Award-winning Sydney architect and designer Kelvin Ho made his name with minimal yet striking interiors for some of Australia's best fashion stores, including Belinda, Bassike, Dion Lee, Incu, sass & bide and Willow. He's also a regular collaborator with Sydney bar/restaurant innovators Merivale, working on hit recent venues Coogee Pavilion and The Paddington with more irons in the fire.
BY SOPHIE DAVIES
Akin Creative has worked on fashion stores, bars and restaurants, and residential spaces. Do you wear different hats for these projects or do they all draw on the same aesthetic?
Working on such a wide range of projects lets us constantly test new ideas and designs. I wear a different hat for each Akin Creative project as the structure of each commission is quite varied and I feel we create better solutions when each project is treated as unique.
How do you describe your design philosophy?
I would describe my philosophy as a cross between A Tribe Called Quest, Bob Dylan and Chet Baker!
ABOVE RIGHT: Sydney architect/designer Kelvin Ho of Akin Creative; Ho working on minimal sets for the Australian Ballet
BELOW: Beachy timbers, bespoke details and geometric tiles at Manly Wharf restaurant Papi Chulo in Sydney, which embraces the outdoors
Your interiors for Merivale’s Sydney restaurants and bars have been inspiring. What are your favourite projects with them?
Each Merivale project is special in its own right, but my top three would be the Coogee Pavilion and Coogee Pavilion Rooftop at Coogee Beach for its sheer size and the impact it had on the community; Papi Chulo in Manly because we were able to design some amazing bespoke elements; and Ms.G’s in Potts Point, which was my first and one of the most fun.
What’s it like collaborating with their team?
It’s a true collaboration with Merivale as a client. Chief creatives Justin and his sister Bettina Hemmes are heavily involved in each decision. We spend a few days each week together working through the designs, which makes it a really organic process.
ABOVE FROM TOP: Buzzy four-storey mod-Asian restaurant Ms.G's in Potts Point teams neon with street art; beachfront Coogee Pavilion's airy industrial-chic interiors and grand scale have transformed the Coogee scene, with a family-friendly ground-floor and rooftop cocktails
BELOW FROM LEFT: Style collaborators Amanda Talbot, Merivale's Bettina and Justin Hemmes, and Akin Creative's Emilie Delalande and Kelvin Ho have worked on a bunch of Merivale hot spots, with more to come
Tell us about your recent Merivale project The Paddington. And the style directions for upcoming launches The Newport and Queen Chow?
The Paddington, on Paddington’s Oxford Street, brings together a bar, restaurant and pub under one roof. It was inspired by a classic butchery complete with cool rooms. Typical to Merivale venues, the journey through The Paddington is tactile and connected to the food and produce on offer. The kitchen is a focal point with three rotisseries and double-height custom copper range hoods. Without giving too much away, The Newport (in the Northern Beaches) and Queen Chow (the former Queen Victoria Hotel in Sydney's inner-west Enmore) are very different projects. The Newport is all about sunshine and the outdoors whereas Queen Chow is more urban and moody.
What’s next for you work wise?
We have lots of hospitality and retail projects in the pipeline. All the projects and clients we work with are amazing. We recently finished a new Maldives resort, on Baa Atoll, called Amilla Fushi.
Where do you get inspiration?
My inspiration is pretty broad – anything from nature, music, art, cinema or philosophy can be an influence. Generally, a really small detail that catches my eye can be a big inspiration.
ABOVE: Industrial goes coastal: Akin Creative's sleek interiors for new surfwear store Saturdays NYC in Bondi
What’s currently exciting you in design or style?
The ballet. I recently worked with the Australian Ballet on set design for a new production 'Filigree & Shadow', part of three-piece '20:21’. Being able to collaborate with such an artistic company was incredible – working with dancers was a really different way of designing for me.
ABOVE: Akin Creative's sculptural set designs for the Australian Ballet's '20:21' dance performance
Is Sydney a big influence on you? And where’s on your travel wish list?
Yes, I was born in Sydney so I know it really well. It’s a big influence as it balances the intensity of the city with the laid-back culture of the beaches and harbour. My travel wish list is generally anywhere with good bars or snow. Ideally both.
What’s your social media of choice?
Instagram! Follow us at @akincreative.
Kelvin Ho will join speakers Justin and Bettina Hemmes and stylist Amanda Talbot at 'Style Me Merivale', a design talk on Monday 7 March 2016 at Sydney's Ivy Ballroom (6.30pm until late). Hosted by Vogue Living's Editor-in-Chief Neale Whitaker as part of the 'March into Merivale' season, it will be an inspiring insight into the styling secrets of the Merivale team and its exciting upcoming restaurants and bars. Snap up tickets online for $45 each, including drinks on arrival. DesignFizz has a pair of tickets to give away; contact us here for a chance to win (subject Merivale, share your email).