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Lim + Lu: Flexible Designs for Life

When it comes to style and the breadth of what they can do, Vince Lim and Elaine Lu are all about keeping an open mind. Here, Lim speaks about the design studio’s adaptable, scalable approach to design.

Lim + Lu: Flexible Designs for Life


February 21st, 2017

This talented duo emerged on the Hong Kong scene last year, making waves with the design for their own home in Happy Valley. What made this project such a favourite was the unique way the pair approached it: they designed the interiors, moving in with just a mattress for furniture. Over time, they designed the furniture to suit the space – and their needs.

It’s not your typical approach to residential design – but then again, Vince Lim and Elaine Lu have no wish to be your typical designers. They are partners in work and life, having met at Cornell University College of Architecture, Art and Planning. After university, Lim worked at Kohn Pedersen Fox, while Lu did a stint at Robert A.M. Stern Architects before moving to the interiors department at Tiffany & Co. They moved from New York to Hong Kong in December 2015 and, since then, they’ve been working on a mix of residential and F&B projects, along with their own furniture collection. Here, Vince Lim talks about Lim + Lu‘s philosophy and the dynamics of working with your partner.

How did you two start working together?

Lim + Lu started from a romantic relationship and then down the road, we said, ‘We should do something together’. We wanted a creative outlet while we were working for corporates. In large corporate offices the work can be really interesting, but what you’re handling can be really mundane.

We started designing pieces of furniture on the side, and in 2014 we decided to exhibit at ICFF in New York. We got lots of positive feedback on what were really just hobby pieces, but we realised we could go much further with our designs.

When we started designing the pieces for our own home, they were very site-specific. If people want to buy our furniture through us, we’re honest about it and we say we can modify it to make it easier and more suitable for another space.

What’s the work dynamic like between the two of you?

Elaine and I have very different styles, even though we came from the same school. She likes airy structures. There’s our frame table, which is light and thin, there’s not much weight to it. Meanwhile I did the Mass series, which is really just a massive block where you’re carving out spaces for cushions and seating.

You wouldn’t think those things would go together but when you put them together, they play off each other quite nicely. That’s how we work together. It’s always a compromise, which yields the best result. If I do the bulk of a project, it feels very heavy, and then she’ll chime in and it will get much lighter.

We can’t separate design and life anymore. Even when we go out on a regular date, we’re looking around us and we’re saying, ‘Oh that’s really nice, we should use that in our next project.’ Design has become a lifestyle for us.

What’s Lim + Lu’s design philosophy?

We design our projects through lines and volumes; we don’t do a lot of curves. Our school was very form follows function. But we’ve developed our own style, and it’s very clean-lined and geometric.

We don’t like being pigeonholed, so we don’t want to fall into the trap of being designers who only do industrial chic. We like to explore many different styles based on the needs of the client. Instead of going into a project knowing what you’re going to do, we like to hear the client out and then be surprised by the end result that comes out of the collaboration.

Our philosophy is also about flexible living. It’s about how people interact with spaces and objects: so how does one use a coffee table to suit their own needs, as opposed to what a coffee table should be like.

Who inspires you?

A duo of designers that really changed my outlook on what I want to do was the Bouroullec brothers. We were in Paris two or three years ago and they had a show at Les Art Décoratifs museum. Their ability to jump from scale to scale was fascinating to me. That’s when we decided that, no matter what scale we were working in, the results should be very beautiful and functional.

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