KELVIN HO Akin Creative

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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

Who are your design heroes?
Italian designer Gio Ponti, American artist Donald Judd and Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi

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.
akincreative.com

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).

AMANDA TALBOT

Sydney-based Australian stylist, design consultant and author Amanda Talbot cut her teeth on Livingetc and ELLE Decoration magazines in the UK, before collaborating with industry names from Ilse Crawford to IKEA. Her new book Happy aims to create 'joyous living spaces though design.'

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

What inspired you to write Happy?
After I wrote my first book Rethink: The Way You Live I realised that all those I featured may be going about life differently but they all just wanted to be happy. It got me thinking about how design can help people to be happier. 

What is happy design?
Happy design is emotional. It speaks to our hearts as well as our heads. It displays optimism, self-confidence and empathy. Historically words like ‘happy’ and ‘design’ have not been used together; pragmatism won out. People thought happy design was bold, childlike colours and houses filled with novelty ideas – places where you don’t want to spend a lot of time. Today, more architects and designers want to create objects and spaces we can enjoy. 

What key design lessons did you learn?
What makes one person happy can be another person’s nightmare – such as paint colours – but there are key elements we can all draw on. Tap into nature, lighting, colour, humour and flow, and create spaces that encourage more spontaneous, playful experiences in your home.

TOP PICTURE: Architect Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen's bear duvet, from By Nord, adds a cheery touch
BELOW: Unexpected colour brings fun touches to the homes of Paris creative director Jean-Christophe Aumas and Sydney design label Kawaiian Lion. Art and quirky ornaments up the feelgood factor

What was the most feelgood home you visited?
Each place I visited had its own inspiring feelgood factor. I loved designer Lee Broom’s London cinema room with a popcorn machine. Jo Wood’s Camden home was full of smiles and surprises, such as her skull wallpaper. I adored the giant Anish Kapoor-like silver slide in a New York apartment. The huge feasting table in an Amsterdam house showed me the importance of where we sit and eat. Tenka Gammelgaard’s Copenhagen home proved that a happy space is all about attitude.

Any little tips that can make a big wellbeing impact?
Stop following fast-fashion trends and ask yourself what makes you happy. Stepping away from the happy clichés is very liberating. It’s rare that we simply savour the moment, make the most of what we have, or put energy and love into our homes. When choosing colour for a space I now consider first what mood and activity I want to encourage. I also learned the power of editing. We need an intervention in how much we shop! 

What are the worst offenders when it comes to unhappy interiors?
I asked that question in my Happy Poll. The common answers were lack of storage, space, daylight and gardens, too much clutter, not enough room for alone time, outdated interiors, and excess noise.

ABOVE: Smile style: an owl figurine at artist Tenka Gammelgaard's monochrome home

Tell us about your work on Sydney's Coogee Pavilion (above).
I helped design this 'happy' bar/restaurant at Coogee Beach, alongside Justin and Bettina Hemmes, from owner’s Merivale, and Kelvin Ho from Akin Creative. For the ground floor, launched in July, I created a giant magnetic scrabble game with a library ladder to reach the top, customised ping pong tables with colourful geometric patterns, and introduced outsize Connect Four, Jenga, and Noughts and Crosses. We wanted adults and children to feel part of the space. I also commissioned a giant whale light. We opened the rooftop on 30 December, with four bars in a beautiful conservatory, styled as if it belonged to an eccentric botanist. 

Any other current projects?
I mentor young talents at The Design Residency, which I co-founded in Sydney. It’s an incubator for fledgling fashion and homewares designers to turn their products into viable, commercial brands.

Which residents should we be watching?
Shilo Engelbrecht has enjoyed incredible success during her time with us (table linen, above left). She had her gorgeous textiles included in Kit Kemp’s Ham Yard Hotel in London, an art exhibition with UK lifestyle boutique Anthropologie, visited Italian homewares label Missoni, and attracted top global buyers. Varina Krook from Stash Textiles is also a brilliant illustrator whose new range explores Australian historical houses and botanical motifs. British store Liberty helped with her production. Sophia Pearce from Flotsam/Jetsam has designed the marvellous ‘Buoy’ light (above right), ideal for the urban nomad. Grace Wood uses wool from her family farm to craft beautiful felt cushions, throws, over-scaled objects and wall installations. 

What's exciting you in design?
People like Dutch-born, Melbourne-based designer Joost Bakker, with his pioneering approach to sustainable living, plants and zero-waste.

Where’s on your travel wish list?
Western Australia. It’s the home of cute marsupial the quokka, my mascot while writing Happy

What’s your social media of choice?
I love Instagram. It’s so instant, image-focused and most small businesses say it has had huge impact in growing their brands. 

'Happy' by Amanda Talbot (Murdoch Books, AU$69.99) available now