The Eco-Warrior Queen

By Ailan Gates 2019-12-02 11:05:50

The home, life, and journey of Robyn Geffen.

Robyn Geffen is one of my oldest and dearest friends here in Shanghai. Her story is something out of a romantic novel. She came to Shanghai in 2000 to visit her sister who was living here, and like every good love story, then fell in love with her sister’s friend; the very young, charismatic and super cool Uri Gabay. Now, they have 3 beautiful children whom they have raised in Shanghai; Roi (17 years), Mia (16 years) and Yanai (12 years).

Robyn is originally from South Africa and Uri is from Israel. Their children are very much third culture kids that have been exposed to three different countries and cultures. At every given opportunity, Robyn and Uri travel back to their birth places to allow their children the opportunity to make connections with family, friends and memories, from summers in South Africa to winters in Israel.

Even though Robyn has made Shanghai her home for the last 19 years, her love of Africa has never left her spirit or soul. Her hometown of Johannesburg, South Africa still holds a special place in her heart and when Robyn talks about South Africa her eyes and face light up. Her stories of childhood are both mesmerising and captivating and her home away from home is a reflection of her journey.

Robyn’s home is very eclectic and filled with gorgeous pieces she’s collected from her many travels here and abroad. On every mantel piece you’ll see colourful objects that were likely bought from the side of the road in South Africa and made by local artisans. Her collection ranges from a stunning lion made from recycled telephone wires, to the collection of giraffes, zebras, lions and springboks made from colourful beads, to beautifully decorated African themed drink tin cans with unique motifs and designs. Amongst her favourite and most treasured pieces are her wooden coconut shaped containers that she inherited from her late mother. The coconuts are beautifully preserved and etched with decorative grooves that enhance their beauty, resting against a sunlit window in her lounge room.

Robyn is a confirmed eco-warrior and has a keen eye for finding gems that other people have discarded without recognising their value. On more than one occasion she has stopped her car to buy or pick up beautiful pieces that she has seen on the busy side streets of Shanghai. I was lucky to be with her on a couple of these expeditions. One such adventure happened not so long ago when both she and I were coming back from the shops in our neighbourhood when Robyn spotted a green-grocer peeling sweet potatoes on an old leather chair. She told him it was a beautiful chair and without hesitation the man asked her if she’d like to buy it. Today that old leather chair now sits on her back porch and it’s the most sought-after chair in her garden.

Take a leaf from Robyn’s book and when something catches your eye, stop, give it a second look, and maybe it will take on a new life in your home.


Get the Look

Steal the style with these fresh options for your home

Toucan ornament
¥152 - TGSIR

Multi-coloured rag cushion

Approx. ¥2805 ($395) per cushion


Wooden farmer’s stool

¥456 (94.60 AUD)

Turquoise distressed entry table

¥4174 - Asian Creative Luxury Art Works/摆设