"Exploring the narrative of space": At Home with AB Concept

We speak to Ed Ng, the co-founder of luxury hospitality design studio AB Concept, about the differences between designing for a client and designing for yourself.

Founded by architect and designer duo Ed Ng and Terrance Ngan, luxury design studio AB Concept continuously makes an impact on the international world of design. Previously at DesignCurial, we have covered the studio’s interior design for W Xi’an, its Nephale collection and even sat down with Ng to find out more about the firm.

Best known for its extensive work in luxury hospitality design – having worked with groups including Rosewood Hotels and Four Seasons – AB Concept doesn’t usually reach the headlines for the interiors of the founders’ own homes. However, this summer we were offered the chance to speak to Ng about this personal element of design, finding out just how different it is from designing for hospitality.

Can you talk us through the design for your homes? Do you have a theme or idea in mind when you start designing them?

When it came to designing our homes, it was important for us to take into account the cultural heritage of each location. Having homes in different cities means we are inspired by different and distinct histories, cultures and stories.

Creating our homes has been a similar process to our other hospitality and residential projects; we began by focusing on creating a narrative based around the city’s history, before adding in our own favourite aspects in order to make it our home. Without branding constraints and restrictions, we are ultimately free to create beautiful spaces based on the cities we love. 

What are some of your favourite products/ furniture pieces within your homes?

It’s challenging to narrow this down, but some of our favourite items include the George Nakashima’s Lounge Chair with Arm (1962), which is one of our most beloved antique items that we always keep in a restful spot and use regularly. Besides the chair's comfort, one of its highlights is the free edge and smooth, fine detail that you feel immediately once you take a seat.

As we are always on the road, another of our favourites is the Elder Statesman Cashmere collection – any item from the collection provides a comfortable and familiar touch anywhere we go. Fueguia 1833 is also a very special brand as well for our home. We don’t pick a specific scent, but occasionally make a selection, which allows us to enjoy a spiritual journey of that particular day.

Favourite room in the home, and why?

The bedroom is always the most private room in any home. As a frequent traveller, I often end up in hotel rooms, so being in my own bedroom is the ultimate luxury.

In what ways does designing your own space differ from designing for a client?

Technically there isn’t much difference – when we are designing for ourselves we become our own client, but it does mean we have the freedom to do what we want. As briefly mentioned earlier, we take inspiration from the city’s history, culture, and traditions. Essentially, we incorporate elements we see in the city that define ourselves in order to create a comfortable space.

For example, when we were designing our home in Karuizawa, a mountain resort town in Japan, we made sure to include wooden and warm elements from our personal furniture collection that not only represent the location but also add a personal touch to this space to make it our own. We always walk around and explore the streets of the town to see what we find in the area.

A lot of the lovely pieces in our home often come from local antique stores or even from the market. No matter where we are decorating our home, our 'inspiration' comes from the desire to create our own version of the city or town, within our own house.

Does your design style change, depending on if you are working for a client or designing your own space?

We always try to tell a story through our designs. We like to explore the narrative of the space and its connection to the owner, the city, the culture and the brand, if there is one. I wouldn’t say we have a specific style, as every project turns into something different and unique through the research and design process. We are constantly being inspired and so rather than controlling the design, we let it develop organically. 

Is there anything you would put in your own home that you wouldn’t put in a design for a client?

Our own private collection of antiques and artworks. When we work with clients for private residences, they normally have their own antique and furniture collection already, so we make sure to include their own pieces in order for the home to carry the owner’s personality. However, it’s not always about having luxury items or artwork, and is more about the items that make a house a home – whether that's a familiar textile or blanket that we would always have, like the Elder Statesman as mentioned earlier, or a set of Graf Von Faber Castell pencils, which are always handy in our profession.

In terms of the types of antiques and artwork we keep for our own homes, we have a rather broad selection as we don't have a specific type of item that we collect. We have a lot of different and independent pieces of furniture, vases, works of art, and sometimes even just a very small decorative piece that we stumble upon in a flea market. Perhaps this is the nature of a designer, to always take everything we might need for a space into consideration, and not limiting ourselves by only collecting items that are similar to one another.

What tips do you have for those trying to design their own homes?

The home is a thoroughly personal space, and should sum up one’s personality and what the person loves. When creating a home, it is important to be comfortable and to design it according to lifestyle and habitat. The designer’s personality should be visible throughout the home.

All images courtesy of Home Journal and photographer Reylia Slaby.

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