As a pioneer of sustainable interior design in Hong Kong, Rowena Gonzales, principal of Liquid Interiors, was a natural fit for her eco-entrepreneur clients when it came to renovating their three-bedroom, 1,500 sq ft flat in Mid-Levels. The homeowners’ design brief stipulated a laid-back bohemian vibe, in keeping with their love of Bali, but with an industrial edge. Of primary importance, however, was ensuring it was a responsible build using sustainable, non-toxic materials. Gonzales, who relocated from Toronto, Canada, in 2006, credits her outdoorsy upbringing for her environmental awareness. But it was in Hong Kong that she honed her eco-conscious design approach. “When I first moved here for work, I couldn’t believe how toxic everything was on site. Even before you opened the door, your eyes would start to water. I thought there had to be a better way,” she says. Now an accredited professional of both LEED and WELL building certifications, Gonzales is a passionate advocate for bringing these standards into homes. “It’s a system put together by architects and doctors that can be explained in terms of science,” she says. “It’s not like feng shui, where some people believe in it and some don’t. The standards are based on proven fact.” In an early tussle about how much industrial edge to incorporate, Gonzales persuaded her clients away from all-black walls in favour of black metal accents on a light backdrop featuring lots of wood and greenery. The biggest impact came from installing a window between the kitchen and dining area. “It brings so much more light in and has totally transformed the whole space,” she says. With the flat stripped bare for the renovation, there was an opportunity for the new owners to install wellness features, which included high-grade mesh shielding and special paint to protect against electromagnetic fields from neighbouring flats, prolonged exposure to which has been connected to headaches, sleeping disorders, depression and cancer. For this, they enlisted the help of Eric Walker, director of indoor-environment consultancy Building Biology Central, which uses instruments that turn high and low frequency signals into distinctive sounds. “Your Wi-fi signal, when it’s on idle mode, is sending out its IP address 10 times per second. You don’t hear that – though sensitive people do – but when you turn that into an audio signal, it sounds like a machine gun,” Walker says. “Cordless phones have a very annoying buzz; radar [from passing ships] has beeping sounds; Bluetooth sounds like a scream. The audio is helpful for clients to see how they are surrounded by all these signals.” Your home is your sanctuary and where you sleep is where your body regenerates. Your immune system is most active at night so it’s especially important to have great air quality and nothing stressing your body Rowena Gonzales, principal, Liquid Interiors With Wi-fi routers, laptops and mobile phones often being the strongest internal source of electromagnetic fields, Walker advised on a wiring plan that allowed devices to be attached by cable rather than by remote connections. Gonzales recommends everybody cut down electromagnetic fields in bedrooms. “Your home is your sanctuary and where you sleep is where your body regenerates. Your immune system is most active at night so it’s especially important to have great air quality and nothing stressing your body,” she says. “One thing Eric pointed out that had never occurred to us was the bunk bed in the kids’ room was right up against an air conditioner on the other side of the wall, in the next room. We shifted it as far away as possible so it wouldn’t be emitting electromagnetic fields and noise next to a sleeping child.” Not everyone is able to undertake extensive rewiring or install underfloor mesh to shield against electromagnetic fieldsfrom the flat below. Butthere are easy steps that will make a difference, Gonzales says. “Keep your Wi-fi router, and electrical things in general, away from your head, especially while you’re sleeping. Put a timer on your Wi-fi – you don’t need it on while you’re sleeping. Or, like we did for our clients, install a master ‘kill switch’ that shuts off all electricity to the bedrooms when it’s time to sleep.” Living and dining areas The dining table set and macramé swing chair were bought in Bali, Indonesia, by the owners. Liquid Interiors sourced the black pendant light through Taobao for HK$450 (US$58). The coffee table (HK$22,700) was custom made by The Wood . The ottomans (HK$2,900 for two) were from Shen Zhen Dadace (215/601 Art Exhibition Centre Phase III, Meiyuan Road, Lo Wu, Shenzhen, tel: +86 755 2291 6366). All the plants in the flat were supplied by Fleurs (2 Shing Ping Street, Happy Valley, tel: 2838 0321). Living room detail Chalky brickwork, supplied and installed by HKY Engineering for HK$35,000, creates a fresh backdrop to the open living area. The hemp rope pendant lights, which cost HK$9,820 for the pair, came from Forth Furniture as did the custom-made sofa (HK$52,590). Dining area A full-width shelving unit (HK$26,000) was custom made in black steel by the main contractor, HKY Engineering (tel: 5542 1820). Bar A wood shelf and height-adjustable stools (HK$1,460 each from Forth Furniture) make a simple bar area at the new window between the kitchen and dining area. Kitchen Patata Kitchen supplied the kitchen cabinetry for HK$166,520. The black Biffi Luce downlights (HK$760 each) came from Lighting Plus . The rug was £34.99 (HK$335) from H&M Home in Britain. The clock was HK$800 from Homeless . Bathroom Black fixtures and fittings in the Bali-inspired lava stone bathroom include washbasins (HK$1,000 each), taps (HK$1,920 each) and towel rails (HK$1,120 each) by Kohler from Arnhold & Co . The wall and floor tiles (HK$20,160 in total) were supplied and installed by HKY Engineering, which also custom made the cabinetry (HK$13,200). The Kohler bathtub was HK$12,995 from Luen Hing Hong Building Materials (236 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2511 3630). Main bedroom The white brick wall was installed by HKY Engineering for HK$7,500. The dreamcatcher and teak wood furniture were bought by the owners in Bali. Children’s room Knotted macramé curtains in the neutrally decorated kids’ room came from Forth Furniture and, with the matching set in the living room, cost HK$50,580 in total. Tried + tested Beam me up Creating a characterful atmosphere in a brand new home can be challenging, says interior designer Rowena Gonzales, who used reclaimed wood to make a rustic feature of previously nondescript ceiling beams in her clients’ flat. “The structural beams would normally be plastered and painted white like the ceiling but we covered them here using thin slices of wood from old boats so they have that weathered look.” Gonzales also took the opportunity to disguise the air-conditioning units within the wooden beams, adding to the flat’s natural aesthetic.