Zekai Zhang is a Chinese interior designer and the founder of Letron Co., a Beijing-based luxury residential design studio. Through materiality, lighting and colours, Zekai believes luxury homes should go beyond aesthetic to optimise interaction between individuals and space. Curious and full of ideas, Zekai loves exploring in daily life and the outside world, and applies sensory experience in his design.
Are you a serene person?
Unfortunately I am far from whom I would like to be. Living in Beijing, one of the busiest cities in the world, the fast-paced lifestyle is difficult for me to maintain a serene status. However I do try to calm myself down and free my mind whenever I am able to, as I think that is imperative to be healthy both mentally and physically.
What does serene living mean to you?
I think serene living to me means I am in control of my work and life; I am able to adjust my own pace and I am not interfered with outside chaos.
What would you do when you need a moment of serenity?
When I need a moment of serenity, I would just simply turn off my phone for a few hours and relax at home. As a business owner, I constantly receive messages or calls, which sometimes can be overwhelming. Some quiet time at home is definitely helpful, so I can read a book, water my plants etc.
If time allows, I would drive to a national park. Change of scenery always works, so I could temporarily leave the stress in daily life behind. I remembered one time I was particularly stressed as I was on multiple projects in parallel, so I went to a park for a walk. There were very few people at the time as it was drizzling. I was walking uphill and I smelled soil and grass, which made me feel so calm. That was indeed a moment of serenity.
Are you a tea lover? What is your favourite tea?
Yes I like drinking tea, especially oolong tea. FYI I am also a coffee lover.
Do you have a daily ritual?
I do journaling to note down my design ideas. I think it is very important for designers to record their thoughts and observations particularly the ones found in small moments.
Additionally I leave some time to take care of my plants everyday. I am not sure whether this is called a ritual, but I enjoy seeing them growing. I also have a weekly flower delivery to my flat and the freshness and colours of the flowers always light up my mood.
How do you curate calm and serene space?
Serene and relaxing space is the key to home design as home is supposed to be the place anyone is able to fully take off their baggage and chill. Smart lighting systems which allow you to change the brightness and colours for different environments and needs are very helpful, for instance you could dimmer the light whenever you feel like a cozy time.
Moreover I would encourage to use more natural materials, such as stucco, natural wood and leather especially for space with relaxation purposes. I also love materials reflecting oriental styles, like Japanese Washi paper and carbonised bamboo, which are superb to bring a Zen feeling.
Take one of my previous projects as an example, I put a fireplace in this living room to bring warmth and coziness. Watching dynamic flame is actually very therapeutic. We also pay a great attention to the direction of windows and plants in the garden. So we could make sure our client is able to see the plants outside windows in the four seasons no matter where she sits in the living room.
The next picture is a bedroom that I designed for a different client. Instead of having a main light, I used multiple sources of smart lighting on the bedside, head of the bed etc. to meet the need of a bedroom used at different times of the day. I used a lot of black walnut timber in this project and I love the grain, which perfectly added a touch of nature to this flat.
Do you have any recommendations on creating serenity for smaller space?
Of course, serene living is not limited to big houses or expensive decorations. I love diffusers a lot. Also it is important to improve humidity at home as most of the time our homes are too dry which could adversely affect our bodies. In addition, I also recommend having plants at home, again they do not necessarily have to be big ones.
How would you design a tea room?
I probably would design a tea room with many Japanese elements. I think the tea room should not be too complicated but I will choose a room with good natural lighting and a big window. So people could enjoy the view while drinking tea. I will also use more natural materials such as wood and bamboo.
Lastly, please give three serene living advice to our readers.
Firstly, try to be with nature more especially for people who live in big cities. I feel sometimes we focus on short-term things too much and being in nature could make us think more broadly.
Secondly, use most of your energy, time and money on what makes you feel genuinely happy and comfortable, instead of doing anything because of peer pressure or other’s opinions.
The third advice is to value your feelings and value yourself. Serene living would only be sustainable when you are truly content with yourself.
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