Mar 04, 2022

Modern Filipino Interior Design for Your Home

The nature and fundamentals of interior design are inherent to the field of architecture. They are an integration of planning, designing, and the final execution of furnishings and building interiors. 

By going through rigorous examinations and training, along with learning from experience, an interior designer is equipped to manage all the stages of production and application of various principles essential to every project’s completion. 

Through the years, the form and functionality of the Philippine habitations’ interiors have been highly influenced by culture and the environment. Agricultural development served as a major turning point wherein populations began to diversify and the demand for home design became greater. Interisland and international trade both acted as catalysts for bringing about larger communities and states. 

The standard of ancient Filipino woodworking skills are evident in stone and metal artifacts and tools. This includes actual structures built during the early ages. As seen in many household artifacts that can be found in archaeological sites, the urban life we are living now originated from the nomadic to sedentary eras of Philippine history. 

What does Filipino interior design have to do with all of these? In this article, we’ll walk you through its deeper essence and significance toward modernization. Let’s begin with how it all began. 

History of Filipino Interior Design 

From its years of discovery to how it became a major part of livelihood, learn more about the history of Filipino interior design and its foreseeable future. 

Establishment and Reconstruction 

The post-war period, which is after the devastation brought about by World War II, gave birth to interior design in the Philippines. This period led to the urgent reconstruction of damaged and destroyed structures including the interiors of buildings. 

Funding for the reconstructions was done in cooperation with the American government, private investments from locals and foreigners residing in the country, as well as the newly inaugurated Philippine government.  

Back then, interior design as a specialty was still considered as a subsidiary of the field of architecture. The majority of the architects were also designing the interiors of their own respective projects.

Prominent Filipinos who were also known as art collectors became practitioners of interior design. They were the ones who primarily influenced people to follow and incorporate the designs of their homes’ interiors.  

Design as a profession was still not regularized during that period. Those who collected various forms of art, provided furniture, lighting, upholstery, and other embellishments were known as “interior decorators,” even without proper training or formal education. 

Through the years, the demand for interiors and reconstructions escalated, particularly for the new middle-class homes such as row houses and bungalows. This was followed by the ranch houses of the upper class. Foreigners who owned furniture manufacturing companies had their businesses expanding to the interior design scene. 

The emergence of architecture graduates from the University of Santo Tomas (UST), locally trained Filipino architects, as well as architect-teachers who decided to pursue more advanced design studies abroad led to the advent of Filipino interior design’s professionalism and practice. More people turned to interior design for the improvement of various homes and buildings. 

Formation of Interior Design Organizations 

During the 1950s, the term “interior design” became a general concept in the Philippines. In 1963, it was eventually standardized as a profession, which is also when the Philippine Institute of Interior Design (PIID) was established. 

The idea of forming a professional organization of licensed interior designers was agreed upon by the following group: Antonio Zamora, Ched Berenguer Topacio, Edgar Ramirez, Lor Calma, Mel Gana, Rosario Luz, and Wili Fernandez. 

The first batch of officers of the proposed organization were selected in the house of Lor Calma in New Manila. The next development was the registration of PIID with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), along with the certification of the Articles of Incorporation. 

The Philippine School of Interior Design (PSID), on the other hand, was established in 1965 to train professionals practicing in the field. Providing quality education for more than 50 years now, it has become the leading Interior Design school in the country.

The institution’s ultimate vision is to continue producing interior design graduates that will make an impact on the industry as professional, competent, responsible, and ethical practitioners. The initially offered four-term course included subjects such as the Elements and Principles of Interior Design, History of Art and Architecture, Color Theory, Mechanical Drawing, Perspective Drawing, Art Appreciation, Color Rendering, and Interior Design. All of these subjects were benchmarked from those being offered at a prestigious academy abroad, the New York School of Interior Design. 

Expansion and Evolution for the Future 

In spite of the continuous turmoil of political violence and student activism, a growing demand for industrial design was also constant. Initiatives for interior design were administered by the Philippine government. 

Through state-sponsored institutions such as the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and the Design Center of the Philippines (DCP), officials reorganized the cultural sphere with projects and exhibitions. And with the development and decoration of new international hotels, there was also a rising demand for accommodations for foreign dignitaries invited to attend conferences in Manila. This paved the way for interior designers to showcase their expertise and talents in the international spotlight. 

Efforts for improving the professionalization and regulation of interior design practice were constantly ongoing. Fast forward to the present, higher education institutions in the Philippines now offer formal courses in interior design. Professionals who aspire to specialize in this field may also apply for a license.  

Distinct Details of Filipino Interior Designs That Make Your Home Better 

Nostalgic in nature, Filipino interior design presents a warm disposition and exhibits resourcefulness in its execution. Much like the Filipino people themselves, the distinct design elements resemble hospitality and exudes richness in culture. 

