Interview with Zoe Lee, Founder of Dexign Matter Studio, Canada

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Zoe Lee

Zoe is a believer in functional and aesthetically pleasing designs that address the problems on hand while also encompassing the client’s goal.

Interview with the 2020 MUSE Design Awards Winner - Zoe Lee

1Please give us a brief bio of yourself and your design background.

I am Zoe Lee and I have 15 years of experience working on high-end projects all over the globe: Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Toronto, New York. I have previously worked for some of the top interior design firms in Asia and Canada such as Kokaistudios, Eco- ID, Burdifilek, and Tongtong +.

Throughout my working career I have had the privilege to be part of successful and interesting design projects: Indigo bookstore, Mackage, The Plant Queen West in North America; Toni & guy salon, St Regis Hotel, Renaissance Hotel some high-end residential projects in Asia to name a few. Some of these projects also drew recognition in both local and international awards.

2What made you become/why did you choose to become a designer/artist?

I love to draw since I was 10 and I knew I will be a designer one day. I was attracted to design and home decor as a child and this validates my early "eye" that has developed over time.

Being a designer gives me immense opportunities to influence the lives of people thru the spaces that I create. I see these spaces interact with them and in turn enhance their life thru their experiences with the built environment.

3 Tell us more about your business/company, job profile, and what you do.

Dexign Matter is a Toronto based studio specializing in interior design, including residential, hospitality, commercial and retail environments.

Our focus has never been in any one specific market segment, but the goal is simply to deliver creative design solutions for clients and their spaces.

We pride ourselves in producing quality works with our enthusiasm, passion, skill and determination.

4What does “design” mean to you?

Design to me is all about the end result. How it can address a design problem on hand and creating a perfect solution that encompasses a client’s goals with functionality and aesthetics.

5What’s your favorite kind of design and why?

Complete renovation from the ground up. This kind of design projects allows me to think freely where I can have a fresh canvas to work with.

6To you, what makes a “good” design?

I believe great designs change the way how people live, dine, play, love and even change the world we live in.

7Describe your design style and its main characteristics.

I love exploring the juxtaposition of materials, colors, forms and patterns. A multi-layered, stimulating sensory experience is at the center of my design approach.

Provocative concepts and expressive narratives are typical signature in my extensive body of work. I believe that “every space should sing & dance”.

8Tell us about your design process.

The first stage of any process is to clarify project parameters. This is the part where we dive deep into getting to know our client and the design problem. We ask important questions from which we form key words, ideas or topics that will define our design.

We then focus on creating a design narrative which I call the “spirit of the project’. Since every clientele and project is different each project always has its own unique story.

Once we have established a concept, we continue to collaborate with the client and consultants to further develop the ideas into a concrete solution.

9Do you think your country and its cultural heritage has an impact on your design process?

Not very much, but it’s important to respect and safeguard all cultural heritage

10Congratulations! As the winner of the 2020 MUSE Design Awards, what does it mean to you and your company and team to receive this award distinction?

Receiving this recognition from MUSE is an honor and is critical to the continued success of our business.

11Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the 2020 MUSE Design Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?

The Cube Nail Lab to me was an example of how a meticulously curated space can provide a perfect built environment for the end users.

With a tight interior space to begin with, it was imperative that the design was laid out in a way that would maximize every inch of the space and provide the utmost planning efficiency.

In this project. we also had the benefit of establishing from scratch the client’s brand and image. This presented us the unique opportunity to come up with our “grid” concept which is the very essence and spirit of this nail spa. It also showed how we can combine branding elements into a space.

12What was the biggest challenge with this project?

The project had a limited budget and a very short timeline.

13How has winning an Award developed your practice/career?

This award will enable me to establish and build a stronger foundation for my studio.

To be recognized for my work in the interior design industry is truly incredible! Muse Award is geared for today’s designers and being a part of this story is something that I’m can be proud of.

14What are your top three (3) favorite things about our industry?

Turning ideas into reality

Making things look good

Improving the quality of life and business thru design

15What makes your country specifically, unique in the design industry?

Canada is known for its diversity. This is evident and can be seen in the design industry as well thru the design influences coming from people of diverse backgrounds.

16 Where do you see the evolution of design industry going over the next 5-10 years?

I think design is ever evolving. History will tell us that design styles goes thru cycles and certain look will be a fad from time to time.

However one thing constant is that tangible things always dictate how the design industry adapts thru the years.

Also with the pandemic that is going on right now, I do see that technology will be a big part of our industry in the next few years. Working and collaborating online can be the norm; this will in some ways make us work more efficient.

17If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring MUSE Design Awards submitter, what advice would you give them?

Be bold, be confident. Win or lose, they should be proud of their work.

18What resources would you recommend to someone who wants to improve their skills in the design industry?

Join a professional association in your field. In a group setting, you have the opportunity to converse with colleagues about your industry and to discover skills you may want to develop.

Furthermore, if you have an opportunity to find a mentor, someone that you can truly respect and trust, build relationships with them. The advice and experience you get from them is immeasurable.

19Tell us something you have never told anyone else.

I get lost easily. I mean… without a navigator, as I have a terrible sense of direction.

20Who has inspired you in your life and why?

Kelly Wearstler

Kelly is a master at selecting colors and textures. Design narrative is constant and can be seen throughout her designs. She has and continues to inspire me to break boundaries and try something new, find our own voice and get out of a comfort zone.

21What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?

Enjoy the journey. If you are doing something exciting and you really love, you don’t need to be pushed.

22Do you have anything else you would like to add to the interview?

It is truly an honor to receive the MUSE Award for our project, The Cube Nail Lab. Thank you MUSE.

Winning Entries

The Cube Nail Lab | 2020

The Cube Nail Lab | MUSE Design Awards

The Cube Nail Lab located in Toronto Canada, is characterized by its interior, where the walls, floor and ceiling are covered in a...
(read more at MUSE Design Awards)

Dexign Matter Studio

Dexign Matter is an independent creative interior design Studio based in Toronto, helping clients to create engaging and successful spaces.