“I have to really, really love something or I can’t bring myself to live with it, let alone sell it,”says Gaye. “It’s about finding something so beautiful that it immediately makes life enjoyable. It could be a particularly beautiful hand-printed linen napkin like Thornback & Peel’s modern twist on a traditional pattern or a beautifully designed cloisonné vase from pilingpalang. You just know it will stand the test of time.”
The 100 sqm shop’s phenomenal success is testament to Gibson’s unerringly good eye for sourcing unusual things while globetrotting to countries as diverse as Japan, India, Italy and Belgium. “I am forever going off-piste to meet the artist behind something that intrigues me. It is not about some luxe notion attached to an object or a trend. I buy items as varied as Fabienne Jouvin’s highly original tea jars to fine jewellery by Lucy Ansell in Rajasthan. I am extremely focused on quality and the story behind the product.”
Gibson’s own homes proved the perfect training ground for her now busy creative design business. “Design has always been a pivotal part of assimilating into a new place so even when we faced strict controls when living in Japan, I made it feel like home with items that have a special meaning like our woven cane PK22 chairs by Danish designer Poul Kjaerholm. They remind me of a Zen garden in Kyoto; simple but perfect. No added clutter.”
Gibson eschews an over-decorated look in her current abode, a modern 350 sq m 7th floor apartment on Tai Tam Road, the perfect canvas for her sense of style with its generous scale, tall ceilings and stunning views over the sea. She prefers to work with a neutral palette adding a touch of the family’s own style and character with striking furniture and artworks, including Sydney-based Mark Morffew’s photographic record of the children growing up in their Australia, Tokyo and Hong Kong homes.
The family’s 6 years in Tokyo strongly influenced Gibson’s understated aesthetic: “Even in large living spaces it is important to tightly edit your purchases – there is nothing worse than clutter. I have never felt the need to completely fill a space although I always find a quiet spot for our Poliform book-lined library and the baby grand piano.”
The living room has a particularly relaxed ambience with comfortable Euroform sofas (recovered with Poliform fabric), and a distinctive glass coffee table by Gae Aulenti. Custom-made Pierre Frey fabric roman blinds throughout the apartment keep the sunning sea views firmly on center stage. Subtle Japanese accents include Sori Yanagi’s craft-inspired cutlery and crockery, a pair of intricately decorated gold leaf pottery bowls from a ryokan in Nasu, and three striking prints by Yayoi Kusama. “The bowls were hideously expensive,” admits Gibson, “I couldn’t decide which one I loved most so came home with both. I fell in love with the prints while visiting Naoshima Island – we didn’t have space or budget for Kusama’s iconic pumpkin so settled for a series of her print work instead.”
“Luckily my family support my passion for travel and design,” laughs Gibson who brought in interior designer Nathalie Weston to help create a “special haven, not too girly, not too young, and very private” for her teenage daughter’s bedroom. A vibrant Lisa Stickley duvet cover together with cushions from Erin Flitt and Nathalie herself, and a dramatic large round black and white spot rug complete the teen chic look with a modern flourish. “Teenagers are not usually considered when it comes to good design. There is not much between cute and kitsch,” she explains.
Not owning your apartment doesn’t mean you can’t make it your own space, says Gibson whose inventiveness, hand-in-hand with an attention for detail and confidence in mixing classic and contemporary styles create maximum impact. Statement pieces, bold jolts of colour and the family’s idiosyncratic assemblage of artworks form a coherent whole – without ever feeling over-designed. The portrait of Chairman Mao by Andy Warhol and the Thomas Pederson Stingray rocking chairs are among her all-time favourite pieces. “Our latest buy is a photograph by Laurent Segretier called ‘Ephemeral’. It is so calming.”
Although Gibson’s enthusiasm for modern design is obvious, she doesn’t have one specific look or style that she tries to force on a space: “Our home feels like a natural expression of me as a designer,” she says which is why when she had the idea of opening a shop to showcase her finds, she knew exactly what she wanted it to look like. “Finding the perfect space in Hong Kong was a challenge but I loved the vibrancy of Gough Street and knew that we could create a wonderful shopping environment. It’s more than having lovely things laid out for people to see,” she explains. “We have the café which means some just come to relax while our ever-changing stock means it is also the perfect spot to pick up an original gift. The shop is really just a natural evolution from my own home.”
As was her latest commission by Mandarin Oriental to redesign and source a collection of unique luxury products for their hotel’s MO Lifestyle shop on Hainan Island. “When I first saw SIDEWALK I thought, ‘This is exactly what I want for Sanya,’” says Paul Jackson, the hotel’s General Manager. “It is open, airy and inviting. Sanya has nothing like it.”
Gibson welcomed the opportunity: “It’s especially exciting because we have been given complete creative freedom to do something really imaginative; to make shopping here a really seductive experience.” The boutique now stocks perfectly cut swimsuits from Heidi Klein London and Eres Paris, fragrances by Cochine Saigon and beachwear by Orlebar Brown London.
“The best part,” says Gibson, “is that I get to meet everyone from the artist who creates something amazing to the person who falls in love with it and takes it home. That is what it is all about.”