Thursday, August 16, 2007


What makes a good design?


What makes a good designer?

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Of tiles, narra planks and plasma TV... which one are you?

It was one of those nights that I had three friends co-incidentally spend half of the night here in my place: Karla, our draftsperson; Wilan, one of the two bestfriends cum neighbor; and Lloyd the other best friend.

As Karla goes over the block drawing that is about to be rendered in watercolor three hours later, Wilan and I had a chat by the veranda while Lloyd tinkers with my mac. The conversation was highly animated until Lloyd started to ask questions about the innards of interior design. The animation became 3D.

The topic was: What are the common denominators of houses of people? Well, as far as our projects are concerned.

Wilan started to separate them in groups:

First, we have the old rich Spanish-Filipino - relatively matured, conservative and proper.
1. A Manansala or an Amorsolo or if they still have the money their parents had, either a Luna or a Hidalgo.
2. A good altar for the family heirlooms.
3. A portrait of a great granfather who was once a senator or a congressman.
4. Narra floors and narra furniture. Very conservative in design-clean and classic.
5. Wide useless space. And given three years, filled with more antiques.
6. Very expensive china. And a complete collection of glasses for every drink.
7. Alabaster drop light or a Murano chandelier.

Second, Traditional Chinese- conservative, moneyed, frugal.
1. Gold and classic furniture bought wholesale from Xiamen.
2. Gold and crystal chandelier bought from Shanghai.
3. Fully airconditioned.
4. High-security.
5. A Catholic altar in the living room. A Buddhist altar near the dining.

Third, we have the third generation Chinese- young, well off and liberal.
1. Let's start with tiles. Tiles for the flooring, preferably sandstone and a computer designed graphic tile (mainly striped) for the walls.
2. Terribly modern furniture. Clean structured lines for the wooden pieces, the pestering presence of stainless steel, plain muted colored upholstery (basically beige).
3. Window shades, meco shades. No drapes.
4. High-tech security system.
5. Very advanced and high-end speaker system for the entire house.
6. Plasma and/or LCD TV in almost every single room of the house.
7. An eccentric collection of either toys, cars or gadgets or all of the above.

For the two, not to mention the list of Feng shui dos and donts (e.g. the matrimonial bed has to enter the main door of the house at exactly seven a.m. the day after the new moon)

Fourth, the Filipinos with questionable source of wealth.
1. Extremely wide narra planks flooring.
2. Kamagong furniture (or some rare wood)
3. High-tech security system. Terribly high fence.
4. Popular painters.
5. Gaudy retro chandeliers.

Fifth, the 'bagong yaman'
1. Modern furniture-- meaning, black leatherette with accents of primary and secondary colored leatherette furniture. Yes, this is just in one room.
2. Laminates and more laminates.
3. One plasma T.V. and the rest are slimfit.
4. Printed roman shades.
5. Off the floor ill sized rugs after the 50% discount sale.
6. Different types of window treatment per room (all custom made by some home depot supplier).
7. Modern lighting-- meaning chrome and glass largely sold in Binondo.
8. Ceramic tile flooring and laminated wood for the bedrooms.

Sixth, the middle class Filipino- frugal, conservative, sentimental.
1. A curio cabinet for all wedding, trips, and give-away souvenirs and collectibles.
2. An psuedo antique turn-of-the-century furniture piece (mostly a day bed or a gallinera)
3. An altar with one antique icon and the rest are new icons painted realistically.
4. A small T.V. near the kitchen/dining area. The big one is in the bedroom.
5. Printed roman shades, similar print on the bed cover.
6. Off the rack venetian blinds.
7. Off the floor carpet (again, bought at 50% off)
8. Vinyl tiles for the kitchen if not the entire house.
9. Slipcovered five-year old furniture pieces.
10. A bookshelf small enough for the number of books and magazines.

Seventh, the young female yuppie who is about to be there- dreamy, young, vibrant.
1. Ikea and more Ikea like furniture pieces.
2. A friends gift bought in KL-plastic accessory.
3. High contrast per room. Depending on the trend, sometimes, striped.
4. Modern lighting-- meaning white plastic droplight with energy saver warm yellow bulb.
5. Unkown artist.
6. Huge shoe and bag cabinets. Freestanding.
7. Slimfit T.V. in the living area.
8. Rugs from mommy's house.
9. Furniture from mommy's house totally made-over.

