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Deborah Oppenheimer explains why her advertising and fashion background have played a significant role in her Hong Kong-based interior design business and why she follows the ‘less is more’ philosophy.


IndesignLive Hong Kong: You launched your residential interior design business in Hong Kong in 1993 – what drove you to establish your brand within the Asia Pacific region?

Deborah Oppenheimer: I arrived in Hong Kong in 1993 and was immediately given an opportunity to work on a fabulous project. While doing so, I found that while it was fairly easy to have certain things made locally, sourcing anything with a sophisticated, unusual feel was almost impossible. Beautiful lamps for example; there really was no one doing residential projects that were luxurious and beautiful and that didn’t feel ‘hotel like’.


IDLHK: You commenced your career working as an advertising art director and then moved into fashion design. How have these two creative roles influenced your current design business?

DO: Eight years working as an art director trained my eye. I learnt how to ‘edit out’ rather than to ‘add in’ in order to construct a visual message. How to keep things simple and pure in order to communicate a mood – also how to present things beautifully. I then studied fashion design for three years and started my own clothing label. Fashion was my first love (apart from painting) and it was then I learnt about meticulous detailing, about how to work with fabric and texture and also to capture a sense of pure and clean lines. Fashion design continues to influence me hugely.


IDLHK: Explain your design style and what separates you from other Hong Kong-based designers. I understand you have spent time working in Zurich, Switzerland – would you say you possess a ‘European’ approach to interior design?

DO: My design style is clean, pared back, low key and always strives for elegance. I don’t use much colour. Everything I love tends to be rather monochromatic and I love sculptural form. My approach is undoubtedly a European one, but having spent the first part of my life in South Africa, I carry a number of these influences into my work.

Phuket Exterior 1

IDLHK: You’re known for your ability to work with open space and you are a lover of symmetry and clean lines – what has inspired your unique approach to design?

DO: Having spent the first part of my life in South Africa where space is abundant, I have never been afraid to go big, bold and pure. I try to import this sensibility with a feeling of warmth so interiors are kept clean but never impersonal and cold. A sense of flow is always important. As time passes and I travel back to Africa every so often I understand more how living with a lot of pure space and an enormous sky is a part of me. This sounds crazy in the context of Hong Kong, but it has somehow defined my work.


IDLHK: I understand you are currently working on a commercial fit-out at the Hong Kong International Finance Centre (IFC). Will this be a signature project for you and is this your first commercial role?

DO: I certainly hope this project will give me the opportunity to work on more projects of this type. My two loves – fashion and interiors! The new store for Marie France Van Damme opens at the end of August and is a terrific collaboration with a client who I have worked with extensively in the past. The store integrates strong, sculptural metallic elements and will form a great backdrop for her beautiful resort wear line.


IDLHK: When first commissioned to develop a project from inception to end, how do you initially approach each job? What are certain thought processes you maintain in the early stages and why are these so important?

DO: I always imagine dressing my client. I think of what will frame them and their lives. It’s a strange combination of endless lists and drawings to organize the flow of their new home and a very intuitive process in order to decipher what is going to add value to their existence. We spend a lot of time talking and exchanging information; e.g. their likes, dislikes. This is really the way the process begins each time. From then on, each project is driven by different factors and by how involved my client wants to be. I find that often once trust and understanding are established, a lot of clients are happy to leave the detail to us.

California Living Room

IDLHK: What Hong Kong-based suppliers do you like to collaborate with when working on residential projects and why?

DO: I keep looking! This changes all the time as getting consistent quality can be problematic. It is a time of huge change in the furniture manufacturing industry regionally. I use resources in Europe or the US such as; Caste Design, Holly Hunt, Baroncelli and so. They all seem to be very happy to work on all sorts of projects and ideas and are easy to embrace.

Deborah Oppenheimer

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