Book List of the Week

Ed Ng’s Book List: A Platform for Beautiful Pieces

By Steve Kroeter August 19, 2013
Ed Ng, interior designer: AB Concept (Hong Kong)
View Ed Ng’s Book List

“The books on my list are an extension of my design philosophies and beliefs,” Hong Kong interior designer Ed Ng, who is co-founder and director of AB Concept, tells us. “As designers, we create beautiful pieces that inspire and move us, and these books are the platform for which we can express these thoughts.” Curious to learn more, Designers & Books talked with Ng about his thinking, his book choices, and the new monograph featuring AB Concept’s work, The Language of Luxe, released this spring by ORO Editions.

Designers & Books: What do you see as the major difference between the Eastern and Western sense of luxury?

Ed Ng: Luxury means something slightly different to everyone. Especially in Hong Kong, a lot of people associate luxury with a price tag because it is such a commercial city. But I think this is slowly changing. As the world becomes more globalized, I see a growing appreciation for the value of good design in this part of the world. Qualities such as good craftsmanship, functionality, and detailing have become more important than just monetary value.

W Retreat & Spa Bali , Seminyak, Indonesia, 2011. Located along Bali's ultra-chic Seminyak strip, the resort comprises 158 hotel rooms and 79 one-, two-, or three-bedroom private villas. Offering a modern twist on traditional Balinese architecture, AB Concept reinterpreted the conventions using locally sourced materials.

At AB Concept, luxury is about the aesthetic of a design and the comfort of a space. Luxury is expressed in unforced elegance and simplicity and adding bespoke items such as handcrafted fabrics and furnishings. Rather than ornamental overkill, we prefer classic, timeless designs that represent exceptional quality.

D&B: In a section of your new book that focuses on color there are several quotes from artists. How do ideas from the art world inspire or guide you in your design work?

EN: Color has existed since the beginning of time, since the creation of the world. Beautiful color palettes present themselves in nature, coexisting with landscapes and animals. But for artists, color is a form of expression that touches our senses beyond what words can describe, very similar to the way we convey emotional quality in our designs.

D&B: In describing your design work you occasionally use words from the fashion vocabulary—words like “couturier” and “bespoke,” for example. In what ways would you say you are inspired by the fashion world?

The Language of Luxe by Ed Ng and Terance Ngan, 2013 (ORO Editions)

EN: Our design philosophy is underpinned by three fundamental pillars: architectural precision, couturier-like craftsmanship, and creating designs that evoke emotion.

Architectural precision is evident in the way we adapt structure, form and proportion. In our designs, the choice of luxurious materials, rich textures and intricate detailing reflect our couturier-like craftsmanship. In the luxury sector, we create interiors in the same way a tailor crafts a bespoke suit—every element is made-to-measure to fit a particular client’s personality, commercial objective, and status.

D&B: You included Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty on your book list. What in particular attracts you to McQueen’s work?

EN: Alexander McQueen is one of the very few fashion designers of our era who has elevated his designs to extend beyond just a beautifully crafted garment. Each garment is like a sculpted artwork, so powerful in its form, artistic quality and most importantly in its message—that it has the ability to touch our souls with its emotive resonance.

Shang-Xi, The Four Seasons – Pudong, Shanghai, China, 2012. Enticed by Shanghai's rich history, AB Concept introduces an East-meets-West narrative into Shang-Xi, the Chinese restaurant within Four Seasons Pudong, by combining the architectural forms of the city’s French Concession with traditional Chinese symbols.

D&B: What other fashion designers’ work attracts you?

EN: Some of my biggest influences include Coco Chanel and Tom Ford. For me, Coco Chanel really redefined the elegance of female luxury with an effortless simplicity. Tom Ford reads people's minds about sex appeal and what it means to know how to enhance the sexuality of both the masculine and feminine form. Their ability to influence and provoke sensuality with gender is very important for me, as this innate ability to manipulate these ideas through fabric, texture, and form can also apply to our design works.

D&BEllen Lupton agrees with you about the appeal of Stephen King’s early work. In fact, she says she “feigned illness one Tuesday in ninth grade in order to consume Carrie without interruption.” When did you first read The Shining and what in particular appeals to you about it? In your book list comment on The Shining you say the book “describes how we can plan and create a spatial experience in design.” That’s an unusual perspective on the book. Can you elaborate?


Argenta, Hong Kong, 2013. AB Concept was responsible for every design aspect, from the architectural form to the interior detailing of this apartment building, located in one of Hong Kong's most coveted districts. Comprising 30 apartments, each residence occupies an entire floor and includes full-length windows, spacious balconies, and private lobbies.

EN: I remember I was still in my early high school years when I first read this book. Stephen King is a master storyteller, and through his words he takes the reader on a captivating visual journey, drawing them in with his magic. I was spellbound with the story and I realized then that I am a very spatial person. I could feel my senses in overdrive and in total connection with the ambience, lighting, and color—like a 3D rendering, his work became so tangible and I was completely spellbound. I think King does this through not only the way he structures his story but also in the way that he tells the story. In the same way, I feel this is how an interior designer should be able to arouse interest through structure (the architecture or backbone of a project) and through descriptive language (color, texture, proportion). In particular when it comes to hospitality projects, this is about how you can guide the emotions of your audience and prepare them to be captivated by your design narrative.

D&B: What are the most influential books that you have read in Chinese? Any on design?

EN: I seldom read Chinese books and to be honest, books on design in this part of the world are still a relatively new concept. A while ago I re-read the Analects of Confucius prior to designing the new Shangri-La hotel in Qufu, which is the birth town of Confucius, and it gave me a lot of inspiration for my design. Our concept for this hotel is based on the principles of Confucian philosophy—Order, Harmony, and Hierarchy—and also the six arts: Calligraphy, Archery, Arithmetic, Music, Chariot Racing, and Ceremonial Rites. It is a project that is very special to us, and just opened this August.

Shangri-La Qufu, 2013. Lobby lounge. A majestic centerpiece wisdom lantern comprised of hundreds of smaller lanterns hangs from the 8.5-meter overhead skylight. The view of a Chinese courtyard “siheyuan” behind provides the perfect backdrop for the lobby lounge, creating the illusion of many layers. The lobby lounge design uses parallel surfaces and repeated patterns to reflect the ideologies of harmony, symmetry, and order. Photo: Chester Ong, courtesy of AB Concept


All images from The Language of Luxe, courtesy of ORO Editions unless otherwise noted.

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