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Carol Bujeau And Tania Fricke Lichauco's Chinoiserie Furniture Collaboration Is A Must-See

When Carol Bujeau, wife of the Canadian Ambassador to the Philippines, first arrived in the country two years ago, she grew an instant affinity to their new home. “What’s not to love? This is a country that is incredibly warm and kind to a new person so, right from the beginning, I was made to feel at home. That is such a great gift, which doesn’t happen in many places,” she shares.


When they met last year, Carol Bujeau and interior expert Tanya Fricke Lichauco instantly forged a friendship enhanced by a shared passion for beauty and design which is the foundation of their first collaboration.


She recently launched her Chinoiserie collection, inspired by her numerous travels abroad, in collaboration with Tanya Fricke, a talented Filipina designer and manufacturer, using exquisitely made Jim Thompson fabric. Not surprisingly, the 12-piece collection immediately sold out during a private viewing party last October, with new pieces ordered for late last year.


The Chinoiserie collection was inspired by Carol’s love for timeless and sometimes whimsical design which originated from the 18th century.


A passion for design

Carol admits she had always wanted to turn her passion for design into a reality and felt all the pieces finally coming together in Manila. “I come from a very humble background. However, being married to a seasoned diplomat, I’ve been privileged to visit private collections in palaces, in important rooms and galleries. They’ve awed and inspired me, and created this real yearning to produce something of my own. I’m not classically trained, but this comes from passion and from having acquired a fairly good eye from all the traveling we’ve done and what I’ve been exposed to,” she explains. Together with Tanya (who is the sole distributer of Jim Thompson in the country), Carol started working on the pieces earlier this year.


The Bardo Chair is a Scandinavian low-style chair with a narra frame professionally tripped and lacquered. It features the most luxurious of Jim Thompson’s newest fabric line.


After finalizing her collection, there were some unexpected but very welcome additions that came along the way. Carol says, “This collection had a life of its own. Originally it was just going to be a few new pieces that I designed. However, I also loved taking old pieces and refreshing them. I went to see Jaime Ponce De Leon, who owns Leon Gallery. He invited me to his warehouse to look at some of his own pieces, one-of-a-kind antiques, and he allowed me to do what I want with them.”


The Tiu Porter’s Chair design dates back to medieval England and 16th century France and made of eco-plantation mahogany. Its imperial shades of yellow used to adorn the front door of great halls and castles.


A sense of fulfillment

Creating things of beauty for people to use and appreciate gave Carol a different sense of fulfillment. “I chose chinoiserie because I like lively, juicy, joyful colors because the world is a bit dark and depressing these days, and I think we need to have stuff that uplift and make us happy,” she says. Each carefully curated antique item in her collection went through a delicately set process. “I’d strip them, nourish them with almond oil, and then buff them with a beeswax polish that I infuse with Lavender oil. That makes it resilient and gives a sort of old patina that usually takes centuries to achieve. But it’s all natural and really beautiful,” she adds.


The Peacock Bar Cabinet is a unique and handpainted drinks cabinet with a design that was considered the height of taste in the 19th century.


But more than just being able to find people to appreciate her collection, Carol stresses the importance of giving credit to the people who spent days perfecting each piece.


A wooden cabinet with evident and timeless Chinoiserie design.


“It is my firm hope that, over time, I will proudly be able to put a brass plaque on each piece of my furniture that says ‘Carol Bujeau Manila’ like you see with London or Paris because I want people to associate this country with that tradition of craftsmanship.”


The Tea Party Brighton Chairs are made of rattan and leather and feature intricate latticework and offers a charming tableau of Chinoiserie motifs including pagodas and bridges.


Photography by Daniel Soriano for Metro Home & Entertaining