X + Living recently completed the firm's fifth branch for Zhongshuge, a successful book store chain in China. The latest location, in Yangzhou, is a 10,000-square-foot ode to print, featuring curved shelves that carry tomes up to the ceiling and painted-wood bookcases shaped to look like houses. This playful concept is the vision of the firm’s principal, Li Xiang, who since forming the studio in 2011 has won accolades including Interior Design’s Best of Year award in 2016.
ID: When it comes to retail projects, what is your approach?
LX: I consider the meaning of the goods being sold, and try find the most interesting perspective on the items to present to customers.
ID: What have you learned about running a practice that you didn’t know when you started out?
LX: When facing a problem, we need to find a solution, but that does not mean we should change our design.
ID: Where did you grow up, and how did it influence your work?
LX: I went to Malaysia for high school, and after that to the U.K. Being in touch with different cultures in different countries helped me become more open-minded and ambitious.
ID: What are a few recent projects?
LX: Our recent projects are a boutique hotel, a children's playground, and a reconstruction of a commercial street. I also have my own furniture brand, so I'm busy in R&D for new products with my team.
ID: Which projects are you most proud of and why?
LX: I'm satisfied with the works we have done so far—I love discovering the story behind each project, paying attention to the design details, and presenting our clients and customers with the best works. One thing I'm excited about is that we just created our own moderately priced furniture brand, Xiangcasa, to help people enjoy the original design of furniture.
ID: Latest design obsession?
LX: Joints and lighting.
ID: A secret source you’re willing to share?
LX: I like sitting in the car, driving in Shanghai’s French Concession neighborhood with sycamore trees passing on both sides, just to feel the city.
ID: Favorite destination?
ID: Most admired historic interior?
LX: Anything by Antoni Gaudí.
ID: Best thing about your job?
LX: My cat loves to jump on my keyboard and tap out “sentences.”