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5 Interior Designers On The Value Of Filipino Heritage In Design

In a world of fads, the spaces designed by these design leaders are informed by their culture and heritage


By nature, interior designers transform space – creating character and atmosphere out of functional and aesthetically pleasing spaces through carving a relationship between color, volume, furniture, lighting, materials, and textures. The process of interior design involves the designer’s vision combined with the desires and needs of the users. But what exactly shapes a designer’s imagination and creativity?





Metro.Style speaks to these five leading interior designers on how their culture and heritage influences their approach to curating homes. 



Karina Lon (@karinaloninteriors) 


While based in London, Karina Lon-Cortez shares that signature clean and uncluttered approach to curating spaces is largely driven by her cultural roots. Her affinity for pieces that feel earthy and organic such as timber veneers, linens and weaves as well as natural materials like bamboo, narra, t’nalak, piña, capiz draws from a childhood spent in a tropical city. 


Moving to a foreign city, she admitted, has deepened her appreciation for Filipino craftsmanship. One of her advocacies include showcasing works made by local artisans on a global scale through Kubo Curated – a brand centered on handcrafted cushion covers made with naturally dyed and delicately woven T’nalak. Working hand-in-hand with craftsmen in Davao to honor local traditions, Karina strives to incorporate Filipino pieces into her every project.


“Interior design is completely personal,” she says. “Trends will come and go but what stays truly timeless is something that reflects your very self.”





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Ito Kish (@itokish)


“I never went to a design school,” shared Ito. “Wait, let me correct that. I took three subjects but was running my store simultaneously and I was just too busy so I dropped out after like a month.” Raised in San Pablo, Ito Kish started in the industry by opening a small shop selling home accessories from all over the world before launching his own furniture line in 2012. His collections feature made-to-order pieces using local materials like rattan and bamboo.


Ito believes his background in visual merchandising informs his approach. “In visual merchandising, you create something to sell, to get your attention, and make you buy products,” he said. “You sell a story.” For Ito, interior design exists to change the way people live. “If you have a house that is well-thought-out, you have a nice comfortable room and inviting dining area, it should bring people closer, foster interaction and friendship – a sense of togetherness.”






Aya Maceda (@alao_design)


At the helm of ALAO Design Studio based in New York and New Orleans, Aya Maceda believes that the process of interior design holds a great effect on one’s well-being.“I think design starts with evaluating your own life,” she said. “Ask the question [of] what makes you an individual and what activities are essential to support through design.”


With her mother being a professor in Philippine studies, Aya was exposed to poetry, art and design centered on local concepts. “My heritage is ingrained in my thinking,” she said. “I am heavily influenced by the aesthetic and spatial concept, Maaliwalas, which is carried out through all the projects that come out of my office. We put a lot of care in the sequencing and layering of spaces so you feel an expansion and a generous flow of light and air that you see the space beyond, and then the space outside from where you are in.”





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Mara Manalo (@studio__mara)


Interior designer, production designer, and events stylist Mara Manalo lists an extensive and diverse record of clients spanning TV sets and retail stores. The multi-hyphenate creative underscores her heritage and roots in her logic and approach to spatial design. “I believe that my Filipino heritage influences how I think spaces should be, and that affects how I solve design problems.”


“For example, the living area is usually highlighted in traditional Filipino homes,” she shared. “Knowing that a lot of Filipinos value cooking and eating together more than anything, it’s crucial for me to know if a client would be open to prioritizing the kitchen and dining area more than the living area. That way, we get to build a different experience for the family and really cater to their needs.”





Jigs Adefuin (@jigs_adefuin)


For some interior designers, Filipino heritage serves as a foundation. “[Filipino heritage] was a big part of the development of my personal design style,” he shared. “Early in my career, my work was heavily influenced by traditional Filipino-Spanish style.” And as Jigs traveled to more places around the world, his style became more modernistic while still honoring how he first began. 


“Good interior design amplifies [one's] experience of a space.” Jigs explained that his designs draw from elements of balance, symmetry, and proportion. “I also emphasize great lighting and sensible layouts, and follow the color theory appropriate to the requirements of the client and the space.”





Take a look at some of the spaces created by these Filipino interior designers: