How to defeat interior boredom? We asked three designers who have made emotional creativity their trademark

Before the social media, not everyone could understand the value of interior design. “Now the demand for Instagrammable spaces has become mainstream,” say the duo from Valencia, Masquespacio (Ana Milena Hernández Palacios and Christophe Penasse). To have domestic corners like film sets, in short, has become a way to banish the “been there seen that” effect in our homes. But without good design thinking in the background, everything gets boring. “Our work has to get well beyond the set,” Masquespacio say, brandishing a portfolio full of eclectic freedom of expression.

Unique rooms, like the people who live there

“When we design a room we try to make something unique, that cannot be repeated. Like the person who will live there. We are convinced that if a space is well designed and makes a breakthrough, the space itself will trigger an Instagram boom. Not the corner, but the overall space is what seduces a visitor, after which, as a result, they want to share a photo.” Named Interior Designers of the Year by T Magazine of the New York Times in 2019, Masquespacio have created restaurants in Valencia full of cultural references, like the Kento chain of Japanese eateries or venues for the Japanese-Brazilian Kaikaya.

Rooms as chapters of a storybook

“For us it is important that every project narrate a story. Interior design can get its inspiration from any era, any style, like the rooms of the Ministry of Culture in Paris by Andrée Putman, in the case of the Kento restaurants. The aim is to create a new experience for users, an exciting disconnect from the everyday routine. We try to stick to key concepts on which to develop a deeper narrative that takes its cue from the lifestyle of a place or from a characteristic material. There are many decorative details, touches of color, but there is always a clear scheme that guides you through the space.” In the Kaikaya restaurant, for example, Masquespacio blends Japanese rigor and method with the exotic tropical spirit of Brazil. Japanese materials like wood and raffia coexist with colorful motifs, mosaics, palms and parrots, suggesting a tropical atmosphere. On the bar counter a typically Japanese wood pattern is juxtaposed with colorful design inspired by the Seventies in Brazil. All the furnishings, like the parrot lamps with palm leaves, have been specially designed for the project.

Fairy tale books and three-dimensional decorations

Storytelling is also the trademark of the interior design of Li Xiang (X+Living). In retail spaces or offices, cultural venues or playgrounds, Li Xiang transports visitors into a storybook, where the rooms are the chapters and the spatial elements become the words. In these complex settings the Chinese designer does not pursue eccentricity, but instead a precise logic to sustain the project. “The technique I normally use,” she says, “reduces two-dimensional decoration in favor of a space with striking three-dimensional perspective. The coordination of the colors has the same goal, and is one of my characteristics. I hope visitors can quickly sense the 'spirit of the place' and experience the strong impact of a real experience, and of personal psychological engagement. I also hope they will follow our construction of dynamic lines, guiding them through the main functions of the space.”

Decontextualization and striking leap of scale

One good example is the area for kids on the third floor of the MIXc shopping mall in Kunshan, in the province of Jiangsu. It is a “wonderland” that references various elements of traditional lyric culture, such as the Yunjian, an embroidered decoration on the shoulders, the Kuitou, a headdress worn by opera singers, the make-up used in traditional theater, and musical instruments. Thanks to decontextualization and a striking leap of scale, these elements become playful symbols and signage tools. Together with blocks of color and geometric motifs, they identify the various areas, altering the usual image of the shopping mall by means of a cartoon-like language.

From multicultural and queer London

With roots in Argentina, Japan and Israel, Adam Nathaniel Furman explores the relationship between memory, imagination, history and communication. “Due to my family background and because I grew up in multicultural, queer London, I believe in the positive fusion of different roots to assert distinctive, different identities. I also promote a language against the 'extreme localism' that leads us to make reference only to motifs, cultures and materials that are close to us, narrowing aesthetic horizons. I have many sources of inspiration: from the hidden curiosity of classicism and modernism to the queer capacity to take traditional and anthetical dogmas and transform them into vehicles of joy, joyously sensual. Color is the most powerful way to create atmospheres and impressions. In interiors, I prefer warmer palettes and pastel hues.” These remarks act as a preface to the apartment Furman has designed in Tokyo: 160 m2 with three bedrooms and a large living area, paced by a series of colors that take on different consistency in the spaces. Furnishings, finishes, casements and floors, all made by hand with traditional and innovative techniques like laser-cut inlays for the doors, merge in theatrical wings, which Furman describes as “the theater of everyday life taking form.”

Cover photo: concept store Rubio designed by the Masquespacio (Ana Milena Hernández and Christophe Penasse) in Valencia. Photo Luis Beltran.