Max Trullas of MTM Design on Designing His Way Around Asia
Hong Kong/ Urbanite/ Interior Design

Max Trullas of MTM Design on Mapping Out His Creative Vision Across Asia

MTM x The Beat 5

Form and Function is our home to explore the journeys of Hong Kong’s physical makers, the architects and interior designers who create defining spaces we use to party, eat, and live in. Behind every building and room in our architecturally-marvellous city is a master of their profession.

Step foot inside any MTM Design concept, and you’ll find yourself temporarily suspended in another environment that’s part out-of-this-world, and part evocation of your most fond memories.

Founded in 2013 by Barcelona native Max Trullas Moreno, this international company has left its fingerprints everywhere, from Italy to Hong Kong, to Southeast Asia and beyond. With offices in Shanghai and Bangkok, Max has built a bustling network of commercial, hospitality, and corporate works that each burst with a unique personality.

About to pop a cork off for the studio’s tenth anniversary in February 2023, Max sat down under the beautiful hanging garden lights at Sai Ying Pun’s La Paloma to chat to The Beat Asia about his trans-national journey so far, the building blocks underlying his regional expansion, and the route that lies ahead.

MTM Design
MTM Design

“We make projects in Manila, Bali, Ho Chi Minh City, Seoul, Hong Kong, in Italy, and also Shanghai, Chengdu, Shenzhen,” the architecture guru said. Behind this impressive portfolio, it has been fifteen years since Max’s initial trip to Shanghai in 2008. Instantly on arrival he fell in love with the energetic mix of cultural and entrepreneurial buzz of the city.

Having then just freshly graduated from architectural training from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia, he first began collecting experience at a local company in China, all whilst amassing contacts in the food & beverage industry thanks to chance encounters introduced by his brother, chef Willy Trullas Moreno. One restaurant project bled into another, and after five years of referrals and recommendations, Max stepped up to helm a studio of his own.

He had hoped to introduce the Ho Chi Minh arm of MTM Design in 2019 with six strong years under their belt, but the door of opportunity was abruptly closed due to the COVID-19pandemic. However, another door opened, diverting his attention to Bangkok, where he successfully staked foundations for his second office’s branch.

MTM Design
MTM Design

In retracing his steps in expansion, Max recalls that his expeditions usually began with an invitation. “Normally [introductions begin] with someone that I met in Shanghai before, or maybe we've worked together already, and they say: ‘Oh, I'm opening a new restaurant, I would like to work together with you,’ and we say, okay yeah, why not? I would love it! I love to travel, you know. If there's a chance to work anywhere, I'm always happy to explore new countries.”

For Max, the question of ‘where to next?’ holds both the promise of his next eye-opening adventure in travelling, as well as the spark to light a way through to new opportunities and inspiration. “It's always important to understand the context where you're working,” he explains.

“You can see that whatever shop we've done in China is not the same, exactly as a shop in Manila. [Each place shows] a little bit of care about the local culture there, or care about the locals and what they like. We pay attention [to] the context and cultural aspects, and their way of interacting with food.” This immersive research process has also been a vast source of design inspiration, one that Max believes to easily beat out simple browsing from magazines or coffee table books and social media.

MTM Design
MTM Design

Taking on an inside out approach, understanding a client’s inspirations, conceptualizing the venue with the best intentions for both staff and guest experience, are all crucial factors in his design process.

“Together with the client, we like to have a close relationship and dialogue with them. A lot of my clients, they become my friends, because, you know, it's a relationship that will go [on] for at least six months.”

“A restaurant or an F&B project, apart from being beautiful—it also needs to work. It needs to be very well designed, so the staff can make a good job, and they can be happy working there, and they can transmit this energy to the clients.”

His deep understanding of the world of food and cooking began at home, as close involvement with his brother, chef Willy made him privy to the many layers and inner workings that weave together into a fully flourishing restaurant. “We've (Max and Willy) opened our own restaurant (El Willy Kitchen) in Bangkok, so it's always a good showroom, to show to our clients what we are capable of doing. That's something that makes us a bit different. I can offer the expertise of how to make a restaurant work.”

MTM Design

Max’s passions for design and travel are the core drivers that lend themselves towards the symbiotic relationship between his plans for the studio, and headways offered by his clientele. “When you have a project in a country or a city that you like, you have the chance to go work there, but it's fun too! You build relationships with people there and make good friends.” The road ahead sees Max setting his compass to Vietnam, with the studio’s Shanghai and Bangkok offices both welcoming inbound projects of varied persuasions.

Continuing to flit between destinations old and new, coordinates that hold together MTM Design’s reach are tight-knight connections and prudence with every project. “Something that I've learned with all these years is, you need to work hard to get the right team to do the right job. Get a nice, experienced local team, where you work, that's very important, get a good contractor to build it.”

“A good project needs time. It's like wine. Good wine needs time. Good food needs time. You want to eat the proper chicken, that chicken [needs to have] a good life. Fast food chicken didn't have a good life!”

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Enjoyed this article? Check out our previous Form and Function interviews here.

Get the latest curated content with The Beat Asia's newsletters. Sign up now for a weekly dose of the best stories, events, and deals delivered straight to your inbox. Don't miss out! Click here to subscribe.

This Week's Events In Hong Kong View more

Sign up to receive updates on what's going on in the city. Don't miss out on exciting events, news, and more. Sign up today!

By submitting your email, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Notice
Thank you for subscribing! Click here if you were not redirected.