First a visitor to the city and now a rising name in the local design scene, Candace Campos takes time out from her busy schedule to talk to JJ Acuna about her work.
Candace Campos, founder and principal designer at Hong Kong based ID Interiors & Identity Design, has seen her career go on the fast track in the city since launching her own design company locally in 2008. Just in the last six months alone, Campos has completed several must-eat destinations: NOM, BEP, and Cocotte… arguably some of the hottest restaurants to land in the city today.
“I’ve worked in various design fields since graduating college in 2002,” says Campos, who hails from Newport Beach California. “I moved to Hong Kong and shortly thereafter started my company.”
We had a chat with the designer the same week we had a delicious meal with her at the rustic French restaurant, Cocotte, an elegant and simply refined 20 to 30 seater cafe on the steps of the quiet lane known as Shin Hing in Soho.
Much like what is on offer, the restaurant’s interiors and branding reflect the food: slightly feminine, yet modern and with a touch of heritage. But before Cocotte, I also had a chance to visit her other new work, BEP, a new dining destination serving street-style Vietnamese food in the city, a product of collaboration with Hong Kong’s other prominent designers, Daniel Huthart from Whitespace, and fashion brand, Paola Sinisterra from Tangram. Just like Cocotte, BEP’s interiors are deceptively simple and minimalist in pastel, but actually on second view, the design is detailed with contrasting and overlayed patterns and textures, either via the fine grain of exposed concrete, the gridded white mosaic tile that serves as unifying base material, subtle patterns on metals and wire mesh embedded glass, or the lines and blobs made within the imperfectly untreated raw timbers used in this very carefully planned project.
“BEP is most reflective of my own personal aesthetic,” says Campos. “The client gave me creative freedom, so I approached the project in a different way than I normally do. Usually I’m balancing what I like, with what I know the client wants. I think I’m still too green to have a signature style. But there are some common threads you will find running through my spaces. If there’s a great distressed concrete column on site I will most likely try to highlight it. I love combining walnut and oak wood. I frequently use brass. I like Danish lines and am always calling them out in the legs of my chairs.”
So how does Hong Kong star designers like Campos emerge? “My previous job sent me to this city every quarter so I got to know Hong Kong very well,” says Campos reminiscing on her early relationship with the region. Shortly after leaving that post, she immediately chose to stay in the city due to its strong development environment and lack in the market of available creative voices with the right experience. “I felt Hong Kong had more potential for creative growth, less competition, and a more inviting network. If I chose New York, I think I would have struggled to stand out.”
These days Campos is too busy with multiple projects going on at once. Already completed are destinations listed above plus Heirloom, TATE, Mana, Fatty Crab, Sift, and Bapu. To come is a second BEP, plus a new boutique hotel in the emerging Yau Ma Tei district. It’s a far cry from the early days when the only project she had was her own Airbnb flat, which by the way has been replicated by Airbnb to the smallest detail for one of their corporate conference rooms. As for advice to those wanting to reach her level of success?
“Take advantage of learning from another local company before establishing your own,” she says. “I started not knowing Hong Kong or my industry so I faced a large learning curve.” Looks like Candace Campos is doing fine now establishing a “curve” for other people to aspire to themselves.