Greatly influenced by a multitude of cultures and a variety of design disciplines, Hong Kong-based design studio Bean Buro has delivered some of the most exceptional and dynamic design projects in town.

The studio’s work is exemplified by office spaces for the likes of Leo Burnett and Warner Music, as well as a series of interior projects for luxurious residences. Kenny Kinugasa-Tsui and Lorène Faure, the creative forces behind the establishment, discuss their sources of inspiration and their personal treasures.

Do you enjoy visiting museums and exhibitions while travelling?

This has always been a big part of our upbringing and career-building in London and Paris. Though we are now Hong Kong-based, we still make regular visits to both cities for the Tate, the Saatchi Gallery, the Royal Academy, the Centre Pompidou and more. By exploring smaller galleries in local neighbourhoods, we discover unexpected surprises and new thoughts. As annual sponsors of the Summer Show at UCL The Bartlett School of Architecture – where Kenny used to be a part-time lecturer – we manage to sustain a good relationship with colleagues there and encounter potential collaborators.

Image: Unit 0 Exhibition, Summer Show 2016, UCL The Bartlett School of Architecture, sponsored by Bean Buro

Do you collect as a hobby?

Kenny: We enjoy collecting design books and original artworks, such as Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s etching in our studio (gifted from architect and friend Justin Lau). When I was 18, I was very much inspired by a memorable visit to the British Museum, when I saw the original antique etchings of Carceri by Piranesi. I was astonished by how the architecture discipline could be experimented on through imaginary and atmospheric drawings. We also have a signed, limited edition print of Peter Cook’s hand-drawing.

Image: Towards Comfo-Veg, drawing by Peter Cook, Crab Studio

What’s the most treasured item in your own abode?

Lorène: Over the years, we have done a lot of drawings and models that embody sentimental values, which we prefer to keep at home. For example, Kenny’s master project – one of the largest 3D-printed models at the time, in 2007 – at The Bartlett is now proudly displayed at home. Such projects define who we are.

Image: Rooms by the Sea – Perspective 1 (2015), digital print on canvas, limited print 60x60cm, by Bean Buro

Do you prefer bold hues or subtle neutrals?

Kenny: In most of our projects, we work with a diversity of materials and colours to create a powerful spatial experience. Often in our spatial narratives, we define a holistic user experience that builds drama by making an introduction of the subtle neutral-material palette, with patterns that create a sense of rhythm, which slowly transforms into something even bolder. A surprise element is needed to create tension for a spatial experience and to create directional forces in the space that act as intuitive guidance. It is never just subtle or bold – it is always a curation of the polemics.

Image: Kerry Logistics Convention Centre by Bean Buro

What are you coveting at the moment?

Lorène: We aspire to create innovation through multidisciplinary designs in our projects. For example, for local co-working space The Work Project, we led the design and collaborated with renowned French botanist Patrick Blanc, olfactory artist Et Projekt, sound consultant Audio Couture and branding consultant Substance, to create a multisensory environment that’s designed to enhance productivity. All the elements – including the music, scent, refreshments, technology, furniture and meeting facility – have been carefully curated with the goal of improving productivity and the work experience. 

Image: The Work Project Hong Kong by Bean Buro, a collaboration with French hydroponic wall pioneer Patrick Blanc

How do you come up with new ideas?

Kenny: Our ideas are usually generated through an exchange of narratives, often between East and West, domestic and foreign, inside and outside, and tradition and globalisation. It involves emotional observations of the context, whether it is the physical site, or a landscape of literature, art, technology and science. We interpret ideas from different fields to create unique spatial experiences. In the Chinese noodle restaurant project, we transformed the traditional technique of noodle-making into a slatted system that’s characterised by geometrical forms, which rise from the atrium staircase to emphasise the verticality of the space and connect the two levels physically.

Image: Tasty flagship restaurant, Taikoo Li Chengdu, by Bean Buro

What’s trending in Asian design?

Lorène: We believe the notion of Asian luxury is changing – we are no longer confined to the generic styles of luxurious designs that are overused and overly designed. In our latest luxurious apartment, we designed a high-end space through a tasteful palette of simple, natural and top-notch materials. A genuinely opulent space should feel calm, tranquil and humble. We are on a mission to bring fresh ideas from Europe to explore innovative design vocabularies in Asia.

Image: Disappearing Corridor by Bean Buro, a high-quality living space for a young family who collected Asian art in a Western lifestyle and required movable flexibility

See more: In Conversation with Designer Anna Glover and Her Love for Prints and Patterns

BeanBuro HongKong design interiors home architecture interview

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