6 Filipina Interior Designers You Need to Know
From unforgettable makeovers to stunning spaces—these ladies have done it all and more
One of the perks of working at Real Living is being able to meet design professionals who’ve made a mark in the industry as well as touched other people’s lives through functional designs and homes that stand out. But have you ever wondered what happens behind-the-scenes?
Based on the interviews I’ve done and shoots we’ve covered, working on a project is not a walk in the park. Behind every makeover and every home is a meticulous process that involves long days and nights of meetings, space planning, sourcing, and site inspections. Would you believe that during a shoot, one designer shared that she once worked on four projects concurrently? I can only imagine the stress and the countless lists she had to work with! While it can be nerve-racking, nothing still beats the sense of fulfillment one gets after delivering a project that’s in line with the owner’s vision on time. We’re sure that design professionals would agree when we say that at the end of the day, you’ve not only met your own goals, but that of your clients’ too.
In celebration of Women’s Month, we’re turning the spotlight on some of RL’s go-to interior designers. Whether it’s makeover that needs to be finished in two weeks or a home that’s beyond exceptional—these ladies managed to pull through and go beyond expectations.
In photo: A three-storey home with a modern tropical style that Kristine designed. Click here to see photos.
Kristine graduated from the University of the Philippines—Diliman with a bachelor’s degree in Interior Design in 1996. After passing the board exam the following year and working for a couple of companies, she decided to concentrate on building her own interior design practice. Ever since she was a kid, she has always enjoyed sketching. “In college, I discovered a true passion for sketching designs—the meticulous requirements that would bother my classmates were [the] details that I actually craved,” she shares.
On rising above the challenges of the job:
In photo: A makeover project for a 30sqm townhouse. Click here to see the transformation.
"Since I started my practice—long before professional interior design services were generally accepted and understood by the public, architects, or contractors—the first major challenge was educating prospective clients of the value added service I could offer as an interior designer.
A challenge from when I first started which still lives today is matching the client's design vision with their working budget. The best solution to this is collaborative planning with my clients to distill their wish list down to the most important priorities. My prior experience allows me to offer aesthetic, construction, and budgetary adjustments to maximize the project's design potential."
Get in touch with Kristine via e-mail at kristine[at]urbanabodemanila.com.
In photo: A one-bedroom unit designed by Hannah for Real Living Space 2014. Click here to see more photos.
Hannah is actively involved in the field of design as an interior designer and as an educator. Aside from working on different projects, she also teaches Clothing, Textiles and Interior Design at the University of the Philippines—Diliman. While she has been in the business for almost half of her life, she still sees the value of constant learning through higher studies and sharing her knowledge through teaching.
On the challenges of the job:
In photo: Hannah improved the living, dining, and kitchen areas in this 24sqm space. Click here to see the transformation.
"I consider time and budget as two of the biggest challenges. Many projects fall within a very short time frame. Consequently, there are times that it limits the whole creative design process. Budget is another consideration as material and labor costs are also very steep. For time, I constantly research and update myself about different kinds of interiors and materials. I also manage my time well by following my schedule strictly. For budget, I make sure that I have options to present to my clients with the littlest deviation from my design intent."
Get in touch with Hannah via e-mail at profhannahfaustino[at]yahoo.com.
In photo: A successful makeover of a decades-old house. Click here to see the transformation.
Our Expert Advice columnist has been in the business for almost six years. After training in a small interior design firm, Vera has done freelance projects and worked for one of the country’s top developers, too. She’s currently doing more freelance projects—most of which are residential.
Vera likes solving puzzles and this is how she sees interior design. From getting to know the client to working on the finishing touches, it’s about piecing different parts together to create a final output. She decided to pursue a career in interior design because aside from helping hone her different skills, it’s also rewarding. Being able to help individuals and families means a lot—no matter how small a space is.
On the challenges of the job:
In photo: A living room transformation done by Vera. Click here to see the complete makeover.
"The biggest challenge is that design is subjective. The designer and client will not always see eye to eye. Revisions will tell you that design is about compromise and of course, client satisfaction. I always put into mind that it's not about my style—it's about theirs. This can also relate to other matters that require decision-making like space planning, budget allocation, material selection and what not. So, if their version of my layout and design is what floats their boat, I oblige and make the most out of it. Because in the end, it's their house and it should make them happy."
Get in touch with Vera via e-mail at veravillarosa[at]gmail.com.
Van Acuña Solana
In photo: A 49sqm sea-inspired condo designed by Van. Click here to see more photos.
Van has always enjoyed drawing and doodling as a kid. After graduating in 2008, she has worked for different design firms before finally pursing her own practice. While this proved to be a tough decision, she managed to make it work and has done beautiful homes—some of which are featured by Real Living.
On the challenges of the job:
In photo: Van worked on a playhouse-inspired look for this family home. Click here to see the changes.
"Any designer will tell you that one of the prominent challenges we go through on every project is the marriage between our design tastes and the client’s. It’s not all the time that a client will give you free reign over the design of their space. So it is really important that you are able to find that balance between your design and the client’s tastes, then it also becomes equally as important to get to know your client. I think that balance becomes harder to get to if there is no compromise."
Get in touch with Van via e-mail at vanacuna[at]gmail.com.
A love for creating new things and exploring new materials inspired Willie to pursue a career in Interior Design. She is also the brain behind Junk Not!, a brand that promotes and produces eco-creative products.
On her advocacy:
"At Junk Not!, we design for good. What is good for the people should also be good for the environment. Junk Not! hopes to help the society face two pressing problems: waste management and its environmental impact and lack of livelihood. Through Junk not!, we find creative ways to upcycle plastic waste to usable furniture while providing livelihood to a community and at the same time, they also become the protectors of their own surroundings."
To learn more about Junk Not!, click here.
Get in touch with Willie via e-mail at junknotinc[at]yahoo.com.
In photo: The finished look of one of RL's biggest makeovers ever. Click here to see the transformation.
The name might ring a bell—Grace has worked on some of our biggest and memorable makeovers. She has been practicing since 1998 and to say that she has come a long way would be an understatement. Grace began her career as a junior designer at a fabric store before becoming a senior designer for Galleria Estrada. It was during this period that she also became a lights apprentice under Shoko Matsumoto and Jon Villareal at the PETA Theater.
After her stint at Galleria Estrada, Grace found the courage to put up Magara Designs. Now nine years old, Magara Designs has made a name for itself with the countless projects Grace has helmed over the years. A finished project wouldn’t be complete without the details that each member contributes—whether it’s a wall art, a lighting piece, or lovely details on the door.
On the nitty-gritty of getting the job done:
In photo: Grace worked on this old house in Taytay, Rizal. Click here to see the transformation.
"In order for a space and a site to be successful, you have to know how to get down and dirty—to be hands-on, to perspire, to scrub the bathroom floor upon setup, to eat with all the construction workers with your tired, dirty, and bare hands, and to know the needs of both your client and your people. It is challenging work, it is hard work—but at the end of the day, when your clients see the work that you have done, you would always pat yourself on the back and tell yourself that you really did a good job."
Get in touch with Grace via e-mail at magarainteriors[at]yahoo.com.
PHOTOS OF DESIGNERS: Ocs Alvarez (Kristine) | Vincent Coscolluela (Hannah) | Michael Angelo Chua (Van) | Cyrus Panganiban (Willie) | Rene Mejia (Grace)
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