Eighth, the male yuppie- carefree, young.
1. A big T.V. complete with a theatre system and PS2 often connected to the internet.
2. A Lazy Boy and bean bags (often in black)
3. Lack of shoe cabinets/racks.
4. Matress on the floor, bed often left unmade.
5. Blinds. Often, off the rack.
6. A cabinet with clothes spilling out.
7. A very small kitchen.

Ninth, the gay bachelor-- ummm, quite a challenge to describe...
1. Sturdy bed with impeccable selection of sheets.
2. Countless magazines depending on interest.
3. Huge cabinets that will never be too big. Same thing goes with the shoe rack.
4. Known new painters.
5. Nuetral colored furniture with surprises of high contrast accents.
6. Highly dramatic lighting. Meaning-- Lamps and more lamps.
7. No white/day light bulbs.
8. Pictures of family members/lovers on each flat surface where it can be put.
9. Extra toothbrush.

Tenth, the media and NGO people and the activists-- frugal, individualistic, sentimental.
1. Old/secondhand wood furniture. Often, tribal Filipino (some Igorot bed converted into a coffee table)
2. Unknown but good artists.
3. Scattered souvenirs from trips and memorable events.
4. A collection of vintage memorabilias.
5. Second hand iconic furniture.
6. Often an old apartment with T and G flooring.
7. T.V.s with strange brands bought from the port area.
8. Make shift window treatments.
9. Bad paint job masking as labor of love/art work.
10. Cheesecloth and jute sack.

Eleventh, the Designer, interior designer that is.
1. Eclectic due to returned/gifts/excess pieces from clients.
2. High lighting drama.
3. Mostly white walls.
4. Mix matched furniture pieces.
5. Multi-purpose dining table.
6. Evolving floorplan.

And as Wilan added, all of these homes, regardless of social status, background and taste, would definitely have one item from Regalong Pambahay either bought or given as a gift.
And yes, let us not forget a monoblock piece- either a stool or a shelf.

Of course, this is rough as rough can be. But just to give you an idea of how they look like. Do correct me if I'm wrong.

Enjoy! And the next time you enter somebody's home, just keep that smile to yourself.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Jim Thompson

When I started working in design (as I have said before) I was first exposed to the higher end of the business. The side that, looking from the outside, made the craft more of a business than what it really is. Together with such exposure is the introduction to the "finer things in life." The very phrase that alienates the third world from the first world.

Silk for example, is one of those. Using silk for curtains is one luxury a third world middle class finds too imeldific. And yes, during those times, we only used the finest silk- Jim Thompson.

Jim R.H. Thompson was this American who went to Thailand just after the war. Fell in love with the country, built a house near the brook so he can have the Muslim community at the other side of the brook weave Thai silk for him. This became an industry in Bangkok especially after his disappearance in Malaysia in 1967 in which the foundation converted his house into a museum and developed his backyard industry into a huge business as what is now known as Jim Thompson Silk.

I went to his house a few days ago. It was catharcic.

I wouldn't have any idea if the man really envisioned it to be like this. His house was for one, a typical expat's house trying to live as fine as possible in a third world country. Thai architecture was exotic for him so he followed traditions tweaking it a little to accommodate his fancies. The main entrace of his house was the brook focusing mainly on the most convenient mode of transportation during that time. But the question is, while being in a predominantly buddhist country, he made use of the believers of Islam at a slum on the other bank to further his silk weaving craft. Capitalizing also on the needyness of the poor. Just like almost all big industries perhaps?

Adjacent to the compound was a huge store. Customers mainly white, the items are exorbitantly priced. All bearing the name of the man who disappeared two scores ago. And some books about his disappearance. How the foundation was founded, I never got to know. But sure from what it is now, they sure maintain the name, the house and the industry as well. The weaving is not on the other side of the river anymore. It is in this huge industrial building before you reach the house. Making the entire compound (sans the architecture of the house and the costume of the tour guides) very much first world.

No wonder, such feeling is felt here when we used his material for curtains to the first world aspiring clients.

Friday, February 2, 2007

19th century woe...