What makes Filipino décor style beloved by many is the originality of its local touch — from the detailed rattan furniture to the preservation of family heritage through household treasures. 

Woodwork and Ceramics 

Flourishing with natural elements and promoting a culture of hospitality, the Philippines as a tropical country radiates warmth and comfort. These are reflected in how Filipinos approach design, art, and life. 

Woodwork and ceramics showcase versatility and abundance in nature. With the use of high-quality and durable material, the flexibility of their colors and shapes gives off a universal appeal. 

Rattan Weaves 

Majority of Filipino homes have rattan-weave furniture and ornaments stored or displayed. Made of low-maintenance and highly durable material, rattan is widely used in outdoor settings such as beach houses, resorts, and boho-inspired homes. 

Rattan provides a variety of furniture pieces such as laundry baskets, chairs, tables, storage boxes, and many others. One of the most common types of rattan weaves is solihiya, displaying a repetitive grid of sunburst weaves with holes that allow air to flow freely. 

Native Textiles 

Across its immensely diverse communities, the Philippines is abundant with weaving traditions and practices. Wherever you may come from in the country, there is an existing local weave that may be connected to your heritage. 

Among these local weaves are the patadyong of Negros and bunga sama of Basilan’s Yakan community. You can support these local groups by incorporating native weave patterns in your living room, beddings, and outdoor furniture. 

Heirloom Pieces 

Generally passed down and inherited from grandparents or further, heirloom pieces can be found in most Filipino homes. These family treasures come in the form of antique, bauls or storage chests, paintings, dining tables, utensils, vases, and other ornaments. These heirloom pieces symbolize family values and heritage, making them perfect for gift giving and exhibiting tradition. 

Vigan Tiles 

Originating from the historic city of Vigan in Ilocos Sur, these earthenware tiles are usually reddish brown in color. They exude warmth and will make any home more welcoming with their old-fashioned yet sophisticated touch. 

Mainly inspired by the houses built along the cobblestone street of Calle Crisologo, these tiles come in various shapes and sizes. Aside from the regular square-shaped ones, you can choose octagon Vigan tiles for better visual appeal. 

Capiz Panels 

Usually applied on window installations and ceiling treatments, these Capiz materials will give off a provincial feel to your home. They can attract instant attention when you make them a focal point in a space. 

Capiz shell chandeliers serve as light diffusers while illuminating the room in an efficient and balanced way. You can check out more variations of these panels designed by Philippines-based artists. 

Stone Materials 

Aside from being installed as part of outdoor furniture and exterior façade, stone materials can also be used for interior walls and embellishments. In most modern Filipino homes, araal slates are used to create an accent in different interiors. These neutral-colored slates can complement a wide range of colors, making them versatile and ornamental. 

Handicrafts and Patterns 

To add a more Filipino touch to your home, you can utilize handicrafts and patterns such as coasters, baskets, carvings, wall art, rugs, table décor, and other trinkets. You can either use them as decorations or enhance the functionality of a space. There are also unique native patterns designed by Filipino artists that you can incorporate as décor and furniture. 

Filipino Icons of Interior Design 

Possessing an artistic eye and creativity that involves out-of-the-box thinking, each of these Filipino interior designers and decorators can serve as your inspiration for your home makeover. Without the determination and drive of these pioneering visionaries, Filipino interior design wouldn’t have evolved into the more prolific and dynamic industry that it is now. 

Arlen de Guzman 

This designer had the privilege to work on the most iconic luxury and commercial structures in both the Philippines and abroad. These include the Shangri-La Hotel in Bangkok, Taikoo Shing Commercial Centre in Hong Kong and Macau, Marriott Hotel in Cebu, The Palms Country Club, Powerplant Mall, and the interiors of Hyatt City of Dreams in Metro Manila. 

Chat Flores 

After a collaboration with fellow designers Leandro V. Locsin and Partners, Chat Flores established her own studio focusing on creating sophisticated and elegant spaces around the Philippines. Aside from being a designer, she is also an educator at the Philippine School of Interior Design teaching Furniture History. 

Cynthia and Ivy Almario 

They are a duo whose designs embody Asian culture and modernization. Both locally and internationally, the sisters have been working on multiple projects such as residences, luxury hotels, restaurants, and offices. They have established their own design studio, Atelier Almario. 

James Jao 

Green and sustainable architecture are the main focus of this visionary designer and leader. James Jao has revolutionized environmental conceptualizations such as the LuzViMinda Eco-House Initiative. This project pushed for the development of carbon-neutral homes and zero net energy residences, resulting in zero net energy consumption and carbon emissions yearly. 

Jose Ma. “Johnny” Hubilla 

His signature style exhibits the incorporation of native-inspired pieces and indigenous materials. He is also a veteran designer who is a solid advocate of sustainable living. 

