Tuesday, August 29, 2006

designer angst #1 re-post

I wanted to write #4 but I guess this one is still apt to what I feel now...

I have been wanting to write this for the magazine but I can't find a section where it can fit.

Since I started working here three years ago, the question whether the interior design industry can be brought to the masses a viable cause or not remains a question. One of the reasons why I stayed in this magazine until now is primarily because of this. Real Living started with the cover line-- Live Well, Spend Smart. If we dissect that line, it does not automatically mean - have a beautiful house, yet limiting your budget to 1,500 pesos for a sofa. Spending smart can still mean buying a tulip chair knowing for a fact that it has a resale value, for 23,000 pesos. Yet, at first glance, 'Live Well, Spend Smart' can actually mean having a beautiful home on a shoestring budget. It is with this first-impression-on-the-cover-line that has been my guide in composing a lot of my visuals for Real Living.

After three years, somehow, we got the message across, especially to a lot furniture makers and exporters. We are not a high-end magazine. Yet we make beautiful homes. It is with this sincerity that we became number one in our genre. Screw modesty.

Yet every time this is being brought up, I can't help but wish sometimes that "sana, high-end kami, mas mabilis sana ang mga pull-outs at x-deals." Before I got here, I was working as interior designer of one of the highest paid pedigreed designers in the country. An average budget for a three-bedroom condominium unit can go up to eight million excluding my boss' fees. I was doing visual merchandising for their store, which actually serves coffee or tea to its clients while checking the furniture pieces on display. A single vase is equivalent to the cup of coffee, plus the cup and saucer, plus the beans, plus espresso maker. Some have even prices that can include the entire modular kitchen where your espresso maker can be found. In other words, what is sold there, what is discussed, I will never get to afford. And so is my kind-- the working class.

Where I'm coming from, this notion is true to a lot of people. Interior design is one industry for the rich. Does it follow that a beautiful home is exclusive to the rich too? Of course we say that it doesn’t follow. Because you can actually do it yourself. You don’t have to hire a designer. That is why the magazine is there. That is why there are magazines. Now, of course this doesn't apply to the first question. Maybe a bit, but not quite.

Yet working in the magazines surely made the dilemma more apparent. Especially when you see products that are well crafted with perfect proportion priced exorbitantly. Much worse, you meet the maker of these products (furniture, for example) short of telling you in your face that you can not feature them because it does not fit your market range or simply because they don't manufacture for the local market-- spell third world. It gets more frustrating because here you are, getting invited to these shows, seeing these pieces yet your lenses are clipped but instead you get to settle to what is available in their laminate form proudly Xiamen made in the malls.

If not laminates, we have Malaysian rubber wood, or maybe some wood, which used to be crates now converted to a dinner table. Sofas made of ply boards that can last only for three years. While the products that we consider quality, proudly Philippine made are not available in the Philippines. If it is, they are too expensive. I'd settle for the latter, at least it is sold here. If you dig deeper, these products don't really cost much export wise (they have to still compete with China after all) but when sold here, their prices are doubled. This is one thing I cannot understand. It is a conscious effort to alienate your products to a vast majority of your people. It is with this attitude that makes interior design an industry only for the rich. Quality interior design.

I attended a symposium months ago and a demi-god of a designer was invited to speak. He was wearing this pink suit saying that design is for everybody yet you can not approach him easily because you have to pass thru a battalion of local designers who are harbingers of the exact opposite idea he espouses.

Interior design is indeed for everybody. It only becomes elitist when mixed with the word industry. It is not for free either, as everything else, it comes with a price. It only becomes elitist because of the conscious effort done by a lot of members in its core for it to be such.

While the worldwide trend is moving towards tapping the greater market (which is the middle class), we are living in feudal times here in this country. Where the monarchs are trying so hard to keep their fancies exclusively theirs not knowing the peasants outside already crossed the moat. The greater question here, do the peasants outside care? Do they really want to enter? It is also with this question that I am still with the magazine. Indeed, there is a growing number of people who are more conscious in making their homes more beautiful now. But is the number sufficient to at least fuel the materials and means of opening the market?

