We’re sat in a tranquil Hoi An cafe called Gieo. It’s a world away from Danang’s high-end hotels, beach clubs and bars. Its owner and architect TheO, who is from Hanoi, is introducing us to her ideas about the slow life. They’re ideas that she’s instilled here at Gieo and at her connected boutique hotel, Dechiu, and that some of her favourite places in Hoi An and Danang are filled with too.
TheO breezed into Gieo Cafe a few moments ago, all smiles and radiance. It’s exactly how we imaged her to be having caught up with the Dechiu story on their website earlier this morning (Gieo, we discovered, is Dechiu’s friendly vegetarian eatery).
The Hoi An boutique hotel, close to An Bang Beach, has a backstory filled with nostalgia and wonder, as you’d expect from a romantically-minded Hanoian architect and designer. “Dechiu Hotel was born so that memories could live a second life, so that what is mine can be shared with you, so that leaving means staying,” the story begins.
“The creative culture in Hanoi is very traditional, we like to maintain traditions and utilise traditional crafts, skills and building methods. We’re always thinking about Vietnamese culture…it’s deeply rooted,” TheO nods proudly looking up at the newly installed painting on the wall by fellow Hanoian artist Phương Giò.
“I have always had a creative mind and spirit,” TheO adds. “But I think it was when I was around 17 years old when I first started to seriously think about design and architecture. About how things were made and put together…and how I could create my own space.”
Her 12-room Dechiu boutique hotel project is a summation of her architectural ideas so far. “It’s a very personal project for me,” she continues. “And the ideas just came to me, the colours and materials flowed and I didn’t have to think about it too much…”
We wonder aloud about the connection between Gieo and Dechiu. “Well,” she says narrowing her eyes to think, “both Dechiu and Gieo come from the same inspiration, from my memories growing up – my memories of different spaces”.
“And,” she says thoughtfully, “a place to eat and a place to sleep are both ideas of home, so they’re a perfect match! You can’t have one without the other.”
Bowl after bowl of delicious looking Vietnamese vegetarian cuisine arrives. “Natural, unprocessed, and from the earth,” TheO explains waving her hand across the dishes. “We like to keep things simple and as natural as possible – from taste to ingredients…”
As the designer and architect serves us a bowl, she begins to tell us more about her design philosophy.
“Well, I don’t design anything specific.I think about human requirements and follow my feelings. Each and every design project is created with the individual who will inhabit the space in mind….”
Impressed by the philosophy and the food we wonder which other places she loves. And so, this is her guide to the slow life in Hoi An and Danang.