Cover Celia Chu, founder and principal of Taiwan-based design studio Celia Chu Design & Associates

“I will never want my designs to be only impressive in photos; I want people to be deeply immersed in the space through their senses, and hope that they like to visit it time after time,” says Taiwanese designer Celia Chu. Here, she shares more about hotels she has designed worldwide while highlighting outstanding pieces that have caught her eye recently

“My everyday life is the source of my inspiration, even my daydreams,” says Taiwanese interior designer Celia Chu. Known for crafting impeccably elegant and multilayered interiors, Chu’s soulful perspective adds a sense of authenticity to her designs. The founder and principal of Celia Chu Design & Associates, her Taipei-based namesake studio, crafts a unique narrative for each project by focusing on creating with a personal touch.  

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“I always look to ‘people’ as the starting point of each project—what (users) can feel, touch and experience when they are in the space,” says Chu. “I will never want my designs to be only impressive in photos; I want people to be deeply immersed in the space through their senses, and hope that they like to visit it time after time.”

I will never want my designs to be only impressive in photos; I want people to be deeply immersed in the space through their senses, and hope that they like to visit it time after time.
Taiwanese designer Celia Chu

The designer’s carefully crafted spaces are infused with a personalised touch and cultural nuances. Take, for example, the design of the dining spaces for the Hyatt Regency resort in Danang, Vietnam. The open-air restaurant is warm and inviting; the design language pays homage to the local culture by referencing traditional architectural elements and layering upholstery fabrics in Vietnamese-inspired hues. 

“I personally like to look for new and creative ideas each day. There is never a trend or guide that I follow, but I undertake a unique approach for each design project,” she says. “You can find my signature design style—that is, to create a balance with layers of colours and rich textures—in each and every project. This applies to the architectural materials as well as the furniture selection and lighting, which are some core factors that create layers of interest in the space.”

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It’s interesting, the designer notes, how “a unique story can be formed once people meet”. She believes in the importance of open and effective communication when it comes to her creative process. 

“(Communication) starts from meeting the clients, visiting the site, understanding its history, and learning the thoughts of each client,” Chu elaborates. “During the design process, brainstorming with my design team—or even with my family—can deliver some amazingly unique and creative ideas.”

Travel also serves as a source of inspiration for the designer. Whether it’s leisure vacations or business trips and site visits, Chu relishes broadening her horizon and meeting new people abroad. “There are always stories behind each and every contact with people, and all these visits become inspiration for my designs,” she enthuses. 

The designer cites Rosewood Bangkok, a striking luxury hotel located in the heart of Thailand with interiors designed by Chu and her team, as an example. “I was moved when I first arrived in Thailand; people greeted me with the wai pose. This first impression is the core spirit of their humble and respectful culture. Wai became the main concept that crossed through the whole project—especially for the arrival lobby experience.”

While the pandemic might have placed a temporary halt to leisure travel, the design maven has found a way around. “Staying outdoors is my utmost preference while working from home,” Chu reveals. “I will work on my balcony or on the roof deck where I can feel the breeze and be surrounded by nature and light. If you’re working within an open-plan area, noise reduction and effective acoustic design is a must. Physical barriers like screens can help absorb or redirect sound away from certain areas.” 

Here, Chu shares a glimpse of the design process in the hospitality sector as well as the most memorable points in her career; she also picks out the design elements and collections that have caught her eye recently. 

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How do your personal ideas factor into your designs?
Celia Chu (CC) I simply loved design when I first started. But my interest gradually developed over time to (focus on) environmentally-friendly designs. It’s not only about saving energy or (using) renewable materials, but also supporting the local market and economies where my designs are based. 

There is no doubt that Covid-19 also made a huge impact on the hospitality industry today. So, I do (think about) how interior design can respond and provide the needs of local guests that are as important as that of overseas travellers. Hotels designed to be ‘a home away from home’ need to be cosy and filled with surprises to attract local guests, whilst also providing flexible services for their guests to have personal events. All these elements become part of our purpose when starting a design.

What is it like designing for the hospitality sector?
CC For hospitality design projects, we always need to consider the market trends. It is not just about the market today, but about the future too. Often, the completion date for hospitality projects can be four to six years after the design phase starts. Therefore, the design needs to be way ahead of any trends for people to come back again and again to the space, even years after. 

