Simplicity comes second nature to Otto Ng, the co-founder and design director of Hong Kong-based architecture firm, LAAB. Known for his airy nature-inspired spaces, we spoke to Otto about what (or who) makes him smile and how he keeps his creative juices flowing.

Tell us a bit about you and what you do.

I'm trained as an architect, but I'd say I'm more like a storyteller.  I tell stories about a place and its community through the mediums of architecture and art.

What are you most passionate about?

I'm most intrigued by good design, whether it's architecture, products, fashion, or graphics; not just the design concept but also how things are made. I'm also passionate about making good design available to the public.  At LAAB, we do a lot of public space design and art installations that tend to the cultural specificity of a place and the needs of the community.

What makes you smile?

There are a lot of things that put a smile on my face. A stroll in the park, looking at the giant tree outside my apartment, gathering with friends and family, and nicely executed architectural details.

See also: Less Is More: Nana Chan Of Teakha

Someone you look up to?

Thomas Heatherwick. He has a unique eye for translating nature into inventive designs. He also tells amusing stories.

The one thing you can’t live without?

People I love—family, friends, my fiancée—and good design. These are like oxygen to me.

On the flip side, what is one thing you could do or have less of in order to improve your life?

I can do without stress and pollution. 

See also: Less Is More: Chef Nicolas Boutin Of Épure

How do you find balance in busy Hong Kong?

I think work-life balance is something that everybody understands but difficult to practice. To be honest, I'm still finding my balance. It's challenging when you are operating your own firm. Having a wise business partner and a talented team helps, but I can be a perfectionist sometimes. When that happens, my fiancée will remind me to walk slow, to have a cup of tea, and to live in the present moment.

What are some of your self-care rituals (when it comes to beauty & skincare)?

Getting enough sleep. My work keeps me busy but I try to get more sleep whenever I can. I tend to have better skin when I sleep more. I am also very attentive to my diet. I always avoid foods that are spicy or oily.

How do you spend your free time?

Spending time with my family, friends and my fiancée. 

Why do you believe it’s important to take some time out for yourself?

My hectic schedule keeps me motivated, but I also need "me time" for sure. When we are busy, we tend to fall into regularities or old patterns of thinking and doing things. For creatives, that can be quite suffocating because it goes against the nature of our work, which is to develop new ideas.

Taking time for myself allows me to break away from my patterns, and I find it helpful for regenerating creativity. Taking time out doesn't have to be anything drastic, it can be a short trip, a walk, or even going to a different restaurant.

What are some of the simple things in life that you enjoy?

Nature makes me happy. There is a giant tree across from my apartment and I very much enjoy looking at it. It has been the source of inspiration for many of LAAB's upcoming projects. 

What does the term “less is more” mean to you?

For me, "less is more" is not only a design philosophy but also a way of life. "Less" is a mature stage—one needs to know what to cut out and what to keep before reaching that stage. That knowledge requires a clear vision and a critical understanding of oneself, as well as the situation at hand. When we can focus on the most important elements, we bring out the best of what is presented to us. 

See also: Less Is More: Sarah Fung Of HULA

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