Stepping into Kevin Chu and his wife Giulia Dibonaventura’s airy and open abode is like falling in love.
Everything feels just right – the colours are in perfect harmony, the composition of the furniture and accessories flows, and as your eyes are drawn across the calming sea views of the marina, you feel completely at peace. Sustainable materials fill the space and seamlessly integrate the outdoor surrounds with the interiors, resulting in a relaxing vibe that runs throughout.
This eco-conscious couple, who designed their home together, wanted to make sure the space reflected their lifestyle. Born and raised in Italy, Giulia was familiar with recycling from a young age, when everything was given a second life before it was thrown away. As an architect and founder of COC Design – a firm that specialises in ecological design – Kevin shares that ever since COC was awarded a prize for conceptual architecture focusing on the environment in 2011, he has been moving more and more in this direction. Arguably, COC Design is one of the only studios in Hong Kong that practices eco-design, and Kevin says that the main reason for this is not business, but the environment. "Giulia was also a major influence," says Kevin. Therefore, when they bought this apartment, it was only natural that they wanted the design to be as environmentally-friendly as possible.
"I told Giulia that I wanted everything to be fake in this apartment," explains Kevin. "That meant no real wood and no stone. Nowadays, technology in architecture is so good at mimicking that you don’t need to chop down a tree to feel like you have a piece of wood in your home – you can make something instead. It’s the idea that we shouldn’t need to keep destroying the environment."
The materials he has chosen throughout the the three-bedroom flat are awe-inspiring. Kevin has chosen a recycled particle porcelain (made from construction waste that has been ground down and compressed into a tile with a digitally printed texture on top) for all the floor and wall tiles, and an art piece by Kevin depicting Giulia has been constructed from timber scraps. Aspenite (similar to particle board) has been used in the living room wall while a cork wall has been installed in the master bedroom for its properties of rawness and warmth. The use of recycled materials also extends to the pieces of furniture – the living room bookshelf is made of styrofoam and the pendant lights are made from recycled cardboard stacked together and laser cut into shape.
"The recycling board is something that I thought about 12 years ago in Hong Kong and I tried to pitch it to clients but nobody liked it," recalls Kevin. "Now they are doing it in many shops but I still haven’t seen it used in residential projects." Citing countries in Europe such as Italy and Germany as really leading the way, Kevin recounts his amazement whenever he visits and observes their design practices. "Most people don’t use interior designers and yet, their homes are filled with fresh and visionary eco-conscious ideas." Giulia shares these sentiments: "There’s an artisan in my hometown who makes wooden frames for windows and he uses the leftover bits to create beautiful objects. We were able to bring back some of these ideas and try as much as possible to be consistent and coherent with our design approach."
Kevin and Giulia have converted the spacious rooftop into a vegetable garden, stocked with four planting beds, as well as a vertical herb garden on the wall. They admit they initially knew nothing about gardening, so it has been a continuous learning process but the fruits of their labour are obvious. "Kevin is mainly in charge of the rooftop," says Giulia. "The rooftop and the living room has to be our favourite part of the home.”
As a champion of green living, Kevin reveals there is still a lot of work to be done. "We aren’t so advanced here. For the rooftop, we thought about using turbines to generate power for the whole house but that is illegal here. We thought about using solar power too but that wasn’t allowed either. There are a lot of things I would have pushed a lot further if there weren’t so many restrictions."
Photography: Edgar Tapan