Cover Architect Dara Huang is also the founder of Design Haus Liberty, an architecture and design studio based in London and Hong Kong

Taiwanese-American architect Dara Huang shares with us how her designs champion effortless luxury

One of Taiwanese-American architect Dara Huang’s earliest memories of design is drawing as a four-year-old. “I was watching Bob Ross paint happy trees, and I was on the floor, scribbling with my crayons,” she recalls. “Eventually, those happy trees turned into buildings, as well as a career in architecture and design.” 

Huang has since made her mark in the design scene with her modern, multilayered designs, and nature continues to play a strong influence in the architect’s work. “I get a lot of inspiration from nature, such as raw woods and stones. I always say that there is no better designer than God and Mother Nature,” she reveals. “Everything—from colours to purity—is already perfect the way it comes from the earth. It’s about how to engineer it in ways to make it tangible for living. It’s not just materials; it’s also about the ambience, lighting, a feeling, organic shapes and more.”

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In 2013, Huang founded Design Haus Liberty, an international architecture and design practice based in both London and Hong Kong. “We work globally so we experience many cultural differences in every location we work in,” she explains. “It goes from work ethic to language (I don’t mean the actual language, but rather how you say something in terms of non-verbal communication); to materials and health and safety codes.” 

Huang’s clientele spans between hospitality giants the likes of Four Seasons and Starwood Hotels & Resorts as well as luxury brands such as Cartier, LVMH, Harrods and Kate Spade. Besides working on residential projects and installations worldwide, she’s also in the midst of designing 1,200 stores all over China for three fashion brands. 

“In terms of style, I think luxury is a global market now,” she says. “We’ve worked in places from Saudi Arabia to New York City so of course there are subtle differences in the design scene, but not much—with contemporary design, a lot of it is very much the same now.” 

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In 2020, Huang also launched her inaugural eponymous furniture line. Crafted with organic raw materials and high-quality fabrics sourced from Italy, the artisanal furnishings are created by expert European craftsmen with a sustainable approach that ensures minimal waste of materials.

“We wanted to design something affordable with great service simply just available immediately,” the architect enthuses. “My favourite design is definitely our sofas—they are modular and fit any space, and I’ve always wanted a designer sofa that was stain-proof and comfortable. They just don’t exist at an accessible price point, so we had to make them ourselves! They are truly beautiful objects.” 

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For Huang, the key to success lies in “​​patience and persistence”. “Rome wasn’t built overnight and nothing ever happened without working really hard for it,” she shares. “Most importantly, I realised that all entrepreneurs have indefinite optimism; it’s definitely something you have to do—believe in yourself and be pumped to do what you do every day!” 

Here, we caught up with the design maven as she shares with us her design process, the most rewarding aspects of the job, and the most important pieces of furniture that every home should have. 

Could you give us a brief overview of your creative design process?

Dara Huang (DH): It starts with a client and their brief, and then we visit the site and take inspiration and ideas from there. We think about the possibilities; sustainably- or socially-conscious decisions and eye-opening moves that will create ‘wow’ moments. In everything we do, we consider the cost, time and impact.  We then present these ideas to the client with a mood board to get them excited about the potential of the project, and then we start to dive into the finer details such as specifications and construction documents. 

What is the mark of a well-designed space to you?

DH: Usually the ambience and also the taste. Taste goes so far if it’s immaculately done; even if there’s a large budget but it’s just in poor taste, it kills the whole project.

What is one décor trend you're currently obsessed with?

DH: I think texture, but I’ve always been obsessed with texture—from external earth walls to wallpaper (made of natural reeds, for example) or plaster works, to the switching on a pillow.

Pick one: bright colours or neutral tones?

DH: Neutral tones.

Complete the sentence: You'll never see______in my home.

DH: White lights (I prefer warm lights). 

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job? 

DH: How I’m able to change people’s lives through design, whether it’s the way they live, work or play, as well as how I’ve extended their health and mental health through design. I also didn’t realise that through social media, I could inspire people to believe in themselves and follow their dreams. Lastly, the amount of especially female support I’ve received through the years.

What are some furniture pieces you have been looking at lately?

DH: It doesn’t matter what brand these are as long as they become yours! For me, the main base pieces that your home has to have are:

A sofa

Coffee table

Opposite seating

DH: By opposite seating, I mean that it could be a pair of sofas or two armchairs; it’s nice to have many places to sit.

Homeware

DH: For items from the homeware or styling categories, I think a good coffee table book, a nice piece of art and a beautiful vase (ideally with a floral arrangement) give your space a great focal point. 

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