Mansion Liu by Bob Chen
Located in Hangzhou, China, this 500 sqm residence has been designed in 2019 by Bob Chen.
“What we chose in life tells about us.” If we break all the walls, a “home” typically displays items that embody the owner’s memory. Visiting one’s home is like going through one’s past and walking into their emotions. To simplify the space is to let the articles organize their own language, and also because we believe that “this person” is the best style interpretation. In addition to function as a “social place,” a modern “home” should also be a “return” type of place for reflection, retreat and a degree of introspection. These two different requirements are interwoven in the spatial presentation of “House Liu”. The owner Liu, a professional advertiser, is telling us about the story of his house from 0 to 0.5.
To immerse myself in design is like a vacation.
Sometimes, when a group of old men discuss where to go on holiday, Bob always looks like as if he doesn’t listen and spits out such words. Everyone else was speechless. Though when we finally set out, he always shows up, ends up having fun like a child. Bob and I have known each other for almost fifteen or perhaps more years and have been working our way through our own career in Hangzhou together. We are good friends and at the same time we learn from each other. He’s the husband of my wife’s best friend, and father of my son’s playmate.
I’ve always said that some people are “born to be a designer”. I assume that Bob is one of those talented people. My own company is also involved in design industry. I’ve met too many designers, but I haven’t seen much talented people so far. Bob’s father is a carpenter. He has been observing lines since he was a little boy. He is extremely sensitive when it comes to corners and lines. I thought that if such person failed to go to university, there would be a skilled “Carpenter Chen” in the seaside fishing village.
When I need a designer for my own house, the first name that came up to my mind is Bob. No one enjoys to do design more than he does. Besides, he may think more about design than the owner of the house. “Bob, please tell me a price that allows me to push you the deadline with”. He’s probably the most suitable person to trust with for a lazy person like me!
About ten years ago, my obsession with used articles began, and started to buy a lot of them, and gradually developed my “guilty pleasure”. My office and my friends’ warehouses are filled with weird things that I have collected. And as a result, I started to realize what I really like, and more or less I found some value and the so-called “sense”.
Buying a big house to store these things was the first idea. I believe in my own taste of interior that is why I have designed more than 100 times in my mind already.
At first, according to my professional habits, I built a file folder on the desktop of my PC and threw in my favorite pictures, including structure, function, technology, decoration and details. In fact, due to my non professional background, the more I look at it, the more doubt I have about my own ideas, and I began to understand that a perfect home cannot be sewn up by fragmentary points and surfaces, and space design is not like a jigsaw puzzle, so I went for Bob and said, “come on and help out.”
Bob has made remarkable achievements in graphic design. After moving up to work on space design, he has become famous today. I know the ups and downs of his exploration process as a close friend for many years. I have worked with him on two small projects of my own before. I know very well that in space design, design talent is a plus, not a decisive effect. Experience and knowledge could not be gained in one day. The process requires patience and Bob is a patient enough.
One day we were drinking tea. I said to him that what we prefer actually shares the same style. “It’s all about durability and timeless beauty, isn’t it?” he smirked.
As for scale, that’s the first thing Bob will consider, and it is after that he will move on to the next step to think about details. To consider the fluency and accessibility of the whole space, and reasonable circulation is as important as considering design details. As for scale, Bob has his own feelings and intuitions, and it only took us 15 minutes to make the final decision after the plan of our home came out.
On site construction Mr. Dai looked at my plan and kept muttering, “we need to build the foundation well, do a good job in the foundation”. He understands that good results come from stable and firm structure. Dai has been helping me with construction for ten years since my first office. He is stout and considerate. Born in rural areas, yet always with great enthusiasm for space, which is really rare nowadays, and now his construction team has become exclusive of many famous designers in Hangzhou.
Thanks to Bob’s graphic design background, each line and point makes sense in space. The more I talk with him, the more I realize that as long as we ensure the completion of structural lines, the visual effect will not deviate. We were delighted to see that the floor of basement came out well, it is horizontal and vertical, clean and neat. I think this is the so-called “effort” that cannot be seen but can be felt.
