Glamour, luxury, intrigue—all of the qualities expected in a venue frequented by an international man of mystery. And Foxglove, a new British-inspired speakeasy on Duddell Street in the Central District of Hong Kong, serves them up in cinematic style.
Of course, evoking the air of a retro-style yacht—with a secret service agent comfortably ensconced in one of its staterooms—was precisely the aim of Foxglove’s designer, wunderkind Nelson Chow, when conceptualizing the 4,300-square-foot lounge. The latest project on a swiftly expanding list of restaurants, bars, and shops created by Chow’s Hong Kong–based firm, NC Design & Architecture, Foxglove stands as the most recent expression of what he and his team refer to as “exclusive brand narratives.”
“We focus on engaging through storytelling, developing new ways for people to interact with their world and each other,” Chow says of the philosophy that drives his work. In this case, the storyline behind Foxglove’s highly honed interiors revolves around the adventures of an imaginary high-living, globe-trotting British gentleman. Named after the favorite—but potentially deadly—flower of the jet setter’s latest lover, Foxglove’s fantasy world unfolds behind a “secret door” in the Fox Shop, a walk-through umbrella boutique that serves both as a front and passageway to the hidden lounge beyond.
Subtle entry sequence
With a push of the carved silver handle on one of the shop’s many Fox brand umbrellas—which glisten like jewels within “Kingsman-secret-service-style” brass-edged glass cabinets—the secret entrance slides open to reveal a luxurious inner sanctum of plush rooms and custom furnishings with bespoke details like those in the first-class cabin of a luxury vintage yacht or train. Beneath the glow of nautical-style lights punctuating an arched lacquered ceiling, it’s easy to imagine James Bond at the edge of the silver-gray marble-topped bar flanking the perimeter of the heart of the space. Here, and in the adjoining 80-seat main lounge with its big-band-inspired musician’s stage, a dark, rich material palette—ink blue leather seating, chocolate brown oak panelling, brushed brass details—sets a covert, alluring, and decidedly masculine mood.
Meticulously crafted variations on these design choices, along with some trompe l’oeil trickery, advance the narrative in deeper reaches of the setting. The luxury vehicle vernacular, for example, extends into a VIP room, where custom light fixtures that are reminiscent of classic car headlamps highlight sumptuous blood-red leather upholstered banquettes and club chairs for 32 private guests beneath a ribbed high-gloss ceiling. In another VIP room, which is accessed by pressing a traditional floral painting until it glows—cuing the bartender to open the door— plush leather and velvet club chairs placed around low tables echo the ambience of a library in a classic 19th-century English gentlemen’s club. With an updated nod to old-school British style, crisp stained oak millwork sets a subdued, intimate tone. Other intonations of a bygone era—a marble bar, an emerald green palette, crystal decanters, and wide-plank herringbone-patterned wood floors—are enlivened with fresh witty twists, such as crystal-ball-like table lamps and wooden bookshelves that ascend the walls and wrap across the ceiling.
Known for tailoring his projects down to the finest details, Chow also crafted graphics and custom products for the venue, including pedestal sinks in the ship-cabin-style washrooms, retro-inspired signage, and a propeller-like medallion behind the stage. “For us, storytelling is the art of inspiration,” Chow says. “Our projects exist at the intersection of art and architecture and help start creative collaborations, stimulate interesting conversations, and deliver projects with their own visual identity that tell a unique story.”
By considering both local and global approaches to a design problem and reworking old elements to meld them with new ones, the Foxglove interior is truly distinct, with formal simplicity, substantial materials, and sublime, functional details. Chow created an immersive environment that pushes the limits of an established typology in new ways.
who Interior designer: NC Design & Architecture. Project team: Alexander Chan; Flora Chan; Nelson Chow; Xavier Chow; Isabella Ducoli; Daniel Nikolovski; Johan Hovgaard Simonsen; Julian Wong. Graphics: Whatever Workshop; Salina Chow. what Custom furnishings/ products/ lighting: NC Design & Architecture.