Q: What does living mean to you? #3

An Interview With Interior Designer Tony Chi

By MORI LIVING
November 15, 2019

When you hear the word “living,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? A living room is a place to live in, a place to rest and relax, or a place to contemplate ideas... “Living” can be life itself. Or so claims the renowned architect Tony Chi.

Interior designer Tony Chi bought an apartment in his hometown of Taipei three years ago, after years of searching. Located on the first floor of the building, a large green landscape lays outside his windows. All you can hear are raindrops.

It is hard to believe this peaceful neighborhood is in such a densely packed city.

Chi explains, “I really wanted a garden. It took me a while to find the right place. It’s a little distant from the central main streets and I like the quietness. This is my private pit stop, a place where I won’t be disturbed. I only invite my close friends and I’ve never shown pictures of my Taipei home before.”

For those familiar with Chi’s modern designs, such as the interior design at Andaz Tokyo, the humble and discrete design of his Taipei apartment may come as a surprise. Spending most of his time in NY, his Taipei home is like a retreat for him.

“It’s like I am going for a hike in the mountains. It’s a place to find peace and tranquility,” says Chi. It reminds us of the hut of Japanese author and poet, Kamo no Chomei.

The house is a collection of carefully selected furniture and artifacts. The chair he sits on is the original Mies van der Rohe sofa. The glass table and the large couch are Chi’s own design. Artifacts he has collected through his travels and artwork by his artist friends are placed exquisitely. Some may associate the mood with In Praise of Shadows (a famous essay on Japanese aesthetics). The lighting is kept low. The building materials are carefully selected.

“I like materials that can age through time,” says Chi. ”

“I remember that door used to be a much lighter color and now it has become darker and darker because of age. The same thing with the floor. It also got darker and I think aging is great. I planted ivy in the garden to cover all the white tile walls outside,” he says.

“I think Japan is about appreciating inner beauty. Look at the temple. Look at the timber, aged through time. And the rocks have become overgrown with the moss over the years.”

“I think Japan is about appreciating inner beauty. Look at the temple. Look at the timber, aged through time. And the rocks have become overgrown with the moss over the years.”

Chi says he is struck by the rich sense of layers of time and space every time he visits a Japanese house.

“A Japanese living room is multi-purpose. You can sit, eat, chat with friends, sleep and meditate. That is Japanese living. All the acts of life take place in the living room. And it is quite special to be invited into such a private space, which brings a sense of intimate community,” he says.

Chi’s recent project is to design the whole interior of Toranomon Hills Residential Tower, opening in 2021. Just as he is surrounded by the things he adores in his Taipei home, his approach is to create a flexible platform in which each resident can build a comfortable space for themselves.

“In Japan, I learned that awakening is important. People wake up to touch quietly. They wake up to being more respectful. The living room is life itself and a place to share our thoughts,” he says.

“So, I aim to create a neutral space where people from different cultures and generations can integrate their purposes and share their values. I find people often live in a very narrow way. But we have the potential to be creative beings and live with imagination and flexibility. I formulate the living rooms I design to suggest this potential.”

Tony Chi listens to inaudible voices and gives them shape. He meditates on such thoughts in his Taipei pit stop.

Q: What does living mean to you?
A: Having a voice of mission – “ME”
Having a voice of people – “YOU”
Having a voice of land – “GOD*” (*Nature)

Mori Living Tony Chi's Q&A

About Tony Chi

Mori Living Tony Chi 2

Born in Taipei, he founded his studio “tonychi” in NY in 1984. Chi designed restaurants for star chefs such as Alain Ducasse and luxury hotel interiors including Andaz Tokyo and THE OAK DOOR at Grand Hyatt Tokyo. His current project, Toranomon Hills Residential Tower, opening in 2021, is his first time designing interiors for an entire residential apartment building.

This article originally appeared in Hills Life published by MORI LIVING. Text by Naoko Aono, photo by Satoshi Nagare, edit by Kazumi Yamamoto.