Meet the Designer: West Chin
Learn about this extraordinary architect and designer.
If “less is more,” there’s abundance to be found in the clean, minimal lines of West Chin’s high-end architecture, interiors and furniture. Son of immigrant parents, Chin grew up in the New York City area speaking Cantonese along with English in a multi-generational family crowded with siblings and friends. “We always had space for more people, more room, more food,” he says. Working with his architect father as a teenager ripened Chin’s interest in design.
Pursuing his love of architecture, in 1992 he founded WCA and then in 2006, the FTF design studio, building and decorating homes and commercial spaces that combine style with function, in a spare understated aesthetic. Furnishings designed for clients along with brands reflecting his design philosophy are carried in three West Out East retail outlets. The divorced father of college-age Sebastian, Chin loves entertaining and creative cooking which reflects his practical philosophy, “No need to bring anything, I open the fridge, pull things out and make a dish.”
How is your Chinese heritage reflected in your work?
Chinese culture is style and function. We don’t believe in excess, everything is used properly or saved. Even in a 20,000-square-foot house, every part has to be effective and efficient.
What draws you to minimalism?
I happen to like stark, pure lines. Contemporary is forgiving, if it’s not perfect you can wing it, go back and put a moulding over it. There’s no forgiveness in modern. Our designs are meant to be clear, clean, elegant canvases for our clients, the frame for their lifestyle.
How do you make modern “frames” feel “homey”?
With finishes and furniture, the right wood flooring is warmer, and even in a couch with hard, clean lines, you can use a fabric texture you fall into, that embraces you. And I always incorporate a lot of plants.
Could you ever use a patterned chintz?
It depends on the client, but we’d work it in through the millwork, placing the chintz into an environment that frames it, inside a closet, a bookcase.
How do your homes reflect family values?
The center of the house is the kitchen no matter what. It is the heart of the house. Everything radiates off the kitchen.
What led you to design fixtures and furniture?
We’d search for items missing in the marketplace. In 2006 there were no flush door handles. They’re harder to install, but it’s a cleaner look, modernized and minimal, so we made it part of our line.
How do your commercial and residential projects differ?
In commercial, you’re designing for a group of people. Residential is much more specific, for a defined person or family.
Doesn’t your spare style clash with Connecticut tradition?
Modernism can work in a traditional space. In Westport, a design-forward suburban community, our shop shows how a 1900s cottage can serve as an ornate frame surrounding simple, clean pieces of art.
How does your hobby—chopping wood— reflect your outlook on life?
In Asian culture, if you’re using energy it should at least produce something. It’s a workout that’s productive.
The print version of this article appears with the headline: Meet the Designer.
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