I’m still with the magazine. And I still stand for the cause.

I have been wanting to write this for the magazine but I can't find a section where it can fit. As I said before, I am not writer, but sure there are other ways of airing this one. Photos perhaps?


sky said...

To be honest, most of the homes you featured are still above the market average. No ordinary home can have a painting by a local artist, or even an heirloom narra piece.

And yes I agree, we produce world-class furnitures (somebody even tagged Cebu the Asian equivalent of Milan in terms of design) yet not all of us Filipinos can afford these pieces. It's a great source of frustration.

However, the reason why I subscribe to your magazine (technically buying every month since you don't offer subscriptions outside Manila) is because of its ability to visualize my dream. Ok, medyo dramatic.

Imho, Real Living spells DIY for me. When I can't get one, I make one. Not just with respect to crafts or weekend warrioring. I scour through Evangelista and Divisoria. I try to make friends again with long-lost artist contacts. After all, your "Get the Look" section makes sense of what RL really is.

Bottomline, I look for great value (er, great design) for my money.

PS. Pang-letter of the month na ata ito.

PPS. Yakalite ka ba?

decorator said...

hi sky,

pang letter of the month nga. ill forward this to my ed. ok, clear ko lang ha... whatever i write in my blog is not the magazine's voice but my own.

regarding the homes, it is most of the time a mix of homes covering the market of the magazine. the aspirational part will always be there. i know sooner or later, you will be able to afford these artists.

youre from yakal too? we did have a lot of dormmates who are from fine arts. i got mine from them...


sky said...


no problem! i also separate myself from the company i work with. but it's good that i can talk to somebody from RL directly.

yes i stayed in yakal for 3 years. i see you there often. naabutan ko atang taga-FA na yakalite si ulysses (forgot his surname) plus others from my batch.

so there.

decorator said...

you can e-mail me at gwyn.guanzon@summitmedia.com.ph about magazine concerns...


where are you now then, if youre not from manila.

sky said...

If you're on top of the ferris wheel at the Enchanted Kingdom, look to the west. We're in one of the houses which look like the ones in Monopoly.

I think I missed out on the last paragraph of your post. But please, don't play the high-end card. One magazine put me off because of their expensive flair with little if no practical advice on home improvement whatsoever. Your team is on the right path in, to borrow your words, opening the market.

ascii (256 moods including NULL) said...

my sister loves your magazine. btw, she once told me that she kinda remembers you from UP. She bought a stack of the old and new issues when she furnished their new home a couple of months ago. I've flipped through some of the magazine issues a couple of times. And I've got my dream home pictured as one of your creations. Although I'm just not sure if I can afford your fees. hahaha. But I'll have to afford first my own home before I figure out the rest. :)

As for your angst on designing, I do believe that creativity has a price tag to it just like any commodity. As a web designer/developer myself, I sometimes see the shock in some clients' faces when they ask for the price. But I guess there are people who appreciate the value in good quality creative work, and there are those who think "pawis lang ang kanyang puhunan at kuryente sa kanyang laptop".

In any case, you do one fine creative job. Btw, I saw your all-white motif in your room before from one of the older issues. pretty cool.

decorator said...


thanks very much. :))

its actually sad to know that a lot of people around think that the "designing" does not require skill and practice... only until they get to do it themselves that they realize that we all have our place under the sun... mine is in design and theirs in banking.

they dont complain about accountant's fees though but they will complain about designers'. ugh!!

btw, whats the name of your sis?

ascii (256 moods including NULL) said...

kitts. she remembers you from Molave if i remember her story correctly (my attention was in between reading an article and listening to her while she was chatting away, hehehe).

decorator said...

i stayed in yakal...


Anonymous said...

my bad, i guess i did get the story twisted. i'll ask her again. ;)