We Speak with the Enigmatic Founder of Interior Design Firm Stanley KC, Stanley Kwok on His Design Journey

A multicultural background being Thai and Chinese has informed the personality and designs of Stanley Kwok

The founder of interior design company, Stanley KC, Stanley, who grew up and has lived and worked in Bangkok and Hong Kong, is deeply influenced by the rich and colourful culture and cosmopolitan atmosphere of the two places. Adept at understanding the core needs and preferences of his clients, he creates refined yet relaxed spaces, allowing one to discover the beauty they didn’t know they are yearning for.

Stanley Kwok, founder of Stanley KC (Photography: Kenneth Chao)
Stanley KC was commissioned to renovate the connecting areas of Dorset House
The team rethought the design for 888 Office in Lai Chi Kok (Photography: Steven Ko)
The team drew inspiration from the arches of intimate European shopping arcades, and infused this with a fresh perspective to interpret the elements for Dorset House
Stanley and his team renovated Grand Hyatt's Poolhouse (Photography: Steven Ko)

A firm believer that the space we use is an extension of our attitude towards life and needs to be presented through precise and meticulous forms, Stanley often poses these questions: “What is the design significance to the project?” "How can we sublimate the aesthetics?" "What does my client need? And if I was in his shoes, what elements would I want the space to have?" When faced with each new project, Stanley always observes and thinks for his client, repeatedly asking and discussing with his team, and re-examining the design brief and visions from a user's perspective. After all, only a design with a soul can evoke unique insights and associations; only by connecting the environment and humans can the purity of design shine through and emotions be unleashed. 

Stanley creates a space that encourages his youthful team to actively learn and participate in collaborative dialogues while keeping an open mind (Photography: Kenneth Chao)
After considering the interaction between people and their surroundings, Stanley decided to merge quality lifestyle and a sense of comfort in his new offices for Stanley KC (Photography: Kenneth Chao)
The new office encourages Stanley's and the team's inspiration to flow and their creativity to flourish (Photography: Kenneth Chao)

How was Stanley KC founded? Did you always know you wanted to be a designer? 

I started Stanley KC almost nine years ago. It was founded because my father always believed I should start my own design studio and I’ve known since university days that I wanted to have my own firm. I was constantly admiring the offices at Foster & Partners, which is open and uniform and everyone has the same desk. Now I’m doing the same at Stanley KC. 

A glimpse of Stanley KC's open office space (Photography: Kenneth Chao)
(Photography: Kenneth Chao)
(Photography: Kenneth Chao)
(Photography: Kenneth Chao)

Tell us more about your multicultural background and how has that informed the way you create and design? 

I was born in Bangkok, raised in Hong Kong and the United Kingdom. After I graduated, I went back to Bangkok to work for a few years before I came to Hong Kong. So I've been exposed to different types of cultures since I was little. In different cultures, we all do things differently, so I started to observe and ask why? When I first returned to Bangkok, my Thai was very bad, thus, instead of hanging out with the expat crowd, I decided to spend more time with the locals. This is something you can’t get from a textbook. The only way to learn a different culture is to experience it.

Follow Stanley as he revisits his roots and looks back at the first design project he was involved in: Thiptara, the Thai restaurant at The Peninsula Bangkok

How do you find inspiration?

I always keep my eyes open when I am wandering around Hong Kong or when I am travelling. I like to take snapshots of details. Inspiration is everywhere so just keep your eyes open.

Stanley and his team engage in a discussion for one of the upcoming projects (Photography: Kenneth Chao)
Stanley's relaxed selection of furniture disrupts the typical format of traditional offices and enables his team to truly enjoy their surroundings (Photography: Kenneth Chao)
(Photography: Kenneth Chao)
(Photography: Kenneth Chao)

Listening is another key element. I like to listen to interesting conversations and often, I can pick some small details along the way and turn this into my design.

(Photography: Kenneth Chao)

Does your personal home define your individual style as a designer? 

My home is very calm and comfortable. There’s no clutter, which translates into my design (I like clean details, no fuss).

Stanley reminisces on his old journals at his home

What has been the best advice you’ve ever been given? 

That numbers don’t lie, and that’s the best advice ever, from my father. 

When you reflect on your career so fast, what do you feel most proud of?

My work ethic. I’m constantly being asked how I grow my business? How did I get my first project with a big developer or hotel chain? I didn’t know the answer myself until recently, I’ve noticed that most of the projects we are handling are by word of mouth and referrals as I don’t have a business development manager. The projects are usually referred to by someone I know or worked with before I set up my own studio. As I’ve always been passionate about my work, I did a good job to satisfy all my clients and my superiors. Whenever something goes wrong on site, I usually start by finding a solution rather than pointing fingers, so that people who work with me will grow together. Now all of them have become senior management roles and they remember how I work, and trust me. And to this day, this is still how I work. 

(Photography: Kenneth Chao)
For La Rambla, Stanley KC’s design team were inspired by details from Spain, and wanted to apply these to the restaurant in a modern way (Photography: Edmon Leong)
In collaboration with NBBJ, who conceived the original concept of the spectacular podium space of Two Taikoo Place as lead designer, Stanley KC’s team executed this project with fine finesse (Photography: Steven Ko)

What would you personally like to see more and less of in design?

I would like to see more good detailing and the use of materials. Less IG-centric design, where something has been composed just to create a perfect photo. 

Stanley KC’s design team were responsible for the interior design of The Praya, where they diligently analysed the core values of the restaurant to create a feast for the senses filled with thoughtful narratives (Photography: Steven Ko)
Delicate design details seen at Grand Hyatt's Grissini (Photography: Susanna Yeung)
More surprising details at Grissini (Photography: Susanna Yeung)

What can we anticipate from Stanley KC upcoming? 

My all time favourite project is about to finish and it’s a private residence which has been in the works for seven years. I can’t wait to see the final product. Our first project in Shanghai will also be completed soon.

Words: Sphere Editorial
Published on July 02, 2024