With a combination of primitive and contemporary designs, Jin Chen of ECRU Studio creates timeless interiors in which materiality plays an important role. The Taiwanese designer was able to turn his passion for antiques into a success story.
Before he founded ECRU Studio, Jin Chen worked in the music industry for quite a few years. However, he wasn’t able to just shake off his other great passion, design, and in 2014 he opened an antique shop in his hometown Taipei. He took care of the interior design himself and received high praise for it, resulting in many requests for commercial projects that followed shortly afterwards. Yet it still took some years before a real design studio was formed. ‘Back then, we didn’t have a name for the company, not even an office. We discussed our designs in cafes or at my antique store,’ Chen tells us. Last year ECRU Studio was officially established and its founder now works with a small team of designers, architects and decorators. Linking their projects to a certain style is not easy, nor is it the goal of this Taiwanese design studio. Rather, it’s important to share what they stand for, which is pure and honest design that always strikes a balance between classic and modern elements. To get to know them better, we talked to the founder. Jin Chen tells us more about the creation of ECRU, his sources of inspiration and the future he has in mind for the studio. What role did art and design play in your early years?
‘I have always loved two things since I was a kid: music and space. I started to learn the piano and the guitar when I was 12. From ages 18 to 27 I worked behind the scenes in the music industry. Since elementary school when all the other kids were reading comic books, I started ordering interior design books from other countries. Starting from senior high school, I often solo-travelled to see the beautiful spaces of my favourite designers and architects in person.’
What was your first ‘WOW’ experience with architecture or design?
‘At the age of 18, I visited the St. Mary’s Cathedral in Tokyo by Kenzo Tange for the first time. The mottled concrete wall, the geometric ceiling shape, the scattered sky lights and the interlaced light and shadow. They are all primitive, sacred and solemn. Even until now, when travelling to Tokyo, I will always squeeze time out to visit the cathedral.’
Timeless interiors in which materiality plays an important role.
When did you realise you wanted to be a designer?
‘I had never thought of becoming an interior designer until I opened my own shop ‘Delicate Antique’ at the age of 27 and did the interior design myself. In that same year, others asked for my help in designing and that kicked off my dream in becoming an interior designer.’
What does the name ‘ECRU’ stand for?
‘It means ‘beige’ in French, which is a very neutral colour. It’s a bit primitive, dirty and imperfect. However, it contains great possibilities and tolerance. This is the state I hope we can achieve in our designs as well.’
How would you describe your style?
‘Timeless, between primitive and modern. I would also describe my style as finding the balance within a conflict.’ What is your design philosophy?
‘My personality and preferences are contradictory and conflicting. I guess this reflects the design philosophy of my studio. Our design is primitive and fusion. We emphasise the proportion of the material itself with the design, and not by adding complicated and fancy designs. We try to find the balance in conflict, and the stability in the bold when it comes to soft decorations and customised furniture.’
Which other designers do you look up to and why?
‘We prefer essential things, such as the primitive and purity of Axel Vervoordt, the minimalism of Vincent Van Duysen and John Pawson. These artists all have a great influence on us. Furnishing and artworks are areas that we are passionate about and value. Atelier AM, Pierre Yovanovitch and Giancarlo Valle are also designers that we deeply admire and who utilise furniture and art to the max and even create amazing furniture themselves. We also appreciate the designers from back in the fifties and sixties who focussed on designing furniture, such as Jean-Michel Frank, Pierre Chapo and Jean Royère.’
What do you still hope to achieve with ECRU Studio?
‘In our first few years, I hope to boldly explore and try different aspects with my colleagues. I do not wish that we shape ourselves too soon, not until we find the most suitable right path. Perhaps it is only when we find our own style, we will step into our next stage. However, we might never be shaped and continuously try new things. I think this is something quite interesting. Furniture design and artistic creation are areas that I personally look forward to developing. I always thought that I can never design anything alone. Therefore, teamwork is very important. Future new members of ECRU will all influence our development. This is something I look forward to.’ The images we show here are of T House, the first residential project of Chen and his team. This 150 square metre house is situated on a mountain not far from the financial district of Taipei. The designer tells us that it was a nice challenge to try out other combinations and materials and to decorate the house with pieces of furniture and decoration of different styles and periods. We see several vintage pieces by Borge Mørgensen, Giancarlo Piretti, Pierre Chapo and Ingvar Hildingsson among others, next to more modern designs. Some custom-made items have also been added. The result is indeed a nicely balanced whole that radiates purity and honesty. We are already looking froward to see more of the undoubtedly equally fascinating projects that Jin Chen will be realising with ECRU Studio in the years to come.
This interview was originally published in Imagicasa Autumn 2020. To read the full interview and discover more about T House, you can still order this issue through our webshop.
Images courtesy of ECRU Studio
Photography by Suiyu Studio