Brought together by a shared appreciation for the unique, Ajax Law and Virginia Lung of One Plus Partnership are at the cutting edge of the interior design scene and just can’t seem to stop winning awards. VANTAGE talks to the couple about the importance of being different.
By Carol Hou / Editor Johnny Wang
Husband and wife Ajax Law and Virginia Lung possess a rare combination of traits that make them a formidable team in the world of design. Founding the Hong Kong-based One Plus Partnership in 2004, the couple have been working tirelessly to pursue and perfect their projects, garnering them a dizzying array of some 200 industry awards. Always preferring to chase originality over convention, innovation over cost, their de- signs have been hailed by industry experts as modern classics.
With so much achieved in the 10 years as their own independent company, it came as a surprise to find out that their business is largely spread through word of mouth and in the design media; it wasn’t even until last year that they built their company website. “We seem to have some luck in winning awards,” Lung muses, “Our very first project won us an IDA honourable award in Hong Kong, and four years later we got our first international award in the US.” It is just as well, because if Lung and Law professes to have any weakness, it is in promoting themselves. Lung says: “I didn’t have the connections, nor did I know much about the complexities of making these connections over dinner. The only thing I can do to let people know what I do is by winning awards! After all, it is the professionalism that really counts.”
In addition to cementing their reputation, their numerous accolades also reinforced to the couple that the right way to go is be innovative. Boldly, they undertake projects that nobody else has ever done before. In their approach to work, they initiate each project by a specific theme and develops it into a distinctive space. A successful completion is one that incorporates something innovative and original, and stands out from the crowd. More often than not, if they had promised the client two designs, they would go out of their way to provide a third design; one that is more original and unique, as an extra option. Lung says: “Sometimes you are your own worst critic. When you work into the small hours in the night and suddenly get a new idea, would you carry on working to integrate these ideas into your work? I definitely would!” Even after the blueprint is complete, they would still check it over once more to make sure that nothing is left that can still be improved. Obsessed with perfection, Lung and Law never let projects through that they are not satisfied with.
They set a very high standard for the uniqueness in design; as such they often spend extra time and efforts on their projects. “We never wanted to earn a lot of money,” Law explains, “All we wanted is to achieve a design product that is unique every time.” Their works truly do dazzle the viewer, but the strive for the unique brings with it some challenges in its construction. “We like to turn ordinary things into something novel and interesting,” says Law, “for example, re-using things thrown out, or reforming existing objects into a different purpose. Although some of our designs may be unusual, the budgets would not necessarily be high if you use alternative approaches. However, it may require employing some very skilled craftsmen and spending a bit of extra time.”
The couple met when they worked together in a previous design company. There was mutual admiration for each other’s work and aesthetics. They started One Plus Partnership from scratch, getting commissions from clients through word of mouth recommendations. Law’s family were originally sceptical about his choice to become a designer, they had assumed that an arts-based career would doom him to a life of poverty. On the contrary, Lung’s parents were never less than supportive of their daughter’s decision. Seeing her studying hard, often late into the night, Lung’s mother was so convinced that her daughter would go far in her career that she sold her house to support Lung’s overseas education. The couple are happy with what they have achieved so far, and being able to live a life where they see new and beautiful things everyday. When travelling or eating out, they make conscious decisions to seek out places that are unique and interesting. With a perpetual need to be surrounded by inspiration, their office is decorated with their collections; Spiderman memorabilia, radios, staplers… old or new, as long as their designs are worth the attention, and particularly if the item is hard to find, the couple will buy it as a treat to themselves.
For the workaholic Lung and Law, the new addition of a child to their family has meant that they finally started to take weekends off. What used to be just another workday has transformed into family leisure time, spent taking their child to fun places. Recently, Ajax Law was honoured as one of “Hong Kong’s 10 Outstanding Youth”, the highest recognition for his achievements so far. Undoubtedly, One Plus Partnership will continue to succeed in this highly competitive market, so watch this space!