Living green

When couple Kevin Chu and Giulia Dibonaventura designed their 1,300-square-foot, two-storey home in Discovery Bay three years ago, they made sure that everything inside it was fake. “The entire flat uses materials that mimic their natural counterparts,” explained Chu, who is an architect and the founder of eco-friendly multi-disciplinary design firm COC. Artificial granite or marble tiles sit in place of stone; tiles of recycled particle porcelain—made from compressed, ground down construction waste—cover the floors and walls while a bookshelf in the living room is made of Styrofoam. And what little natural material in the flat is either recycled or more responsible than your regular wood or stone.

Rather than stemming from the desire for a particular aesthetic—though the home is undeniably stylish—this decision speaks to the couple’s long-time dedication to sustainability. Dibonaventura grew up recycling and practicing other environmentally friendly habits, and Chu has created sustainable designs since he was a student over 20 years ago. It was only logical for his firm to follow the same route too.

“When I see all this human-induced pollution and degradation destroying such a beautiful planet—and our and future generations’ health—I want to do something about it,” he said, explaining that his time as a diving instructor instilled in him a deep love of nature. “I’m also dissatisfied with the environmental movement in Hong Kong, so my flat has become a testbed to show people that you can be environmentally conscious with some careful thinking.” Though the couple had to sacrifice some elements of their vision—local laws prevented the construction of solar panels on the roof, for instance—the home is very much a showcase of these values.

The couple found the flat while searching for an adequate home to own, and were drawn by its closeness to nature, accessibility to the city centre, and its rooftop, where they set up a vegetable garden. Chu also enthused about the efficient use of space. “As an architect, my main concern is always to do with space rather than location or amenities,” he explained.

The flat makes copious use of whites, browns and greys, with the occasional metallic or splash of bright colour and plenty of geometric shapes. “I always follow geometric, material and colour consistency in any project I tackle,” said Chu. “Spaces are so limited in Hong Kong that having lots of colour or clutter inside an apartment can make it look claustrophobic.”

But a clean and minimal aesthetic doesn’t mean that you can’t make a statement. The master bedroom boasts a feature wall made of cork—“it replenishes much faster than normal trees”, Chu said—while a cluster of pendant lamps all in different shapes add interest in the dining area. “They’re made of compressed laser cut recycled cardboard panels,” revealed Chu. “Every client who has ever been to my house always says that they can’t believe how good they look.”

Much of the furnishings, meanwhile, come from overseas suppliers. “We simply couldn’t find what we wanted locally,” said Chu. Being appreciative of his wife’s taste and Italy’s history of fine design, Chu sourced many pieces from Italian outlets such as B&B Italia and Cassina. Now, Chu even works with many of these companies in order to sell their wares to Hong Kong designers and homeowners.

With a newborn baby recently joining the family, Chu and Dibonaventura’s next goal is to incorporate a children’s room and playthings that are just as eco-friendly as the rest of the home. Here’s to carrying forward a sustainable lifestyle to the future generations.