Defying gravity
Sensitively creating spaces, while always anticipating an earthquake

Words: Leanne Cloudsdale

Photography: Roy Hong

Trust is at the heart of any good relationship. It’s especially true in the world of interior design, where this virtue is arguably one of the most important. For Taipei-based interior designer Roy Hong, creating spaces that make people feel a sense of happiness requires much more than just a floor plan. Explaining his practice, Roy says, “I’m almost like a psychologist – analysing the interconnection between my client and their domain. Most commissions are private residences and the sense of knowing someone is going to have to ‘live’ with what I do, means I need to make numerous site-visits to understand the scale and light levels to really maximise on the potential for their space. With every discussion I learn more and more about the customer, their living habits, professional lives, hobbies and their colour preferences. My work is so much more than specifying furniture.

“The focus is always people. Celebrating a sense of life is so important. Our emotional moments, whether that’s laughter or crying, our book collections, special mementoes, the smell of cooking dinner. These are the stories that make a real home – a great interior shouldn’t just rely on popular totems or high-end materials. Conveying the client’s personality authentically is all part of the process.”

After completing his time in the military, Roy studied architecture followed by a Masters of Design course at the Domus Academy in Milan, Italy. With his studies complete, Roy returned home to Taiwan. Smiling, he remembered his time living in Europe and reflected, “When you live in Milan everything around you is pure design – the whole city is like a university lecture: the cars, the people, the buildings, the furniture. You can learn so much from just walking around.”

Roy Hong at home

Working closely with Marie (his Royal Leamington Spa-based Vitsœ planner) he has been specifying the 606 Universal Shelving System for his clients for the last few years. A customer himself, he is very familiar with the planning process describing how, “I try to educate my clients by telling them that I’m just the bridge between them and the opportunity of a well-designed interior space. There is such a strong sense of identity with Vitsœ – a deceptively simple structure with precise proportions and transparent pricing. You know exactly what you’re getting and this honesty and trust is what always makes it my first choice for any project.”

Speaking about how they work together, Marie, explains “Long-term thinking generally leads to long-term relationships with customers, and this is definitely the case with Roy. He has specified Vitsœ so many times that he knows the limits of the system and how it works – he’s so passionate and remembers the technical information we share. Armed with all this knowledge, the initial drawings he prepares are always so accurate” Roy spoke to Marie recently about his decision to install 606 in his new design-studio space. During their discussions, they came to the conclusion that it seemed an ideal opportunity for his studio to become a Taipei ‘Vitsœ Near You’ location. Here, as with other such locations around the world, ‘Vitsœ Near You’ customers offer the opportunity for other customers to see and experience the product first-hand, in a local town or city before ordering directly from Vitsœ.

Vitsœ Near You, Taipei

Living and working in a region where earthquakes pose a genuine threat has also had a huge influence on the way Roy approaches the interior design process. Speaking about the strategy he uses to counter this, he states, “In Taiwan, homes don’t last long – perhaps 50 years? And because earthquakes occur maybe two or three times a year, I have to account for clients feeling a sense of anxiety about breakables being unsecured within their space. Many people here will only feel safe with books being out on display. This concern is something I have to discuss when specifying the 606 Universal Shelving System, as culturally, earthquake-proofing is quite high on everyone’s agenda, which makes most people feel that precious items should always be stowed away in cupboards, instead of openly displayed. When clients learn that as a Vitsœ customer myself, I use clay or double-sided tape to secure fragile items to the shelves, they begin to understand the robustness of the system.” In addition, the front lip of the metal shelves has proved successful in keeping items on the shelves during a quake. After the most recent earthquake in Taiwan, Roy sent Marie some surprising photographs of his client’s shelving. She commented, “The systems were still up, and nothing had fallen off the shelves. Sure, the drawers were open but inside the cabinets, everything was still intact.”

Blending functionality with beauty has been Roy’s methodology since he first started in the interior design industry. With more projects on the horizon, he, concludes, “My clients trust my rationality and sensibility. They feel confident that the end result will always exceed their initial expectations. I think recently that there has been a real rise in pragmatism and an improvement of aesthetic literacy – which means open shelving and individualistic home decoration can coexist peacefully and practically. In Vitsœ I see a unique application of material and proportion; once it’s installed the shelving appears to ‘defy gravity’, giving it a spatial tension that other furniture doesn’t have. I always say that 606 is like a theatre stage: with life’s possessions as the script for the performance. Give it a wall and it’ll shine on its own!”

Watch: Interview with Roy in his studio

Vitsœ near you:
RoyHong Design Studio
No. 73, Sec. 7,
Xinhai Rd.,
Wenshan Dist.,
Taipei City 116,

Learn more about specifying Vitsœ