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).

2 LOVELY GAYS

London-based interior designers Jordan Cluroe and Russell Whitehead, aka 2 Lovely Gays, are fearless with colour, adventurous with shape and partial to a bit of theatre. Cluroe made his design debut as the runner-up on BBC2's The Great Interior Design Challenge last year. Fast-forward to 2015 and the duo are busy bringing their fresh, minimal style to the masses. Here they share their tips on 'making living lovely'.

BY CLAIRE BINGHAM

Tell us about your most recent revamp.
We've been lucky to have an amazing first year, working with some fab people. Each client becomes a part of us. We recently finished a project on Cloudsley Road, Islington, which always makes us smile. The white and gold scheme was a cue from the client but we wanted to give it a fresh look with flashes of emerald and mint green. There are some stunning pieces, not least the metallic marbled wallpaper by Brooklyn-based Calico Wallpaper. It's such a glamorous backdrop. 

What are you working on at the moment? 
We are about to move into a new house. Our first London home in Trilby Road, Forest Hill, will always be very special. It was the first time we had undertaken such a large job for ourselves, which is very different from working with a client. It was an intense learning experience, but we loved every second, and the result was us saying, 'Bring it on!' It is the unexpected compromises that make it. The plywood made a virtue of the boxed-in steels and pipes, creating storage and shelving in every available inch. Our new home will be a progression of our style but with added theatre. We can't wait to get our teeth into it – although there are no holidays for the foreseeable future!

ABOVE: Jordan Cluroe (left) and Russell Whitehead (right) with Buckley The Wonder Dog
BELOW: White and gold brings a touch of luxe to this cool, Scandi-style scheme in Cloudesley Road, Islington, North London; Soft, muted colours and a curtained wall give this bedroom at the mews house a light and dreamy atmosphere and the sleek metallic lamp adds a dash of drama

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What do you love most about decorating a space?
The most exciting thing is the way it can make a client feel. We love that an atmosphere can truly be life changing.

How would you sum up your style?
Clean. Honest. Human. Playful. Adaptable.

What are your influences?
If we are talking design influences, then we love American decorator Kelly Wearstler, and British designers Jasper Morrison and Sebastian Wrong. The flip side of this is our shared passion for art, theatre, film and fashion. We are both from a theatre background and that has had a big impact on us. We are like children in a sweetshop wherever we go. Inspiration sometimes comes from the most unexpected places. At the moment, we have a profound crush on Canadian painter Kris Knight. We've followed his career for years and have finally managed to get our hands on one of his artworks for our house. His paintings are so beautiful, but also magical and emotional. His use of colour really inspires us.

ABOVE RIGHT: Design hero Sebastian Wrong
RIGHT: 'The Flying Money' oil on canvas, a 2014 painting by inspiring Canadian painter Kris Knight

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ABOVE, TOP ROW: Jordan and Russell's white and light-filled house on Trilby Road, Forest Hill, South London, balances period detail and design classics to cheery effect. The result is contemporary, functional and fun. With a liking for Muuto accessories, Tom Dixon lighting and Eames furniture, Jordan and Russell are always scouring antique markets for finds to upcycle, such as the green-painted café chair; Kaleidoscopic colour and the use of plywood gives this space the modern factor. This midcentury Danish chair was recovered in a blue-felted wool.
ABOVE: The designers clad the chimney breast of their loft bedroom in plywood to create built-in shelves, while keeping the room's original shape. ‘Plywood is one of the materials we’ve used throughout the house’, says Russell. ‘It’s great because it's an inexpensive material but we love the raw quality when it's finished really well.’ Beside the Scholten & Baijings 'Minimal' bedlinen in Syrup for Hay are ‘Athens’ bedside lamps from B&Q

 

What did you learn from The Great Interior Design Challenge?
It's amazing what you can achieve with massive constraints. It was such an intense and exciting experience. It just fired up our passion and made our desire to design a concrete thing.

Any tips on using colour?
Be brave – but that doesn't mean you need to go crazy. People say that we are bold with colour, but we have never seen it that way. Colour is a part of life and it's exciting, so why not embrace it? For instance, when looking for an alternative to grey, we found pink was a new twist on a neutral. There’s a phrase we use: ‘mud in the water’. When we are making final adjustments to a scheme, we often remove one colour and clarity appears. Sometimes a tone that bridges two other components can be the ‘mud in the water’. Best to edit it out.

What’s exciting you in design right now?
We're getting excited about carpet again but perhaps that's because the house we’ve just moved into is so cold!

Is there one product that you really admire and wish you had designed?
The wheel.

Where’s on your travel wish list?
The child in us wants to go to Iceland to see the Northern Lights and the snow, but professionally New York is always on our wish list. We love a good city.

What social media do you use most?
We love Twitter. It has been great for us and we've made many friends through it. We enjoy Instagram, and are trying to get into Pinterest, but it's too much like what we do at work all day!

If you weren't a designer, what might you have been?
We spent the first 10 years of our professional lives training and working as actors, so for us being a designer is a new career. We’re finding it incredibly liberating. We're also co-owners of St. David coffee house, in South-East London, so we have another string to our bow!
2lovelygays.com

Pictures: Megan Taylor megantaylor.co.uk  Kris Knight picture: Kris Knight