Meet the Designer Behind “Crazy Rich Asians” Star’s Backyard

The cofounder of a Los Angeles design studio created an oasis in Henry Golding’s backyard.

Photography by Justin Chung, courtesy of OWIU

Amanda Gunawan of OWIU (Only Way Is Up) formed a new friendship on a flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo. Gunawan, who does a lot of work in Singapore for the L.A.-based architecture and design studio she cofounded, was taking off on a work trip. Liv Lo was on the way to visit her husband, actor Henry Golding, who was filming Snake Eyes. Seated only a couple seats away and having recognized each other from social media, “we just looked at each other and we started talking,” Gunawan says.

77709527 4006

Photography by Justin Chung, courtesy of OWIU

Recently, the architectural designer completed a transformation of Golding and Lo’s Los Angeles backyard. “It was very easy because I already know them inside out,” Gunawan says of the Crazy Rich Asians star and his wife. “I knew exactly what type of aesthetic they would want, and I already knew their lifestyle.” The couple just had a newborn, Golding enjoys cooking and hosting, and Lo spends time practicing yoga and breathwork, Gunawan says.

OWIU started in 2018 after Gunawan and Joel Wong won a design contest that gained traction online, and they were invited to exhibit at Paris Design Week. The duo decided to quit their jobs and start their own architecture and design firm. Now, the company also does its own construction and most recently launched a home goods line focused on ceramics. “People always think that when we say ‘the only way is up,’ that we are doing some crazy design because it sounds so progressive,” Gunawan says. “We like to make spaces that are very thoughtful, carefully crafted, and built to evolve. We’re always planning toward the future.”

C&G: Three words to describe the new space?
Amanda Gunawan: Warm, cozy, functional.

How would you describe it before?
It was just a rectangular, generic yard space. With so many interests that we needed to put into this limited area, we had to find a way to be able to create separation—but at the same time, it still needed to feel like a whole space. It just needed to flow. We needed to incorporate some curves and a difference in height.

What’s your favorite part of this backyard?
I like the area with the benches and Harry’s little hosting area.

77709527 4069

Photography by Justin Chung, courtesy of OWIU

What was the biggest challenge with this project?
Getting those curves to match the drawings. It went well but was a little more tedious. In architecture, you’re designing virtually, and everything is super accurate. But then when you go into real life, you are subject to human error.

Top tip for creating an ideal outdoor living space?
As with anything, allow room for evolution or growth. Never do a project to the maximum. You just don’t know how you’ll change in the future.

77709527 5002

Photography by Justin Chung, courtesy of OWIU

What is your personal must-have feature in landscape design?
I like areas that have benches and seating. I’m a big meditation person.

Who is your dream celebrity client?
Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle. I think he has a very specific taste and really appreciates Japanese aesthetics. I would love to design his house.