When I was a kid, I have always thought that there exists an old town with everybody dressed in 19th century garb walking on cobblestones. Of course, when I was a kid, I really don't know what's 19th century and cobblestones. but more or less, one would picture such not knowing what they are called. Textbooks from public elementary schools do have illustrations (yes, not pictures during our time).

It was three years ago when I first went to the old city. Where 'old' is mainly focused on one street-- Crisologo. And sprouts of restored houses of those who can afford around the gremio de mestizos of the city. Walking on Crisologo in cargo shorts made me wonder how long is its state going to last considering the cost of restoring a turn-of-the-century house is far more expensive than building a new one.

Years back, UNESCO declared the entire city a heritage site. Comes with the declaration is the prohibition of building cost-effective modern houses and structures within the site. Recently, a bill was passed that including the process of restoring should be faithfull to how it was built centuries ago. Considering the cost of bricks, lime and eggs, one can barely afford maintaining the torn walls of the ground floor of a typical bahay na bato.

Walking along Crisologo, I have noticed that more than half of the houses are already ready to be torn down. The soundness of the structure is highly questionable that one can ask why is it still not condemned. It could have been more progressive if the government spared some budget to restore the entire declared site before passing such prohibitions.

And while they are doing this, minimize putting chain of restaurants and stores near the main street and the plaza regardless of their efforts to follow 19th century architecture. The killer is their signages jutting above the structures totally out of context.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


This month's Trend Alert of Elle Decor (US) features the most exotic texture for interiors and fashion--Fur.

About two years ago, in one of my regular visits to my home town- San Jose de Buenavista in Antique, I happen to drop-by (I make it a point to drop-by actually, everytime I go home) the public market and got to check the relip stalls. In Baguio, they call it Ukay-ukay. Relip from the word 'relief' meaning second hand items given to the third world by first world countries as donations and upon reaching the provinces, becomes a large scale industry made legal by the local government. Anyway, going back, it was the time that I was checking through the bed sheets sold (mostly silk, mind you!) and I saw this authentic sheep's hide. Not knowing the value of such, the tindera tagged it at thirty pesos. Got it for twenty.

A year has passed and I almost forgot about it until I saw one of those faux skins sold by carpet world. The texture is almost like the real thing yet it's too clean and cut in almost-same-shape-but-not-so kind of thing. Punchline-- it's priced more than four thousand pesos. I need one for my plastic study chair at home. But I will not pay that much for some acrylic blend.

I asked my mom about the rug I bought and she told me they threw it away since it was already disintegrating.

Then I saw one in About Home Furnitures (I'm no Jean Edades but I sure know there is no such word as 'furnitures'). The kind owner priced it at six grand. It's the real thing. Complete with irregularities in color and texture. I'm so tempted, yet I was out of cash during that time.
But I saw another hide in Shell Canvas in Glorietta. Its fox with the head. A bit scary though. Though a number of it, if you remove the head, would make a good rug.

As I was contemplating about it, I saw this video in the net on fur farms in china.

I think, I should go with the acrylic blends.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Changing Chandeliers

Admit it, most of us like chandeliers! For so long a time, they are standard lighting pieces in a home of the upper class and one of the most coveted in those trying so hard to become one. Chands are one of the more ornate types of a common drop light. Take it from the word-- Drop Light, it drops from the ceiling on a certain height. Meaning- you have to have a high ceiling to accommodate it (yes, just like the picture above).

In a lot of homes now, standard ceiling height would be 9 to 10 feet. A common chands would be 2 feet in height. Drop it a foot from the ceiling ang that leaves you at most 7 feet head room. If your chandelier is more that 3 feet in height, this is especially true for the cascading ones prevalent during the seventies and eighties, what headroom is left?

Do the math!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Not to insult but to improve...

A friend has been asking me for the longest time to make a blog about design. Afterall, that is what I do. And I would always contemplate about it and decide not to because I am not a writer. So how can I possibly make an essay about a certain tea-pot designed by some blond lashed genius who doesn't even know where Manila is or if ever, still calls the Republic of the Philippines - P.I.? Po*#-i*& sh*t!

On the other hand, on our private moments, we will always talk about the common sins prevalent inside our homes. Yet we can't find a public venue for it.

Ok, I have to write this disclaimer---

Whatever is written here is not meant to insult but to correct. It is not written to ridicule but to improve. And yes, if you commit a crime as defined in this blog, you will never go to jail!