Business owners who want their bar, shop or restaurant to leave a lasting impression on customers often seek out the services of Nelson Chow. He and his company NC Design and Architecture (NCDA) have been showered with awards for designing beautiful spaces in iconic Hong Kong locations: the casual, speakeasy atmospheres of PDT bar at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Foxglove, Dr Fern’s Gin Parlour and the now-closed restaurant Mrs Pound, as well as the coworking office WeWork in Causeway Bay’s Tower 535.
Chow’s work straddles mass design and niche luxury, yet he brings the same innovative, open-minded approach and instinct for challenging the status quo to each of his projects. Achieving success in interior design, he says, requires the ability to think at different scales when designing in order to create immersive experiences. “We always begin by understanding the client’s brand. After we understand who they are, we develop a story that gives meaning to each design and an experience that engages both physically and psychologically,” Chow says.
After graduating with a master’s degree in architecture from the University of Waterloo in Canada, Chow took a course in menswear tailoring at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. “Tailoring, as in architecture, is all about structure. Whatever you put in is how it will turn out,” he says.
We develop a story that gives meaning to each design and an experience that engages both physically and psychologically.— Nelson Chow
His passion for creating stemmed from his family and upbringing: his uncle, with whom Chow lived while studying in Canada, was an architect and has greatly influenced his work; and his mother, whom he credits for his design versatility, is a trained pianist. “She spent many hours at home practising, so I picked up things like rhythm, texture, harmony, proportion and articulation [from her], which I apply to my work,” he says.
In addition to working on a new flagship cake shop for Dominique Ansel, a shisha bar, a penthouse restaurant in Macau and a residential tower for New World Development, at the time of this interview Chow was also heavily engaged in two other projects: Louis Vuitton’s Objets Nomades in the Pedder Building, which is planned to open on March 25, and Faye, an outer space-inspired nightclub located in Central’s California Tower penthouse, set to open in April.
The commission for Louis Vuitton’s pop-up was more than a year in the making. Chow and the French fashion house created Memento, a ten-stop journey set inside an imaginary seaside mansion, designed throughout the first and second floors of the Hong Kong landmark. Playing with the idea of optical illusions and surrealism, and engaging both sight and smell, the brand will take visitors on a sensory journey through its travel-inspired furniture and objects collection when it opens its doors to the public on March 29.
Chow says, “My favourite part was creating a cinematic journey within the iconic Pedder Building and getting to work with [Louis Vuitton’s] amazing furniture and lighting pieces. The difficult part was creating an event of this scale with all the uncertainty brought by Covid-19”.