The co-founder of design firm Lim + Lu on the best time to start your own business

In the What Matters To Me series, a Generation T honouree describes what they do, why they do it, and why it matters.

Acclaim rapidly accrued to Elaine Lu and her husband, Vince Lim, after they established their interior design firm, Lim + Lu, in 2015. They frequently appeared in the international press in 2016 and were declared Rising Asian Talent at Maison & Objet in 2017. The pair met at Cornell University while studying architecture, after which they worked as architects in New York (Elaine at Robert AM Stern Architects and Tiffany & Co’s store design division) before moving to Hong Kong, where Lim + Lu took off. Here, Elaine introduces their work in her own words.

It was never meant to be a full-time gig. We started to do furniture design on the side. We didn’t have an interior design practice in mind when we decided to move to Hong Kong, but when we arrived in 2015 we designed our first home, which got a lot of press, and it snowballed from there.

A lot of young designers take too big a leap. It’s good to work at an office for a few years before you do your own thing. I know that these days it’s all about entrepreneurship, but you need to know the profession, and it’s good to learn the ropes at a big firm first.

We don’t like to pigeonhole ourselves into one type of design. Whether product, furniture, interior or architecture, we try our hand at everything. We focused on architecture in the beginning. Then, when I moved to Tiffany & Co, I was more exposed to interior design, which I felt more suited to. I like creating the space and the furniture in people’s living environments. It was a more intimate way of designing rather than the big buildings I was used to.

Our aesthetic is East meets West, but it’s not intentional. It’s informed by our background. We are Asian, so we always had this Asian aesthetic, but we were both raised and educated in the West, and that combination naturally comes out in our work.

A lot of young designers take too big a leap. I know that these days it’s all about entrepreneurship, but you need to know the profession first

- Elaine Lu -

The core of our design philosophy is flexibility. We design reconfigurable spaces, furniture and products. By having multipurpose spaces and objects, people live more efficiently. This is how we achieve sustainability in our designs and it’s something clients are increasingly looking for. Clients are also attracted to our fresh, bold design aesthetic and will often come to us if they hope to attract a younger audience.

Disagreement often pushes our design forward. While Vincent and I are quite compatible, we have different styles. His aesthetic is more masculine. He likes things with mass, volume, and likes black and white. I have a more airy, feminine look and am more focused on colours, fabrics and fluid forms. But when you put the masculine and feminine together, I think the outcome is always more interesting than when it’s one-sided.

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