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Aedas Interiors Executive Director Greg Farrell shares his philosophy behind good design


Interior designer Greg Farrell knows a lot about designing for a local context and making sure spaces are not merely pretty but also functional. Having studied in New Zealand and spending 28 years working around the globe, he is now settled in Hong Kong as an executive director of Aedas Interiors, which has its office in One Island East. We find out his favourite spaces in Hong Kong and also get insight into his philosophy behind good design.

“Designing a good space, whether for a hotel or workspace, is about considering its flexibility and functionality”
Greg Farrell
What are some of the most exciting projects you are on at the moment?
In Hong Kong we are about to complete the new Ocean Park Marriott; however a different and exciting project that we are working on, but can’t disclose too much about yet, is the interiors for a fleet of 737 MAX 8 and 787 Dreamliners for an up-and-coming airline in China. We had to learn very quickly about what we can and can’t use in terms of materials and be conscious of weight, fuel saving and the technology that goes into modern aircraft. 
My dad was a pilot, so I grew up around airplanes and this was on the bucket list for my career.

What are your five favourite spaces in Hong Kong?
Hong Kong International Airport, because it’s the most efficient in the world. It’s just so easy to get in and out of, and I would know as a frequent flyer.
The library at the China Club. It’s one of the most quintessentially Hong Kong types of spaces. I always try to host different functions there.
The Upper House, because it set a new benchmark for hotels in Hong Kong. And to this day it still stands up very well.
Our guest rooms at Hotel Indigo Hong Kong Island because the rooms are small but we make it feel open and big while giving you a sense of place.
Hutong restaurant. I know it’s old, but for me, it’s one of these great places where you take any international guest visiting Hong Kong and it gives you that great Chinese experience with excellent food and unquestionably has one of the best views in Hong Kong.

What are your thoughts on recent conservation efforts in Hong Kong?

I’ve been very lucky to be involved in a number of conservation and adaptive reuse projects in my career, like working on a 780-year-old castle in Wales and turning it into a hotel. It was sort of Giorgio Armani meets William the Conqueror. One of the things I realised from those experiences is that taking old buildings and giving them back to the public is very important. In the case of Hong Kong, good examples are Tai Kwun and PMQ.

How do you think good design can facilitate a good working environment?

Designing a good space, whether for a hotel or workspace, is about considering its flexibility and functionality, making sure things are ergonomically appropriate for the people occupying it. For years, we’ve separated work, play and living, but now our lives are blurring into one space because of technology. We could be working by the pool with our devices. So the idea of merging spaces, having more casual workspaces or spaces where you can work in a casual environment is becoming a more important part of how we design.

In Taikoo Place, Marriott’s new offices are very nice in the way they have merged their office environment with their business, which is entertainment. When you walk in, it makes you feel like you’re walking into a café. At Aedas, we have no offices, it’s all open throughout, even for the chairman. It’s great because it creates a more collaborative approach to how we work.

What’s it like designing hotels?

For me, good design and hospitality are not just about the aesthetics of the project. The big thing in hospitality currently is humanity and bringing human interaction back into hotels and engaging the local community. I often say what we create in hotels is theatre, and we create theatre stage sets where there are actors and audiences. The actors are the hotel staff and the audience, the guests.

Do you have any preference for hotels when you are travelling?

I consider location, design and F&B when I pick a place to stay. And you know it’s a good place to stay when locals dine there. There is no better way of getting a sense of place and culture than dining with the local community.

How do you maintain a good work-life balance?

Work-life balance is very difficult. My wife and kids would prefer that I didn’t work (as much). I’ve actually turned my smartphone into a dumb phone. I turned off all the notifications, sound and vibrations, so I don’t look at it all the time. I have rules I adhere to in Hong Kong, and one of them is to make the most out of the 70 percent of Hong Kong that’s parks and the outdoors. I sail a lot, and that’s always a good way to balance my life. Everyone thinks of Hong Kong as just one big concrete jungle with vertical buildings, but from where I live, five minutes up the road I’m up in a country park.

Check out the PEOPLE column on The Mag to hear more from the leaders in Taikoo Place.

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