Interview with Steve Leung, architect and designer of 8 Conlay: YOO8 branded residences serviced by Kempinski

Interview with Steve Leung, architect and designer of 8 Conlay: YOO8 branded residences serviced by Kempinski

One of the most distinguished names in interior design today, Steve Leung has lent his magic touch to some notable properties around the world in cosmopolitan cities such as Hong Kong, Shanghai, Dubai, Singapore and even a luxury yacht. 

ALSO READ: A guide to owning a branded residence in Kuala Lumpur

Here in Malaysia, the Steve Leung name is synonymous with the Asian-centric designs for the YOO8 branded residences serviced by Kempinski. What sets him a part is how he effortlessly integrates his curiosity for people, places and fresh ideas with perceptive problem-solving. 

Here, the celebrated architect and designer shares with us how his individual and professional self coexist; the art of employing empathy into design and the synchronous dance of simplicity & refinement.

steve leung
The Steve Leung-designed space for YOO8 branded residences serviced by Kempinski. (Photo: Steve Leung Design Group)

What is ‘home’ to you and how has the pandemic changed its meaning?

Home to is synonymous with utmost privacy, a place to bask in peaceful moments of relaxation as well as blissful gatherings with family and friends. Right now, my house is just a step away from the stunning sea. I have adored the ocean for as long as I can remember, and I have always been living within its proximity as much as I could, as I truly believe in the healing power of natural landscapes. My contemporary three-storey abode is designed to blend seamlessly with the natural environment, with carefully hand-picked artworks adding on a touch of subtle playfulness to the space. 

Personally, the current pandemic has not brought many physical changes in my house; what I have noticed, however, is that I tend to stay more at home than before, be it for work or pure leisure. On a broader sense, spending more time at home and even working from home have also become a norm everywhere around the world. In the near future, I believe private abodes will rely on flexible and multifunctional spaces that blur the lines between our private and professional life, unfolding new perspectives on how we conceive our traditional working experience and habits.

What inspires you in your work?

Design is a personal expression of my attitude towards life. I tend to prefer a design that is simple and functional; and I then integrate unique cultural and artistic elements in its final outcome. The way I design truly reflects my way of living: simple yet refined, practical yet with an artistic touch. This is why it is quite difficult for me to separate my “individual” self from my “professional” self. In fact, I always “Enjoy Life, Enjoy Design”, with design playing an essential part in my everyday life. I am constantly inspired by life and everything that life brings to me; be it the things that I see, the sounds that I hear or the people that I meet. These form the precious connections of life and art, and nothing makes me more grateful than sharing happiness with others through my design creations.

When people look at your designs, what feelings or emotions do you want to invoke in them?

I hope my design endeavors could inspire a feeling of functional balance that resonates harmoniously with the built and natural environment. However, in a more specific sense, all the emotions related to a particular project are also deeply connected with the distinctive functions and features of the project itself. In other words, being able to fully understand and translate into a coherent design the outcome client’s requirements, operator’s needs, and final user’s wishes, represents the true meaning of what good design means to me. Also, it’s a human-centred (以人為本) tool that balances aesthetics and functionality, integrates different perspectives from multiple parties and, ultimately, serves people by improving the quality of everyday living.

mcdonalds shanghai
McDonald’s new headquarters on the West Bund of Shanghai, in collaboration with Steve Leung. (Photo: Steve Leung Design Group)

Has the pandemic changed your thought/work process?

These are truly unprecedented times providing us with the great opportunity to reassess our perspectives of design, our role as designers, and how we can proactively confront today’s issues.

City living is a very good example of how design can positively impact our daily life. As “work from home” becomes a status quo in many urban contexts, design is having its moment now. More people are looking into creating dedicated workspaces in their homes, and even replacing their traditional office settings. In terms of design, this presents new opportunities on how we can redefine our working experience and habits from our own homes. Besides, smart technologies are also becoming more common, with IoT (Internet of Things) to change the way we conceive design by providing a higher degree of customisation that deeply connects interior design and technology, allowing the creation of more personalised and comfortable spaces.

What is a timeless design? 

Achieving a timeless design means going beyond specific design styles, particular aesthetics, and mere functionality. Timeless design will never look obsolete with the passing of time. On the contrary, it will bring a positive and lasting impact in our everyday life by proactively improving the quality of the spaces where we live, work, and play. At large, timeless design is what tackles and eventually resolves today’s societal and environmental challenges for the sake of our community and planet, leading to constructive and enduring changes in the built landscape. 

What elements or features are absolute must-haves in design? 

Every brief with a client starts with the fundamental ideal of what good design represents to me. As mentioned above, good design needs to be human-centred, harmoniously blending aesthetics and functionality to serve people by enhancing their quality of living.

Afterwards, I would then start analysing specific requests and needs while carefully assessing the critical elements of the project to identify how to best maximise its advantages and minimise its limitations. I believe a designer should never start his creative process without a logical understanding of the project at large. Meticulous attention to detail is also another crucial attribute for good project management and holds true for every stage of the design process – from concept to final execution.

Describe Steve Leung’s design style in 3 words. 

Human-centred (以人為本), functional, contemporary.

Which cities inspire you the most and why?

The contemporary vibe of Milan – Italy’s city of the future, has always been very special to me. Before the pandemic, visiting Salone del Mobile was one of my favorite annual rituals, the perfect occasion to explore the last design trends and also reconnect with old and new friends from all over the world. I also loved staying behind after the design events had long concluded to spend some time enjoying Milan’s trendy design showrooms and its abundance of modern art, rationalist architecture, and its futuristic skyline modeled by archistars such as Zaha Hadid, Daniel Libeskind and César Pelli. I adored exploring this dynamic city beyond its epicenter of design and fashion to find hidden gems just waiting to be discovered. 

The Italian philosophy of “enjoying life” is also something that resonates deeply with me. I am fond of Italian culture (and food!), which I find quite similar to Chinese, with family values and interpersonal relationships (人際關係、家庭觀念) playing a very important role in everyday life.

To visit our 8 Conlay Gallery and to see the Steve Leung-designed show unit, contact us here.