We have the pleasure of sharing with you an exclusive interview with the top interior designer Chester Ong. Chicago-based, the product designer uses traditional materials and familiar ways to create surprisingly attainable objects. Because of his psychology background, he is a user-focused designer, meaning that his design approach drives his interdisciplinary practice that can encourage behavioral change and combines craft and technology.
Chester Ong earned his Master of Design in Designed Objects degree at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and launched a furniture piece for CB2’s small space living collection. The designer served as well as a lecturer teaching 3D modeling in the Designed Objects department and Product Design in Continuing Studies at SAIC.
In our conversation with Chester Ong, we found out what he truly loves about his work. “We describe the design as a lens for the human experience, at all scales and across cultures. We say that design is a window to the world: it can shape how we feel and behave, what we think and remember, about people and places, culture and time. We design both the space and emotion together, as it allows us to experience things in a very different way, especially when we are doing projects all over the world.” – he said.
During his journey in the design world, not everything was made of gold. So we tried to understand what was the worst time in Chester’s career and how he faced it. We couldn’t be less impressed by his story: “There was one time when the company grew up to a certain size that it became hard to control and maintain the best quality of design. Ultimately to design beautiful spaces and to be able to control all the details is what we love about design, to control every part of the experience. At that point, we decided to scale back on size to regain and to go back to the roots of why we love design while making sure we have sufficient staff to do sizable projects, such as full-scale hotels. This way we can agree to take on projects only if we truly love them.” – explained the designer.
As the interview progressed we got a bit more closely with the designer and asked if he already achieved everything he wanted in his life. ”I hope not, otherwise my life would be meaningless. There is still so much to see in the world and to experience.” – he answered. Ong is a dreamer, but more than that he is ambitious and wants to be part of something greater and transcend himself in new challenges. “There are still many genres of project designs, different types of products, spaces, cities that we want to experience through design and have a project.” – he said.
“I would like to experience Kyoto or Argentina or any country or city, I can simply just purchase a ticket and flight out there and stay there for a few days or weeks. But I look at it at a different level of experience, which is to engage ourselves with the design projects, and essentially fulfill us professionally. This is when we can say we have truly experienced that city or location. Far more when the space is completed, especially in hospitality and F&B projects, and it becomes parts of guests’ human experience and part of their memory this is our biggest fulfillment.”
About his projects, Chester Ong talked about the relationship he built with his audience. “Our communication is through the spatial and visual experience, as a designer this is the ultimate way and intimate way to communicate with our audience. We advertise it as a moment in a way of how do we craft this moment and make it something spatial for people to keep in their memories months, years after they visit the space we heartily crafted.” – said the designer.
Ong is currently working on several projects, mostly hospitality projects. “Back in my home-grown city, Hong Kong, we are working on the Four Seasons Hong Kong renovation, which includes the reception, the lobby lounge, and the new destination bar ARGO. A bit further away from home, we are also working on W Algarve. People were surprised to find a cosmopolitan designer from Hong Kong to design this amazing beachside resort in the beautiful south of Portugal, which I believe has every reason to do so, this is exactly what we don’t have and what we are craving for when we want to get away. Personally, I’m in love with the Portuguese culture, the Mediterranean lifestyle, and all the local traditions. This is a wonderful opportunity for us to reinterpret these ingredients through our design skills. Over the last couple of years, I have been living in Japan in the mountains, known as the Japanese Alpes, and we are currently building our home on the slopes. This is the dream for architects and designers.” – said Chester Ong.
In addition to the aforementioned projects, Ong is involved in other collaborations. “We have been widening our work a step further from interior design. We are designed a wallpaper collection with a renowned wallpaper designer. We are also working on a faucet collection which includes bathroom fittings and accessories, and an environmental experiential installation.” – said Ong.
Speaking of creativity, it was possible to see that Chester Ong believes in a change of performance when it comes to the world of design. “I think COVID has polarized our preference. For the past year and a half, we have been enjoying this casualness, working from home, doing calls through Zoom… but at the same time, we have been longing for a formality moment. I see design going through a revival of the white gloves, and white table clothes experience and special moments.” said Ong.
Asked about the type of client he has and what kind of projects they are involved in, Ong answered “Our clients like to be surprised by our creations, obviously we don’t like to copy and paste ourselves, we always try to reinvent our design to differ from each other. The experience we build is the know-how but we interpret the design differently, that’s why over the past 20+ years, each of our projects is distinctly different. Our clients don’t like cookie cutters, they look for highly bespoke products.”.
Regarding craftsmanship, we asked the designer who he thinks is leading the way. “I really appreciate all the ancient cultures and craftmanship related to culture and ancient aesthetics, that’s why I’ve been really enjoying visiting Europe, from the way they craft glass, leather, ceramics… this has been a great source of inspiration. This is why I’ve been living in Japan for the past couple of years, I’ve been regularly paying visits to Kyoto and historical related sites.” – he said. Asked about the future of the design and his own expectations of it, the designer talked about sustainability. “Sustainability is a given, but I also see there are more and more crafts-related designs that are finding their way to weave into the modern design and technology. Craftmanship contributes to a very important part of the human experience, and it’s proof of human wisdom and existence. Only if we can make all these kinds of craftmanship become a part of our lives in the design world, that is the best way to ensure its sustainability and its longevity so we don’t lose it and we able to pass it through generations.” – said Chester Ong.