In honor of AAPI Heritage Month, we’d like to highlight 4 AAPI interior designers who are showcasing their design talents while honoring their heritage.
At the age of 18, Suchi Reddy immigrated from Chennai, India to the United States and brought along a love for architecture, art and culture that her parents fostered. Her design firm and work is heavily influenced by her phrase, “form follows feeling,” and she believes architecture is an extension of the body. Reddy has designed large scale spaces, such as the first Google store in New York, as well as art and sculptural installations.
“She founded Reddymade in 2002 with a human-centric approach to design, dedicated to celebrating diversity and equality, as well as addressing the economic, social, environmental and cultural impacts of her work on both the user and the planet.” - Julia Gamolina, Madame Architect
Read her interview with Madame Architect to learn more about her unique architectural approach.
Credit: Max Burkhalter
Michael K. Chen | MKCA
Ever since he was six years old, Michael Chen knew he wanted to be an architect. After starting his own design firm in New York, Chen has won several awards. His firm focuses on a detailed process that combines architecture, interior design, and product design in each project.
He also explains how designing interiors is similar to his upbringing. As a child of Chinese immigrants and as someone who identifies as queer, he reminisces how the dining table was a space that preserved traditions and cultural characteristics, but was also an inclusive place that was accepting of change. Similarly, Chen believes that design is about taking certain details and creatively reimagining them to tell new stories.
Chen also participates in Design Advocates, a nonprofit organization with independent design firms that he cofounded. Here, he works on pro bono projects that help those in need, such as the unhoused population.
Credit: Hatnim Lee
Syrette Lew studied industrial design and became a designer for West Elm in New York. A few years later, Lew started her own design company on the side. When she showcased her work at International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) and Sight Unseen Offsite, that’s when her business began to take off.
Her design firm, Moving Mountains, was inspired by the shifting Pacific plate that produced archipelagos. This is seen in her work as well – soft, sculptural, upholstered furniture created in whimsical colorways embodies her Hawaiian upbringing. As a Chinese American who grew up in metropolitan Honolulu, Lew was exposed to a variety of cultures, which allowed her to apply this same freedom of shifting between materials and styles to her design work.
image via Google Images
Karen Nepacena first displayed her love of interior design through a home renovation blog with her husband. As they shared their DIY projects, their blog gained attention and the couple started getting clients. Now they run their own firm, Destination Eichler, with a team of designers, with a focus on blending mid-century and Asian interior styles into clients’ homes.
Nepacena explains that Filipino culture heavily focuses on family and food, and it’s common to see Filipino homes with a one-room communal space. To honor her heritage, she and her team concentrates on designing open-concept spaces with rooms that serve multiple purposes.
The Creation of the Asian American Pacific Islander Design Alliance (AAPIDA)
In recent years, the amount of hate crimes targeted towards the AAPI community has increased. Combined with the lack of diversity in the design industry, this led to a group of home and interior designers coming together to create the Asian American Pacific Islander Design Alliance (AAPIDA).
The original founding members are:
- Jessica Davis, co-founder of Atelier Davis and founder of Nest Studio
- Young Huh, founder of Young Huh Interior Designs
- Go Kasai, founder of Go Kasai Inc.
- Joanne Lee, cofounder and CMO of Dowel Furniture
- William Li, co-founder of The Hao Life, founder of Armature Projects, co-host of Lucky Chow, and contributing editor to Elle Decor and Town & Country
- Jean Liu, founder of Jean Lui Designs
- Benjamin Reynaert, contributing editor to domino magazine
Although they are still a developing organization (as of last year), the community is active on Instagram.
Looking for sustainable furniture from a BIPOC-founded business? Look no further than Sabai. Our pieces are nontoxic and are made to order in the US, while focusing on inclusive circularity and sustainability.
Shop Our Essential Sectional
If you'd like to order our furniture and have any questions, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or send us a DM on Instagram @sabai.design.
Cover image via House Beautiful
Leave a comment