For Steve Leung, creativity is a way of living

By Low Weixian 8 July, 2024
steve leung

What does it mean to be creatively ‘appropriate’? For renowned architect and interior designer, Steve Leung, it boils down to doing the right thing, at the right time, in the right context

You could say that architectural design runs in Steve Leung’s veins. Growing up, he recalls watching his architect uncle work tirelessly over drawings, a sight that sparked 10-year-old Leung’s passion for the profession. And thanks to his father, who encouraged the family to appreciate life’s despite not being very wealthy, Leung still imbues a sense of playfulness and joy in his works up to this day.

Born and based in Hong Kong, the 67-year-old is known for his human-centric designs that harmonise functionality and aesthetic elegance with a dash of Asian influences. Leung’s projects range from tranquil residential spaces like the OOAK Niseko (a personal holiday home project) to sleek commercial spaces, such as the five-storey Qeelin flagship store in Tokyo’s prestigious Ginza district. Since 1987, the architect and designer has championed a philosophy of “appropriate” designs; one that aims to create aesthetically pleasing forms that are both utilitarian and human-centred.

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In 1997, Steve Leung expanded into interior design and restructured his company into Steve Leung Architects Ltd. (SLA) and Steve Leung Designers Ltd. (SLD). Photos by Steven Leung Designers Ltd.

Tell us about your design philosophy.

Many people would describe my style as minimalist. Personally, I think it is a reflection of my way of living: simple, but refined; practical, yet with an accentuated artistry. I am an advocate of contemporary and clean lines, creating elegant and functional designs with a subtle Asian touch inspired by my roots. With personal projects, I prioritise authenticity over deliberate design, embracing a more intuitive approach informed by my life experiences and design evolution.

steve leung
The Printemps Bleu Zenith Chandelier is a captivating fusion of Eastern and Western design aesthetics, expertly crafted by Steve and Baccarat. This historic porcelain seamlessly weaves together the threads of the past and present, bridging the realms of the East and the West. Photo by Steve Leung Designers Ltd.

You’ve collaborated with many prestigious brands and designers. What are some memorable experiences?

I’m proud to be the first Asian designer to work with Baccarat, the esteemed French luxury crystal brand, on the Zenith chandelier. With this project, I joined the ranks of internationally acclaimed designers like Philippe Starck, Marcel Wanders and more, which is an immense honour and thrilling challenge.

The Printemps Bleu Zenith Chandelier, boasting Limoges porcelain, is gracefully entwined with Baccarat’s renowned crystals in hues of clear and cobalt blue. A delicate balance of contrasting elements is hence achieved, seamlessly intertwining crystal and porcelain, transparency and opacity, and of course, East and West.

How do you define luxury from a design perspective?

Luxury embodies refined pleasure, exceptional quality, exclusivity and meticulous craftsmanship. I believe true luxury extends beyond extravagant spending on materials or decor. My works achieve luxurious and elegant atmospheres through a play on harmonious colour schemes and thoughtful space utilisation.

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OOAK Niseko showcases a timeless style characterised by clean lines and simple forms, paying homage to the long-established Japanese architecture through liveable spaces that embraces nature through the contemporary space. Photo by Steve Leung Designers Ltd.

Describe your creative process.

When starting a new brief, I strive to keep in mind what good design represents to me: a human-centred and balanced mix of aesthetics and functionality. And one that tackles the societal and environmental issues of today while enhancing quality of living.

I take time to analyse the client’s requests post-brief then consider a myriad of factors: project positioning, geographical location, target users, and the space’s features. A designer should never start his creative process without a logical understanding of the project at large. It is crucial to be aware of the client’s needs, as well as strengths and limitations of each project.

What are some developments in the design field that excite you?

It seems that sustainable approaches, integrating smart technology and increased space flexibility are poised to be established as trends in the coming years. We’re talking about employing natural materials and elements to reconnect humans with the natural environment, shaping eco-friendly and personalised environments with smart tech features, and spaces featuring designs that are highly adaptable and multifunctional.

steve leung design
OOAK Niseko employs design elements that reflect both Japanese and international cultures. Photo by Steve Leung Designers Ltd.

Can you describe your personal living space?

I’d designed and built living spaces for countless clients along the way, but never one for my family—at least not from the ground up. That changed when I began developing an affection for Niseko. I was inspired to create a holiday home so unique in Japan’s renowned skiing destination that I named it OOAK (One of A Kind).

A multitude of factors went into consideration for the design philosophy of OOAK Niseko; my family and friends, habits, hobbies, and how we would live and interact there. Being my own client, creating OOAK Niseko allowed me full freedom to express myself. I had to listen to my heart. This gave birth to a dedicated entertainment room for karaoke and cigars, and a spa room for massages to spend quality time with family and friends.


steve leung design
“Design should transcend passing trends and remains timeless,” says Steve Leung. Photo by Steve Leung Designers Ltd.

What legacy do you hope to leave behind?

A legacy that transcends traditional boundaries, challenges norms, and embraces innovations. I hope these principles will continue to serve as a catalyst for change, inspiring future designers to push the frontiers for design. By creating socially responsible spaces that resonate with individuals, we can add value to projects, clients and the community—ultimately, contributing positively to the world.

Steve Leung Designers Ltd.