NEO, a new artisanal cocktail club designed by Candace Campos of ID Design achieves retro eloquence with an eclectic mix of furniture. JJ.Acuna reports.
Photos: Chester Ong
Hong Kong is most famous for SOHO, which on the map applies to all the areas South of Hollywood Road, defined by parallel and perpendicular streets uphill, hosting various destination bars and eating establishments frequented generally by an expat crowd. But rent in Hong Kong is high and ground floor spaces are few, meaning that NOHO, all areas North of Hollywood Road, downhill, now has a proliferation of spill-out bars, but of a more quiet, introverted, and less bawdy variety.
Leading the NOHO scene is the snazzy Gough Street and adjacent Shin Hing steps. Shin Hing is characterized by a row of low to medium rise walk-up residential buildings defined by ground floor shops that used to be run by moms and pops. Those days are gone, and in its place, bars like the NEO Cocktail Club, a little intimate drinker’s haven clad in industrial 80s fashion, set the new scene. The look, designed by the prolific Candace Campos of ID Design, aims for low-key and trendsetting, and not necessarily retro regressive with this latest design adventure. Before NEO, Campos just finished worked with NEO’s owners, the Moldovan Brothers, at Cocotte located on the same lane.
JJ.Acuna sits down with Candace Campos to discuss her work for this modern speakeasy.
JJ.Acuna (JJ): With the completion of NEO, how many projects have you completed in Hong Kong alone?
Candace Campos (CC): In total, we’ve completed about sixteen Commercial projects in the city. Some to highlight include our work with BEP, Tribute Hotel, Cocotte, and Fatty Crab. On top of that we’ve done 15 residences.
JJ: Compared to your other projects in Hong Kong, NEO is a bit of an awkward site… it doesn’t have much for frontage, nor does have a head room one can really work with, how did you overcome these problems?
CC: The site drove the concept, which certainly had a few constraints and we had to make sure we used them to our advantage. The biggest issue was the low ceiling. With such low headroom we thought best to keep seating at lounge height. Also, the lack of natural light meant it had to be a night venue.
JJ: How did you get to design the bar in the first place? Do you already have a working relationship with its owners?
CC: I worked with the Moldovan brothers to open Cocotte. They are wonderful guys. Our time together is always collaborative, supportive and above all trusting.
JJ: When we walk into NEO we see a lot of neon, mirrored glass, raw fair faced concrete, grid metal panels, and a mish-mash of eclectic furniture… it reminds me a lot of Grace Jones’s party pad or Blade Runner, am I far off? Tell me about your inspiration for the space?
CC: It was really a handful of references that inspired us. The bones of the space are its bare-concrete columns and walls. This helps the bar feel aged and lived in. Then we added the metal grid paneling. They give the space an industrial feel without using typical iron details.
The East German Factory Lights create a severe edge. Our electric blue is a nod to the 80s. To soften the space, we added Vintage Venini Chandeliers. And then we have our pink neon. We wanted one color connecting your journey from the outside in. The pink neon follows you from our facade, as you enter the velvet curtain, back into the patio and into the bathrooms.
JJ: Tell us more about the different items you’ve sourced for the job?
CC: Well, the decorative grid panels are actually highly functional; we can mount moveable drink ledges depending on the flow of the room. The Vintage German Factory Lights are explosion, dust, gas and water proof. They were produced in the sixties and seventies. The Vintage Venini Italian Chandeliers are from the sixties and seventies as well.
JJ: Tell us about what kind of budget and timeline we are dealing with for a project of this size in Hong Kong?
CC: It was a small budget renovation and a quick timeline. About 6 weeks in the initial design phase, then approximately eight weeks to build. The budget, timeline and ceiling height were our biggest constraints.
JJ: What is your most favorite design detail in this project?
CC: I love the lighting. This is where I spent most of my budget. The mix of factory lights, chandleries and neon give the space a unique feel.