As one of Hong Kong’s best-known “ecopreneurs,” Bobsy Gaia seems to live and breathe the lifestyle he promotes through Mana! Fast Slow Food and his Able Charity. The founder of carbon footprint-conscious and vegan restaurants, as well as re-forestation projects and charities in Hong Kong, renovated a studio apartment in Sheung Wan, working with designer Candace Campos on the revamp. Candace was also responsible for the laid-back, eco-conscious, island-style vibe at Mana! Fast Slow Food.
“This was the second time I’d worked with Bobsy, so there was a level of trust,” says Candace of the Sheung Wan residential project. “They trusted me, even when they couldn’t visualise what I was proposing,” she says of Bobsy and his girlfriend.
Their faith in Candace was evidently well founded; the resulting studio apartment has a comfortable, cool sense of style. A dining, living and kitchen area takes up most of the flat’s 750 sq ft, with a bed set to one side on a raised, engineered wood platform, and a divider with an arched window separating the main living space from a dressing area and small balcony. Natural light fills every part of the home.
Candace worked mostly with concrete, oak wood and white stucco, to give the apartment a pared-down, industrial look. “Bobsy likes a combination of raw, natural, organic and eco,” says the designer, who used eco-friendly paints, recycled and FSC-certified wood, and recycled or locally sourced tiles. “We kept it very raw,” she adds.
The kitchen is especially raw – and especially striking. The surfaces and the framework for the cabinets are all made of concrete, while the cabinet doors are recycled wood. “We created the [structural] forms, then laid the concrete, then added the cabinet doors,” says Candace of the process. “Typically we don’t use a lot of wood on kitchen cabinetry, because it warps, but the clients understood this. They liked the rustic feel and the organic way it changes shape over time.”
As well as using concrete in the kitchen, Candace applied it in the bathroom to create a bathtub inspired by the Japanese ofurò, “so they can really sink into it,” says the designer. Many Hongkongers will recognise the charcoal-coloured tiles on the bathroom floor, too: these are the same tiles that line the floors at Mana! “We loved the cobblestone feel,” she says of this choice. “We got these in Bali for the cafe, and there were so many left over. They’ve been sitting on Bobsy’s roof until now.”
The same tiles also adorn the balcony floor, while pretty, blue-and-white painted tiles sourced in Wan Chai add a decorative touch on the balcony wall. To bring an element of green to the street-facing side of the building’s exterior, Bobsy and Candace installed pocketed plant pots under each window. They incorporated other eco items inside the flat, such as furniture from Tree, an environmentally friendly water filter and light bulbs that Bobsy imported for their longevity and energy-saving abilities.
Each of the eco features has been seamlessly incorporated into the apartment, adding to rather than diminishing the flat’s urban style. And, judging by Candace’s happy demeanour when talking about this project, it was a pleasure to create a home that is both earth-conscious and beautiful.
Photography: Edgar Tapan
Styling: Candace Campos