In this edition of ‘How to Succeed‘, we speak to Luke Fehon, founder and chairman of luxury property developer, Fuin, on his philosophy of design, the importance of spaces and his success bringing those concepts into his clients’ lives.
Luke Fehon wants us all to be more aware of our surroundings.
“Design is not a frivolity, architecture is not just a practicality,” says Fehon. “The spaces we inhabit have a material impact on our sense of well-being and we should all be mindful of and prioritise this if we wish to live full and happy lives.”
It’s more than just talk for Fehon, who has walked the walk, spending his life and career developing mindful and meaningful surroundings — both interior and exterior — to enrich the lives of his clientele.
Last year, Fuin opened AMOMA Hiroo, a tranquil residential sanctuary in Tokyo in partnership with an all-star lineup of interior designers, stylists and landscaping masters.
“AMOMA Hiroo has been a labour of love that conveys our view on contemporary Japanese living,” says Fehon. “Combining the aesthetics of Katayama-san of Wonderwall with the furniture collections of Liaigre creates points of contrast aesthetically and culturally which come together to form a delicate balance that is at the same time engaging and calming.”
As of this summer, Hongkongers can experience the gentle calming energy and modernist Japanese features of the property by way of a showroom at Pacific Place in Admiralty. Channeling the feel of AMOMA Hiroo without outright replicating it, the showroom also houses art from Alexander Calder, Tracey Emin and others from the region, while doubling as a showroom for French luxury interior design atelier, Liaigre.
“[The space] is both engaging and challenges your pre-conceived notions whilst putting you absolutely at ease,” adds Fehon.
We caught up with Fehon to take us through the journey that brought him to found Fuin, his day-to-day routine and his own philosophy about design.
Tell us a little bit about your background — how did you enter this industry? Was there a moment or event that really influenced you to transition from luxury real estate into founding Fuin?
I have always been passionate about real estate; even as a child I would spend my time wandering the tree-lined streets of the Upper East Side in New York admiring the amazing architecture of the mansions of the gilded age. There was a quality and substance to that work which I think has been lost in many contemporary attempts at residential construction over the past several decades. I saw this as a challenge to create something of that standard which would endure the tests of time.
AMOMA is our response to this and I believe we have exceeded even our own expectations in terms of the quality of the product and the experience we are offering our clientele. I am confident that the homes we deliver to our clients will be admired by someone like myself in a hundred years from now.
How does the Japanese customer differ from the Hong Kong customer?
This is perhaps worthy of an essay so I am not sure I can do this justice. Both cultures are dense and complicated, perhaps the key difference in dealing with Japanese clients is that every interaction is nuanced and you must be attuned to this in order to gain the understanding required of your customer to ensure you are meeting their needs. We hold ourselves to exacting standards so this is the common theme that I believe resonates with our clientele, regardless of nationality.
What is the primary philosophy of Fuin?
I believe that the spaces we inhabit have a significant impact on our emotions. It is the curation of those spaces through intentional design and attention to detail that allow us to craft environments that enhance our lives and well-being.
How have you curated your own life in spaces and what you fill them with?
My homes in London, Hong Kong and Tokyo are both a reflection of me and the cultures in which they sit. A home cannot exist in isolation; it must have a sense of place and awareness of the city in which it sits. The objects and art in my homes have been collected over years of travel and experiences so they all evoke specific memories of time spent with my loved ones.
Speaking of these things you’ve collected along the way, is there a particular prize possession that stands out among them?
An alabaster and gold box by Achilles Salvagni that was an anniversary gift from my husband and contains a collection of precious mementos which continues to grow.
Who is one person who has been instrumental in your success?
I couldn’t possibly succeed in this business without the support of my entire team. There are twelve people in our senior management group between Tokyo and Hong Kong, and each and every one of them is essential to the success of our endeavour. What sets them apart is an unmatched work ethic and determination — no matter what challenge is faced or hardship needs to be overcome, they truly never give up. I am so incredibly proud of all of them and it is truly a privilege to lead them day in and day out.
What’s one of the key challenges that taught you an important lesson?
When a partner fails to meet their commitments to you. Apart from the financial pressure this puts on the business, this is hugely disappointing on a personal level. It reminds us that the people we surround ourselves with are so key to the success of the endeavour and is an opportunity to reflect on and ensure that all involved in the business are fully committed.
What did you wish you knew at the start of your career that you know now?
Sometimes even when you’re right, you’re wrong. By this, I mean you really need to pick your battles. There are key principles that should never be lost in the shuffle and which are worth arguing over, but letting go of some of the little things can sometimes be in everyone’s best interest, or at the very least save you some grey hairs.
Your crucial tip for productivity? How do you find balance?
I am not sure if I should be espousing advice on this point. Myself and my team are switched on seven days a week. We do not have a concept of work-life balance because we live and breathe this, day in and day out. My tip is do what you love and you will not need to force yourself to be productive, but rather maybe remind yourself at times you’ve earned a brief respite.
What do you like to do when you’re not working, how does it help you or how does it make you feel?
I love to travel and discover new places, take in architecture and design and just enjoy nature. I love yachting and probably the most relaxed you will ever find me would be on a yacht in a secluded bay somewhere in the Mediterranean enjoying a sunset with my husband and a handful of my closest friends.
What does an average work day look like for you?
I am up at 5:45am, every single day. I spend just over an hour catching up on emails that have come in overnight, whilst getting my first coffee of the day, and then I hop on my first calls from 7:00 until 9:00am — I try to keep all of my calls to a maximum of thirty minutes each. I am then in the office reviewing drawings and design proposals until 11:30am.
I eat an early lunch and am back at my desk by 12:30pm.
My afternoons are typically meeting time with my team to review what’s been done in the morning. I am religious about seeing my trainer every afternoon at 4:00pm; this is my time to quiet my mind.
I am home by 6:00pm and eating an early dinner. After dinner I am back to work, responding to emails and reviewing the afternoon work product of the team. By 10:00pm, I’m exhausted and off to sleep to make sure I get my seven hours, 45 minutes of nightly sleep.
I thrive in a structured environment, so I try as much as possible to not deviate.
Tell us about a significant point where you truly began to feel recognised; that you’ve “made it”.
It’s the smiles on the faces of our clients and their families when we walk them through the homes we have dedicated years to designing that really gives us a sense of how we are impacting people’s lives for the better. Then, we have achieved what we set out to do.
What’s the most important aspect, trait or criteria for someone to succeed?
Determination. You will inevitably be doubted, questioned and criticised, and the more successful you become, the more of this type of noise there will be around you. Filtering this out and remaining focused and determined in the face of this is what sets apart those who truly succeed and those who wonder what might have been.
AMOMA Hiroo showroom, Suite 1320-22, Two Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty, Hong Kong, +852 2813 6100