As for materials and texture, Bob is used to thinking about budgets, so there’s nothing left for me to worry about. Even so, he is always willing to try something new, especially for those customers who trust him like I do. Of course, the attempts so far have been successful.
All the flooring materials come from my friend Guohua’s brand “sense things.” Guohua has been a close friend of Bob and I for many years, and we have been doing our best to help each other throughout the whole process. It is a stick business to do flooring, wall, cabinet and stairs altogether. Guohua is very willing to take over this “trouble”. I really appreciate these friends who love “trouble”.
We have been struggling with the landscape for a long time. In fact, Bob could have done the general idea with me handling the rest, but we still hope to find more experienced designers to join, which will be more guaranteed. Finally, we found our friend Mr. Yu, a designer who is a perfectionist. Yu loves to draw manuscripts. The effects are presented on the sulfate paper respectfully. The nodes are clear and the marks are careful. Thanks to his earnest attitude.
After all, it’s the first time for us to cooperate. We have made several drafts of the landscape map, and we have been communicating with each other over and over again. Yu is extremely patient. During the construction, we went out together to look for trees and pick stones. Material is the key point in landscape design. After all, most of the landscape is made of natural materials, which is extremely uncontrollable and requires a lot of experience. Each stone, each wood, each flower and each grass in the garden is carefully selected by Yu. Yu said that “there is no fire in the rocks on the mountain”. He found them after running several mountain valleys.
The final effect is quite satisfying. Bob is extremely open-minded. When many well-known design companies want to do “closed loop design” to control the quality of their products, I don’t think he agrees with these things. To him, anything that can win points should be treated with sincerity and openness.
A project design has been tracked for over two years, back and forth, with all kinds of details being thought over and over again, which has probably been far away from the economic benefits of a design company. I really appreciate Bob’s “spare no pains”.
The plan layout of my home is quite special. That is why most of the furniture needs to be custom made. The TV cabinet in the living room requires a huge log of 5.6 meters. My good friend, Yonghong, who is the creative director of furniture brand SoLIFE, took me to Indonesia for half a month to find one. She also helped to cut through the packing and shipping process. Four pieces of bluestone of 19th century from Netherlands are shaped into tabletops of coffee table in the living room, with table legs redesigned and customized by Bob. In order to make round white marble table, Bob communicated with the manufacturer for almost three months. Once I was travelling in Fuzhou together with Bob. The local handicraft of lacquer impressed him. When he came back, he designed the writing desk made of lacquer. It took more than two months to finish the lacquer surface layer by layer. The 4.6-meter-long sofa was designed with the cabinet as one set. The design of sofa cabinet takes into consideration of functions of water storage, socket storage, tea making and tea container storage. My wife, who loves to drink tea, is very fond of the design. Many details are left to be described.
I think Bob’s fans are keen with visualization and good at reading pictures. Words can’t explain everything. If there are pictures, there is truth. I volunteered to write this article about my house. I said that I can write in a way that is easier for people to understand the whole process, and as a close friend, I have better understanding of you and your design. However, when I started to write, I realized that it has been so long since my last writing that I couldn’t express myself perfectly. I was ashamed that I can only write about the process of our cooperation.
I remember once Bob told me that when he first started graphic design, he proudly handed over the menu he designed to the customer. The customer said that the menu is business, where to put dishes, whether to put pictures or not, and the size of the pictures are all about business. The design came out after understanding the meaning of it. At that time, he was shocked to understand what is the original intention of design and the desire of customers and “their customers” is the premise of design.
What is the best way of home design? I think the answer is to respect yourself. In other words, respect your emotions, your personal attitudes and principles towards the world, and the possibility that appears in your life, rather than blindly pursuing things. He understands me, he respects his feelings and that makes this house.
Photography by Wen Office