Riding East

With the opening of Infusion Lounge SF, celebrity designer, Kinney Chan, brings his unique
vision to the Bay—a brazen mixture of East meets West that reinvents ‘tradition’ for the 21st century.

Text by Franklin Melendez

After the Beijing Olympics, it might seem impossible to surpass the rich spectacle of Asian history. The pageantry, the drums, the lattice work… Leave it to celebrity designer, Kinney Chan to find yet another way to reinvent the Far East, providing a unique vision that seamlessly merges ancient mythologies and hand-crafted traditions, modernist austerity and unbridled opulence, all underscored by a penchant for technical innovation.

Since founding Kinney Chan & Associates in 1996, this Hong Kong native has broken every mold in interior design. And, along the way, he’s expanded the possibilities of design and geography. It should come as little surprise that Chan’s education has been an international affair. Earning his degree in the UK, he’s always cultivated a mash-up of allusions, executing traditionally Western forms with Eastern materials, juxtaposing unexpected elements in a cross-cultural dialogue that’s uniquely 21st century. It was this very ambition that inspired him, upon his return to Hong Kong, to found his own interior design company, which has undertaken a dizzying array of projects throughout Asia and abroad, and which has brought Chan a certain celebrity in his own right.

Restrained and soft-spoken, it’s hard to believe Chan is responsible for some pretty awe-inspiring feats of interior magic. Signature projects include the Absolut Icebar/ Aurora Restaurant in Japan. Inspired by the untouched beauty of the Japanese wilderness, the space features raw bamboo latticework and raw wood cabana booths, creating poetic mythological spaces reminiscent of an escape to Wudang Mountain. The same holds true for Boca in Hong Kong’s SoHo. The plush wine bar unfolds with all the pageantry and majesty of the imperial Forbidden City, all lush gold and crimson. But under Chan’s dexterous directions these historical allusions become abstract touches, unexpected geometric forms, that swirl overhead—recalling the past without succumbing to garish literalness or reduction. At Solas, also in Hong Kong, he puts the same spin on Gaelic mythology, utilizing its ancient runes as inspiration for the wall décor, creating swirling patterns that are rapturous, but never veer into stage decoration. With each project as unique as it’s setting, Chan always holds true to his company’s vision and its promise of “creativity and originality.”

It seems fitting that San Francisco’s historic Union Square would provide the setting for Chan’s latest venture, and his first project in the U.S. Just a stone’s throw from the city’s bustling Chinatown, Infusion Lounge is a nod to the West Coast’s rich Asian heritage. Housed in the chic Hotel Fusion, the space brings his unique vision to a new level. The subterranean den features custom furnishings in lush fabrics, mosaic tiled walls and pagoda flares—all offset by futuristic touches such as led illuminated glass columns, lounging beds, and a spectacular 4-foot, full color animated hologram. This is certainly not for the light hearted. So simply sit back and enjoy.
Infusion Lounge, 124 Ellis Street at Powell, San Francisco; www.infusionlounge.com