought when the place was renovated almost four years ago.
Foyer Fang created the “3D Errors” artworks for the 2009 Hong Kong & Shenzhen Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture. The works were inspired by “mistakes” made in the process of 3D modelling. Fang also designed the frames for the pieces. On Fang’s Rockefeller chair is a waterproof unisex bag from the Elements Collection, designed by Fang’s wife, Kelly Chan, of Vicious Venom (v-venom.com). A Kickstarter campaign for the 100 per cent waterproof bags begins next month.
TRIED + TESTED
Stuck on you "If it doesn't have to be gold, it doesn't have to be gold." So says product designer Danny Fang, who followed his own advice in creating a spot just for keys near the entrance to his studio. Making the most of a steel I beam support, he affixed a strong magnet to the underside, to which he sticks his keys upon entering the unit. Total cost: "HK$20?" he says.
Styling: David Roden