Self-Portrait Designer Han Chong’s London Home Is a Serene Sanctuary

Julie Vadnal

Long before Marie Kondo encouraged us all to cleanse our homes of things that weren’t sparking joy, fashion designer Han Chong was already living a pared-down, just-the-basics lifestyle in his 5.5-floor London home. “People who come to my place say, ‘How come your house is so minimal?’ Or, ‘Did you just move in?’” he says. “But that’s how I like it. Having a lot of stuff is not very me.”

The Malaysian-born mastermind behind fashion label Self-Portrait actually moved into the concrete-heavy Shoreditch home about three years ago, when he paid more than its asking price to make sure he wouldn’t lose it. “In London, it's either Victorian buildings or, well, there's not a lot of different choices, especially in the area I wanted to live in,” he says. “I had been looking for this type of concrete house in London for quite a while—seven or eight years—so when I found this space I thought, This couldn’t be more perfect.”

Chong transformed an extra bedroom into a library (he mostly reads art books) with a wraparound walkway and staircase. A yellow Gerrit Rietveld chair adds a pop of color against the custom terrazzo floor.

The stand-alone home, built in the 1990s by architect William Russell, gives Chong a sense of calm that counteracts his busy day job, but also inspires him when he works from home. “My schedule is quite crazy, so when I go home, I want it to be a calming place where I can focus,” he says. That meant keeping things simple and not overcomplicating the design.

To create a serene scene, Chong lived in the house for a full year before making any major adjustments with architecture firm Casper Mueller Kneer, who also designed Self-Portrait’s flagship store in London. “I had to live in it for a while to see how I felt, how my life was day by day, and how the light would come in,” he says.

After that, the team went to work and tore down walls to give the cubic concrete slab a warm, airy feel. (Heated floors help, too.) They created hangout zones, and even transformed a second bedroom into a floor-to-ceiling art-book library with a metal wraparound balcony.

The designer sticks to a minimalistic uniform too. “I have jackets, some hoodies, and some T-shirts,” he says. “I buy a little, but I buy good. We don't need that much to live.”

Then came furniture, art, and objects, mostly chosen within a neutral palette and sleek midcentury shapes—all part of Chong’s less-is-more ethos. “I wanted to keep the house quite empty, so you can actually feel the space,” he says.

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Still, he added a few adornments that help him relax: A sleek black daybed on the rooftop is a place where he can gaze at the skyline, and a sunken tub is a chic, soothing spot for catching up on email. In the library, a cream-colored modular sofa is ideal for curling up with a book. The minimalism is all by design. “I only collect the pieces I feel relate to, or are from, a particular design period,” he says. “I don’t have a lot of stuff because I don’t need that many things.” And the things he does have are, well, obviously joy-sparking.

Self-Portrait Designer Han Chong’s London Home Is a Serene Sanctuary

“I spend the most time on the kitchen level because it has the most light,” Self-Portrait designer Han Chong says of his Shoreditch, London, home. “I draw my collections and do my homework there.” A Harp chair by Jørgen Høvelskov—chosen for its airiness and shape—sits nearby.
The kitchen may seem sparse, but Chong insists that he does actually cook. (He learned a year and a half ago from watching YouTube videos.) “When I'm have a day off, I enjoy cooking because it slows down my life a little bit,” he says.
The Tetris-like layout allows for plenty of places for Chong to be creative—or just chill.
Even though he lives alone, Chong says the wooden dining room table gets some serious play when he hosts house parties during London Fashion Week. The ceramic vases along the windowsill came from auctions and his trips to Thailand.
Chong displays a pencil sketch by Louise Bourgeois called Hang On above a landing on the concrete staircase that runs up the house. “I see it when I come home from a chaotic day,” he says. “And it makes me feel a bit better.”
Chong decided to live in the house for a full year before making any renovations, like furnishing his lofted living room, which he calls “a hangout place.” Clean built-in furniture, like black leather banquettes, keep it serene, he says.
“My bedroom is not huge, so I placed a few things I really like in there, and I kept the rest quite minimal,” he says. A Celine blanket, one graphic rug, and a Picasso sketch made the cut.
Chong sometimes sends emails from his sunken tub. “I know,” he says about the risk of dropping his phone in the bath. “But I’m very careful.”
On the same level as the library, a Max Lamb chair mingles with a Mario Bellini modular sofa.
Chong transformed an extra bedroom into a library (he mostly reads art books) with a wraparound walkway and staircase. A yellow Gerrit Rietveld chair adds a pop of color against the custom terrazzo floor.
A Cornelia Baltes painting marks the entrance to the rooftop level, where Chong goes to read and bask in the city views from his Jean Prouvé daybed.

Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest