German-born Hong Kong expat Henning Voss has two passions: healthy, sustainable living and real estate.
A marketing professional by day, the ultra-marathon runner and his yoga instructor wife have taken – by Hong Kong standards – a rather novel approach to designing their chic, modern loft space in Sheung Wan.
“In Germany there is a very popular concept called ‘building biology’, which basically means you should consider your home a third skin,” says Voss. “You wouldn’t wear something that causes you a rash. That same principal can be applied to your home. It should be a healthy environment for you and your family.”
The couple acquired the 93 square metre space in 2014. In December that year it received the Best Eco and Sustainable Design Architecture Award from Perspective magazine, and was featured on Bloomberg. That same year Voss started Vivid Living, a boutique development agency and consultancy that specialises in healthy design.
Nestled away on the 19th floor of one of the myriad non- descript high-rises on Bonham Strand West, the space is an oasis of serenity and wellbeing – a literal breath of fresh air. “This area has a ‘pre-resurgence Meatpacking District’ feel to it. It’s a bit rough around the edges, with a lot of open-air dried seafood stores and commercial buildings,” Voss notes.
But save the odd nod to ‘industrial chic’ in the apartment’s interior design – such as the exposed brick walls, pipe bookshelf and transparent, naked-bulb Muse chandelier lights in the living and dining room area – you’d never know. The underlying ethos to Voss’ apartment is health, wellbeing and sustainability.
Clean lines, muted tones and a wealth of textures welcome you as you step into this exceptional abode. In the open-plan living area, the ceiling beams have been clad in reclaimed wood from an old Chinese boat; the exposed brick is painted over with mould- resistant, washable white paint from Japan; and the kitchen counter top is made from 50 per cent recycled content such as glass chips and quartz. High-tech gadgetry and energy-efficient appliances abound, and are interspersed with air purifying plants such as Mother-in-Law’s Tongue and Peace Lily.
“Normally I’m a bit more of a minimalist guy, but we try to apply the ‘biophilic design’ principal, which is based on the concept that human beings like to be surrounded by nature,” Voss explains. “There’s a reason we pay more for a flat that overlooks the sea or a beautiful park. It soothes us. Many studies have proven the medical benefits of being close to nature. People in hospitals with a view of a garden recover faster, and need fewer painkillers. Interior design is a way you can replicate that in Hong Kong, where most of us have a view straight into other people’s flats!”
The aesthetic juxtaposition of natural elements and advanced technology continues throughout the apartment. The bathroom features natural stone slabs, pebbles and bamboo cabinets – as well as high-tech Japanese toilets with a multitude of settings and services, and energy- and water-saving taps that appear almost out of thin air.
German functionality is combined with Asian exoticism to great effect here. Voss spent time in Japan, China, Singapore and Thailand before settling in Hong Kong ten years ago, and Asian design notes can be found all around the apartment. The bedroom has a raised floor, creating a sleeping arrangement reminiscent of the Japanese tatami- style, as the stand-alone natural-fibre mattress from Okooko is quite low and close to the FSC-certified wood flooring. On the walls are original pieces by a Burmese artist, and in the living room there’s a small collection of buddhas from Thailand and China, with their very own spotlight inset – a shrine, of sorts.
Close attention has been paid to lighting in this apartment. All bulbs are LED and dimmable, and most are controlled by a central tablet.
“We have a home automated circadian mood lighting system which creates the ideal light for the specific time of day,” says Voss. “In the morning you want light that wakes you up and has a more bright, blue, content – and in the evening the light should have more red content to help with melatonin management. At night, in your bedroom, it should be pitch black.”
By the same token, gadget screen exposure is mitigated by an app called Flux, and most of the time phones are kept in a metal charging box in the living room to minimise exposure to electromagnetic fields.
Such health considerations are extended to other design specifics throughout the living space. All materials in the apartment are third-party green certified, and all adhesives and glues used in construction are VOC-free, and do not off- gas formaldehyde as others do, according to Voss. The highest- grade professional air purification systems are also installed throughout. In the living room there’s even an indoor air quality monitor that measures particulate matter, formaldehyde, VOCs and CO2 levels in real time, and sends status updates straight to Voss’ iPhone.
“I love the fact that we have an exceptional indoor room climate and great air quality. It might be the placebo effect, but my wife and I feel like we sleep better and are more relaxed in the flat,” Voss says.
Tap water, meanwhile, is purified through an Everpure carbon water filter in the kitchen, as opposed to a reverse osmosis system, which Voss considers “overkill” as far as Hong Kong tap water is concerned. The kitchen space is generous, and is equipped with a juicer, blender, and a garbage disposal in the sink. This method of reducing food waste to landfill is surprisingly underused in Asia, where composting can be a bit of a challenge.
The flat is purposefully designed to encourage and enable a healthy lifestyle – there’s a kitchen that invites you to cook, reflexology flooring in the shower and a stand-up desk with treadmill in the study.
“Sitting is the new smoking, and working while walking is a great way to do something for your health,” attests Voss. “Plus it really helps with the post-lunch energy slump.”
These elements combined create a wonderful balance between industrial chic, exotic Asian elements, functionality and modernity. It perfectly suits the locality, and also reflects an exciting, brand-new development in Hong Kong – where cutting- edge design is synonymous with sustainability.
Okooko – natural fibre mattress 26/F, Horizon Plaza,
2 Lee Wing Street,
Ap Lei Chau
2870 1132 | okooko.com
Grohe – energy-saving bathroom tap Suite 1-2A, 23/F., Sino Plaza 255-257 Gloucester Road Causeway Bay
2806 0611 | grohe.com/hk
Lechuza – self-watering device for plants lechuza.co.uk
Foobot –indoor air quality monitor
Muse – chandelier linear lights
Available at Design Gallery
Units HG07-09, G/F, Block B, PMQ,
35 Aberdeen Street, Central 2548 1115 | museinteriors.com.au
InSinkErator – garbage disposal
Everpure – water filter
Unit 701, 7/F, Kam On Building, No. 176 Queens Road Central, Central
2543 2262 | everpure.com.hk
Next Desk – standing desk
Photography by Hong Kong Photography Studio