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Emma Maclean

EM Bespoke

Interior Design




In Conversation: Emma Maclean, founder of EM Bespoke

by Gavin Yeung
Be flexible and adaptable to changing environments, be creative and never undersell yourself.

With her platinum blonde hair, Emma Maclean is a distinctive presence in Hong Kong’s interior design scene. As the founder and creative director of interior design firm EM Bespoke, you may have seen her teaching at the Insight School of Interior Design, or dashing between site inspections around town for clients the likes of Hongkong Land, Four Seasons, and Italian luxury furniture brand Cassina. The Taiwan-born, Hong Kong-raised Sydneysider has held senior roles at firms such as BLD, Steve Leung Designers and HBA, before striking out on her own in 2018 to source carpets, furniture and wall coverings for projects all over Asia. EQ caught up with Emma to get the lowdown on her creative journey, career milestones, and how to be creative in this unique day and age.

What Encouraged You to Become an Interior Designer?

My father, who worked as an interior designer for 54 years in Hong Kong. He was the Director of Interior Design for the Hilton Hong Kong for over 20 years before establishing his own company. Seeing him work so hard and grow his business was extremely inspiring. He never asked me to become an interior designer, but it made sense as he would always talk to my sister and I about his work and projects. He instilled the language of design and work ethic in us from a young age. 

Can You Tell Us About Your Work? 

For the last 10 years, I have specialized in hospitality design, focusing specifically on luxury hotels. My belief is that a hotel is like a miniature city – if you can design a hotel, you can design anything, since hotels encompass everything from guest rooms and restaurants, to apartments, retail and office spaces. When I started my own studio, EM Bespoke, in 2018, I knew I wanted to continue this direction, specializing in hospitality and commercial spaces. 

What Does Your Daily Routine Look Like?

The joys of running a small business is that no two days are the same. I am an early riser (and like to get 5,000 steps in on my new treadmill at home) and am usually in the office by 7.30am. Our team briefing kicks off at 8, where we run through our projects and individual tasks, so everyone is ready to hit the ground running. 

Our meetings and appointments vary and at times, are dependent on each project – some days we are onsite at a project, visiting suppliers or meeting with a client, and other times we are in the office putting together presentations, proposals, reviewing mock-ups and samples, so it is always inspiring and stimulating.

It is also incredibly important to me that my team are not only inspired by designs they see on Instagram or Pinterest, but they are able to experience it. We are always meeting with suppliers and vendors, going on ‘inspiration excursions’ visiting restaurants and hotels to embrace, celebrate and experience the design, all whilst learning about a city we call home.

Can You Share Your Most Meaningful Milestone Over the Course of Your Career?

There are a number of milestones, and they are all meaningful to me in different ways. Some of the highlights include winning Perspective Magazine's '40 Under 40 Award' in 2017, working with talented designers and mentors like Mathew Lui at HBA and Steve Leung at SLD. The most important milestone would have to be the launch of EM Bespoke; running my own company has been one of the hardest but most rewarding experiences so far, and I am incredibly grateful to be able to work with my team and collaborate with other inspiring designers. 

What Has Been The Biggest Challenge in Running Your Own Studio Over The Past Year?

Rather than looking at the past year as a challenge, I would consider it a learning curve and flexibility has been a constant characteristic for us. We have become more nimble in our approach with our team and clients, in order to adapt to the ever-changing conditions and environment. It is something I am incredibly proud of being able to manage, in order for us to move forward as a business in this day and age. 

What Are Some of Your Professional Goals This Year?

To build and become stronger as a team, not in size but in efficiency. 

If You Had One Piece of Advice to Give to Young Creatives, What Would it Be?

Be flexible and adaptable to changing environments, be creative and never undersell yourself.

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