Heart on the Wheel

Design studio A Work of Substance distills the essence of the automobile for a sensual hideaway dedicated to the art and pleasures of driving

Words Patrick Kasingsing
Images Dennis Lo

For a space populated with high-octane, four-wheeled objets d’art, A Work of Substance’s The Library lulls one to slow down, linger and take in the sights.

Automotive mecca

A sense of quiet anticipation builds with one’s arrival at the 50’s era-inspired ground floor entrance, its ribbed metal walls appearing to vibrate with the movement of light. A few floors up, away from the drudgeries of daily existence, the doors finally open and one comes face to face with a sumptuous den-slash-garage where wood, steel, and leather come together in a symphonic whole. The metallic sheen of the space’s collection of four-wheeled denizens, which include a Mercedes 300SL Gullwing and an Aston Martin DB5, wink at the visitor as luscious leather seats offer rest and the perfect vantage point by which to admire the mechanical beasts on display. Mirrored walls and ceilings further the expanse of the space, regularly bisected by a regiment of timber bracing, whose rigid rhythm call to mind automotive machinery. A honey-hued glow imbues the space with an atmosphere more akin to a midcentury gentlemen’s club than a garage. Carefully crafted for an intensely private client, this is a man cave for all intents and purposes. Trust the folks of A Work of Substance however to take their homework a step further and really tinker under the hood for this one-of-a-kind commission.

“Our design creates a platform to preserve the beauty of the past
and celebrate the emotions of the future.”

Emotion in motion

The automobile was invented to speed up travel from one point to another, ushering in an age of technological advancement where the clutches of time over movement are loosened. “Our design creates a platform to preserve the beauty of the past and celebrate the emotions of the future,” the Sheung Wan-based team shares. Substance’s interior concept communicates this narrative with gusto, showcasing equal parts the ingenuity and craftsmanship that enabled the automobile, but also a harkening for a bygone age. But before they can unpack their spatial storytelling and transport their client into his private automotive mecca, they had to contend with some real-world problems.

Housed in the former vertical car park of a nearby office development, the team had to contend with not a few structural constraints. “A key challenge of this project is the low ceiling and narrow space, which also poses the question of how to create interesting lighting and viewing of the client’s car collection in a space that does not really allow you to walk around,” The team at Substance shares. “We transformed the interiors into a space for exhibition and social interaction by crafting a skeleton rib system–the backbone of the project. The timber framework on the sides of the space function as structural braces and interfaces between objects within the room, allowing for display, storage, and the mounting of polished stainless steel panels.” Coupled with the mirrored panels and the dim lighting, the team successfully cloaked the space’s modest real estate and lack in verticality, imbuing it with calculated coziness and intimacy.

Details, details

The team at A Work of Substance has always had a knack for thoughtful details and impeccable craftsmanship in their designs, borne from a multidisciplinary approach that covers everything from interior design to branding. “We wanted to get to the essence of a car,” the team shares, taking off from this concept and imbuing the interiors with a mechanical, modular quality, a conglomeration of moving parts that made for an attractive whole. Wood, steel, leather, and canvas finish walls, drawers, cabinetry, and seats. Aerodynamic shapes also abound, from the timber bracing that lines the space’s walls to the ridged steel panels in the ground floor entry. Storage spaces abound and incorporate modularity to accommodate the client’s growing collection of automotive memorabilia. Thoughtful detailing that would have been kitsch if done without finesse includes cabinetry handles that pay homage to legendary Italian coachbuilder Zagato, and a seat inspired by the iconic Ferrari Dino. Lighting fixtures take on car head and taillight shapes. The Substance team made sure no metaphor or homage gets mistranslated; there really is no doubting the owner’s obsessions.

The journey continues

The Library isn’t your ordinary rich man’s garage; while the attractions are clearly the prized drives on display, the space housing them is no mere shell; it is a mirror, both in literal and metaphysical terms, of the things and qualities that drive the man behind the wheel, a reflection of his achievements and inspirations. Surrounded by the objects that stir his passion, the owner has Substance to thank for opening the door to the driver’s seat to a journey that thrills and chills in equal measure. •

Project Team

Designer A Work Of Substance
Area 569 square meters
Completion Date 2021
Scope of Work Interior, Products

All Substance, no filler at aworkofsubstance.com

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