Director of Design, Mai Chongchaiyo on Club C+, the Social Lounge For Luxury Connoisseurs
We speak with Director of Design, Mai Chongchaiyo on Club C+, the hottest anticipated private club opening of the season.
Could you tell us about SLD and what your mission is?
Steve Leung Design Group was founded back in 1997 by Mr. Steve Leung – a renowned architect, interior and product designer born and bred in Hong Kong. Over the years, SLD grew into one of the largest interior design practices in Asia, with dual Headquarters in Hong Kong and Shanghai, branch offices in Beijing and Guangzhou, and a strong team of over 500 designers and professionals; in 2018, the practice became listed on the Main Board of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (SEHK: 2262).
Constantly driven by our corporate motto “Design Without Limits”, the Group comprehends today 13 brands dedicated to specialised architectural and design services spanning from luxury residential projects, show flats, sales offices, clubhouses, hotels, restaurants and bars, commercial and office spaces, homes for the aged, schools, medical, and healthcare. We also collaborate with established international brands from all over the world to create unique product design including furniture, bathrooms, kitchens, and home accessories.
My main role within the Group is to oversee hospitality and F&B projects located in Hong Kong and overseas. Throughout the years, I had the privilege to work in multi-cultural environs in Bangkok, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Singapore, and now Hong Kong: all these experiences helped me to gain a broader vision of the design profession, allowing me to also mature a profound understanding towards local contexts, cultures, and design languages. I define myself as a relentless advocate of top-quality work: me and my talented team’s today mission is to deliver top-notch creative solutions able to meet clients’ strategic goals and aspirations; at the same time, we aim at establishing a ground-breaking benchmark in the discipline, in the insatiable quest of creating new lifestyle experiences for the final users through our design projects.
Who are your design influences?
I am a fond admirer of Dutch genius M.C. Escher and American Architect Paul Rudolph.
I absolutely love the sophisticated complexity of their design and their articulated outlook on reality. Every time I examine their works, I always discover new dimensions and a sheer sense of purity that inspire me to explore and push further my own creative boundaries.
On the other hand, I also find Steve Leung’s design approach very inspiring: the way Steve conceives each project by finding a balanced compromise between different perspectives from multiple parties – client, venue operator, contractor, final user, truly encourages me to strive for a creative outcome that is not only aesthetically pleasing but also practical and multifaceted, able to accommodate a different set of needs.
Can you tell us about the opening of Club C+?
Being a true lover of the finest things in life - such as exquisite cuisine and wines, rare cigars and art pieces, it did not take long for Steve to quickly realise that he could not find a suitable setting in Hong Kong where he could enjoy all these pleasures together in the same space. This market gap inspired Steve and his son Nicholas to explore a brand-new opportunity within the hospitality and entertainment scene in Hong Kong by creating an exclusive home-from-home environ conceived as a refined one-stop lifestyle destination to savour the best delights life could offer. The name ‘Club C+’ itself subtly recalls the hidden meaning of “private home” in Chinese, emphasizing the secluded privacy and utmost comfort of this exclusive venue where luxury connoisseurs can indulge and bond over traditional Cantonese delicacies, fine wines, premier cigars, and exceptional artworks.
What makes Club C+ unique in the private members' club market in Hong Kong?
Apart from offering an unrivalled one-stop destination where it is possible to enjoy great food, wines, cigars and art exhibitions, Club C+'s design concept is also quite unique in its genre. On the contrary of big majority of private clubs in Hong Kong that still embrace a rather old-school and traditional British design, Club C+ instead subtly blends Chinese contemporary elements and British accents in an integrated design approach, crafting a one-of-a-kind speakeasy-inspired venue that exudes a mysterious and sophisticated flair.
Another point to note is that, during the creative process, we also came up with the original idea to shape a space that could be multifaceted, versatile, and highly inclusive: this prompted us to explore collaborations with several well-known local artists based in Hong Kong. The Club C+ logo, for example, has been conceived by Alan Chan – a celebrated Hong Kong designer, who did a great job in crafting a logo that perfectly preludes the exclusive and secretive mood of Club C+ interiors.
Tino Kwan – among the world’s most celebrated lighting design masters, helped to endow Club C+ with vivid shades and accentuated personality through his exquisite bespoke lighting arrangements. The space is further enriched with delicate floral compositions carefully handpicked by Gary Kwok – one of Asia’s leading floral designers and an inspiring industry pioneer here in Hong Kong. Last but not least, the superb contemporary artwork collection adds a new perspective to Club C+, combining within the venue a truly immersive art gallery that showcases unique pieces from legendary Asian masters, including Lalan – a pioneer figure in integrated arts; Li Huayi – among today’s most important Chinese ink painting masters; Zhou Chunya – renowned Chinese artist known for his iconic Green Dog series; and Kim Tschang-yeul – one of the greatest contemporary Korean painters. All these incredible works have been carefully arranged by Club C+ Art Curator Katherine Kwai with the aim to infuse a very distinctive sense of artistry within the ambiance. Artworks are changed on a regular basis to ensure a constant element of surprise, with some of the carefully handpicked pieces also available for personal acquisition.
Who is Club C+ aimed at?
Conceived to be one of Hong Kong’s most coveted and exclusive venues, Club C+ intends to attract VVIP members carefully selected by referral only. We hope to engage top-notch luxury connoisseurs, passionate culture and creative elites, and established professionals; Club C+ however also welcomes a younger demographic keen to appreciate and indulge over fine wines, rare cigars, and exceptional art pieces.
What can someone expect at Club C+?
Conveying a strong sense of intimate privilege and exclusive belonging, Club C+ is intended to provide its patrons with a relaxed and connective space where exceptional experiences spanning from gastronomic adventures, curated art exhibitions, and inspiring conversations with high achievers across multiple disciplines can be made. Members can enjoy the finest pleasures of life immersed in the utmost privacy and deluxe comfort both day and night, unwind at ease in an environment that selectively gathers like-minded people in a bespoke retreat from the hectic urban life.
How do you merge Chinese and British elements in design?
The blending of Chinese and British elements relies on a subtle interplay of unique design elements, bespoke details, and hidden cultures’ references, with the intent to also translate Steve’s highly personal and signature aesthetics.
The entire design inspiration of Club C+ revolves around the concept of traditional British clubs, evoking their signature look and feel by creating a space that exudes a strong sense of luxurious exclusivity. On the other hand, carefully disguised elements honouring Chinese legacy have been also thoughtfully integrated throughout Club C+ in a very subtle way. For example, the open-pore mahogany wood sliding panels with bead-blasted black metal screen over frosted glass serve as a smooth and functional transition between different areas to optimize the overall spatial fluidity. However, when the panels are closed, a Chinese Moon Gate is formed, resembling the distinctive archetype of a pedestrian passageway in traditional Chinese gardens. Another signature element would be the use of round tables in the VIP dining areas, with the intent to pay homage to conventional Chinese dining culture. Lastly, the exquisite selection of modern and contemporary artworks – the majority of which have been created by Chinese artists, also infuse the setting with a distinctive Chinese flair.