29 March 2019
At the heart of virtually every culture is an enduring tradition of storytelling: whether oral, written, or visual, the art of a compelling narrative transcends generations and borders. According to Hong Kong design practice Studio Adjective, design culture is no exception. “We hope to make our projects not just look nice aesthetically,” explains practice co-founder Wilson Lee, “but also to tell good stories that give the project self-sustainability in the market.”
Since its establishment in 2016 Studio Adjective has committed to achieving these twin goals, attracting critical acclaim for a diverse portfolio of projects spanning interior design, furniture, and artwork. In just under three years, founders Wilson Lee and Emily Ho have established one of the Indo-Pacific’s most exciting new design voices. A precocious presence in a field of big-name designers.
In part, the idiosyncrasy and clarity of Studio Adjective’s vision is owed to its origin story. Having co-founded another design studio, WALL Studio, in 2010, Lee already had years of experience as a designer under his belt upon starting Studio Adjective; Ho, meanwhile, had a background in PR and marketing. The pair shared a strong aesthetic sensibility and quickly embarked on delivering engaging, unique spaces underpinned by a strong conceptual framework.
Together with their small team, Lee and Ho deftly translate user needs into inspiring design solutions. “We can bring together architectural design mindsets and marketing insights,” says the duo, with Ho noting that Lee’s focus is on the specifics of design, while her expertise is in understanding the needs of end users. “The customer’s point of view is my primary concern,” she says, “[We] transform this into a design perspective. In different projects, we try to create an atmosphere and space that people can interact with. We love to make things as simple and direct as possible.”
This drive toward simplicity and coherency is evident in the duo’s recent Tripodal Stool project, which Studio Adjective describes as one of its “most meaningful collaborations”. Undertaken in partnership with renowned Japanese furniture brand Ishinomaki Laboratory, the project distils Studio Adjective’s core values into a streamlined, minimalist timber stool comprised of six carefully arranged rectangles of Western Red Cedar. Sleek, sophisticated, and finely crafted, the stools are at once timeless and of their time: it’s equally easy to envision them in a busy Hong Kong café in 2019 as it is to foresee their use in an Australian art gallery in 10 years’ time.
In spite of this broad aesthetic appeal, Studio Adjective’s unique voice is in fact closely entwined with Hong Kong. “Hong Kong is a very condensed city, and the pace is fast,” the pair explains, “That’s why multi-functional and compact design is the norm. But we feel that…people need to learn to appreciate [details], to calm down. In our projects, we try to balance efficiency and sensibility.”
By way of demonstration, they highlight their cafés for Hong Kong brand NOC Coffee Co., two projects that use a restrained material palette and uncluttered floor plan to create a calm, refined atmosphere. Both NOC cafés respond to the unique character of their respective neighbourhoods and provide spacious environments that encourage customers to lounge and linger over a well-crafted cup of coffee.
Savouring the small things comes easily to Studio Adjective, who balance a busy design schedule with a spectrum of interests that includes plants, pottery, and running marathons. This wide range of inspiration sources and creative outlets will no doubt propel the practice moving forward, as the pair set their sights on further establishing their presence on the world stage and expanding their design vocabulary. The next chapter in the Studio Adjective story is yet unwritten, but one thing is certain: it’s going to be good.