Tony Chi is one of the most celebrated interior designers working today. His designs can be found around the world in the hospitality industry, where his dictatorial clarity of thought is much in demand. He is absolutely not interested in being the type of designer whose role is just to fill a room with furniture. His holistic approach and commitment to process take in much wider concerns from the hotel’s demographic neighborhood to what time and angle the sun will touch a space during the day.A roll call of his past work includes Park Hyatt Shanghai, Park Hyatt Washington DC and Andaz Tokyo, with upcoming projects including Ritz Carlton Mumbai and Rosewoods in Hong Kong and Carlyle New York.
We went to his Manhattan studio to speak to him about the creative and business process of starting a new project.“Our studio receives one Request For Proposal (RFP) a day, and while it is truly an honor to have such recognition, the volume is overwhelming. You simply can’t expect to commit to every single one. Instead, I’ve always focused to have our studio reach out directly to the owners: To share a vision, start a dialogue and exchange thoughts.
I only work on one project at a time in one city. This is so I can concentrate geographically in one place. I travel out of New York 200 days a year, meaning when I’m in a city working on a project, it has my full attention.”
“I’ve spent years slowing down my process. I see time as a valued commodity because I understand how each moment, hour and day count. People tell me it takes a long time for me to create a project or give the deliverables. I do it on purpose! People say, ‘This other design firm can do it in eight months and you want 15 months?’ Yes, I can do it in eight months, our studio is just as capable, but I refuse to. If they want me, I’ll tell them this is how long it’ll take. If you don’t care about the process why should I care about your project?”
“Every decision on a new potential project starts with this in mind. It’s never a pure business decision, it’s about who do you want to work with and co-exist with. The process starts with this. Everything is about the process! Process is the part that gives you this incredible reward, the start of the creative journey.”
“Sharing the process and thoughts with the team really defines collectiveness and togetherness to achieve the unknown. And I say the unknown, because if you want to have the ‘known’, then why bother to do it? The beauty of the process is when you do this collectively and you explore the unknown, you have an idea of where you’re going but you don’t know what the end result will be. But you do know it will be amazing and exciting.”
“Some designers will take on any job and they’ll design it and photograph it, and then they’ll say ‘the job is done’. And they move on to the next project. I find that disappointing. I’m more interested to see what the project will become, realizing its potential. I don’t think of my projects as being finished the moment I hand over the keys. In fact, the project only truly begins when the project is completed. It is a new life in the making. The hotel operators are starting that life and are allowing it to grow. We have built the body and the hotel operators are now forming the soul.”
For the full interview, download the new issue of Kohler Magazine.