What is the mark of a well-designed space to you?
CC There are three spaces that I have travelled to that have impressed me to this day. The first one is the Pantheon in Rome. I was overwhelmed by its grand scale when I stood within the space and was moved by the natural light interacting with the atmosphere.

The second is the Louvre museum in Paris. A masterpiece that I will always be taken aback by, with its delicate details throughout the place. This is also where I get inspiration for modern classic designs. 

The third space is the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, one of the best projects by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. When I was studying in New York, I often spent my leisure time there. He successfully connected the flow from architecture to interiors, and the movement of the flow has made it a timeless design. He is also the one who inspired me to make art as one of the important aspects of every project I do. 

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What has been the most memorable point in your career thus far?
CC I would like to share one true story behind the White Rose Chapel (pictured above) in Grand Hyatt Fukuoka, Japan which has moved me, even until today. A few years after the chapel was completed, there was a big typhoon that hit Fukuoka. It brought damage to many lives, including the farmer of a rose garden. All of his lifetime's work was destroyed in a second.

This farmer (became) really depressed, but he managed to visit the White Rose Chapel I designed, by chance. He was so inspired and encouraged at how people could be so stunned by the beauty of roses. He talked to the hotel manager and made up his mind to rebuild the rose garden again. What surprised and moved me is how my design concept can lend positive energy to them. To this day, this story keeps me motivated to keep on creating amazing and unique designs for my private residential clients as well as hotel brands around the world.

What are some design details or collections that have caught your eye recently? 

 

1 / 8

A mesh screen in Rosewood Bangkok

CC Rosewood Bangkok, one of favourite hotels that I have designed up to date, features a metallic mesh screen that reveals another iconic Thai motif—it is made from the brass fingernails worn by traditional Thai dancers. It’s the combination of something very traditional and very open, just like Bangkok itself.

2 / 8

Bespoke glass fireplace by Studio Peascod and Celia Chu Design

CC A play on the traditional flume fireplace found within British homes with a more modern interpretation, designed to draw the family closer together to share precious moments.

The panels both capture translucent and reflective elements, created using the verre églomisé technique (glass gilding in French) by the amazing British artist Emma Peascod, who also happens to be a friend of mine.

3 / 8

Rustic Growth bespoke chandelier from Lasvit

CC As this home is surrounded by 100 year-old trees—the apartment is located right next to a massive central park—I imagined the bespoke lighting to be just like the wind blowing the leaves into the living room; a reflection of nature both in the interior and exterior. A combination of luxury handblown crystal glass and natural bentwood leaves perfectly represents the homeowner who is successful in their career but humble in person.

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4 / 8

Aria chaise longue by Paul Mathieu from Ralph Pucci International

CC Designed by French-American artist Paul Mathieu, this chaise longue creates a focal point and adds a sense of luxury to the space.

5 / 8

Custom-built mirror and TV from Luxurite and Celia Chu Design

CC A bespoke custom-built smart mirror and TV housed within a tinted metal (frame) is a truly luxurious and stylish feature. I like to impart my luxury hospitality design experience into a lifestyle design that is iconic for city residences.

6 / 8

Sculpture by Lars Zech from Carte Blanche Galerie

CC This art piece is created from walnut (wood), and it will (adapt to) changes in humidity and temperature over time. It is a sculpture by German artist Lars Zech, who crafts sculptures from broken trees in the Black Forest range in Germany. I like how Zech modernised the piece. It defines the concept of rebirth that I always hope my projects and designs can have.


7 / 8

Kela chaise lounge from Lorenzo Tondelli

CC I simply like the zen-like feeling that one can get from this piece, especially with that hand-crafted touch.  

8 / 8

Fish Boat outdoor sofas from Celia Chu Design, from Bambu Décor

CC I always love discovering and being inspired by local craftsmanship and materials whilst thinking about how to infuse them in our designs.

During (my) first morning in Danang, Vietnam, I saw an impressive scene when I walked by the beach. Hundreds of bowl-shaped fishing boats were placed on the beach and on the sea, creating a beautiful and calming vision. Through this perspective, I designed a number of outdoor seating (inspired by) these fishing boats laying casually outside the greenhouse to welcome the guests at the Hyatt Regency in Danang.