Leo Almeria 

This Filipino designer is a man of many hats. From being a multi-awarded interior designer, stylist, product designer, and even floral designer, Leo Almeria continues to challenge the limits of his craft while managing his own studio. 

Michael Pizarro 

After earning his degree at the Philippine School of Interior Design and topping the board exam in 1995, he became an executive board member of the International Federation of Interior Architects/Designers. He also founded his own design firm, Michael Pizarro Interior Design (MPID), as well as its subsidiary group, Acanthus Home Furniture and Furnishing. 

Nicky and Marites Magcase  

They are an interior design duo who have been awarded with the prestigious Outstanding Interior Designer recognition by the Professional Regulation Commission and officially inducted as members of the Philippine Institute of Interior Designers. 

Tessa Prieto-Valdes 

Being established as a licensed interior designer from the College of Notre Dame in California, this revolutionary designer handles her own studio, Trezza Group, mainly working on both commercial and residential projects. 

Rogelio Caringal 

For this iconic designer, aesthetics and functionality must be complementary with each other. The Philippine interior design landscape rests upon designers who value visual appeal as much as they give importance to purpose. He is also a former national president of the Philippine Institute of Interior Designers and currently a faculty member at the College of Architecture in the University of Santo Tomas (UST). 

Where To Buy Filipino Furniture and Home Décor 

You can support these homegrown brands by shopping at their stores showcasing home décor and furniture that are distinctively Filipino. Here are must-visit shops for every budget. 

Kultura Filipino 

If you’re looking for a one-stop shop offering Philippine-made products, Kultura Filipino is perfect for mall-going visitors, balikbayans, and tourists. The brand offers world-class handicrafts at pocket-friendly prices. 

Aside from its home, souvenir, and fashion departments, it has also launched a special product line called “Craft with a Cause” that aims to support various foundations for the benefit of marginalized communities. 

Tesoro’s Philippine Handicrafts 

Since 1945, this store offering high quality Filipino products has already been in existence. Discover a wide variety of world-class goods, handmade goods such as tableware, antiques for decades, embroidery, and local apparel. 

One of their most recent additions is Anthill Fabric Gallery’s contemporary clothing line using indigenous weaves. Tesoro’s Philippine Handicrafts is located at 1325, Ermita, Manila; 1223, A. Arnaiz Avenue, Makati City. 

Azcor Lighting Systems 

Lighting is everything, and this local store offers a wide range of world-class products from traditional, modern, to custom-made. It also exports lighting products to different parts of the globe such as Asia, the European Union, and the Middle East. The good news is you can already get your hands on these products locally by simply visiting one of their stores or shopping online. 

Casa Ligna 

Known for its award-winning and skillfully designed furniture pieces exhibited in a stunning showroom, Designs Ligna has been partnering with the finest designers and craftsmen in the industry. These include Natalie Bujis, Dem Bitantes, Patrick de Lange, and Karim Rashid, to name a few. 

The brand’s sleek and modern pieces have already reached over 17 countries. You can visit the store at 235 Nicanor Garcia Street, Bel Air II, Makati City. 

Hacienda Crafts 

This Negros-based handicrafts shop is highly committed to fair trade and sustainability. Examples of Hacienda Crafts’ upcycled products are beach-glass lamps from the brand’s Biodiversity Collection, as well as wood pieces from the store named Sustainably Yours. Visit its branches to see more of the pieces. 

Locsin International 

As seen in most designer homes and luxury hotels, the organically shaped and woven furniture pieces of Locsin International are absolute scene-stealers. Having been around since 1979, the company garnered multiple awards for revolutionizing Filipino furniture design and craftsmanship. Check out its showrooms at 2/L, Unit 209 LRI Design Plaza; 210 N. Garcia Street, Makati City. 

Balikbayan Handicrafts 

With more than 45 years in existence, Balikbayan Handicrafts has become the go-to pasalubong and souvenir shop for both locals and tourists. If you are looking for impressive wooden hunter statues and kamagong beds, this is the place to be. Aside from the larger-than-life pieces, the store also offers essential kitchenware, tableware, lighting, home décor, and fashion. 

Why Interior Design Matters 

Especially during this pandemic, people all around the world have been spending most of their time inside their homes. We learned to appreciate our living spaces more deeply and see them in a whole new perspective. We also noticed what works and what doesn’t. 

With all of our reflections and realizations, let’s take the time to think about what our spaces are affecting us and what more they can do to us. Here are different aspects that prove why interior design truly matters. 

Maximizing Spaces 

Imagine your ideal workspace where you can accomplish things more productively and efficiently. Think about the time when you were chilling at a café while sipping your favorite beverage or having a good time with your friends. These certain scenarios show the power and impact of well-designed spaces, whether big or small. 

Aesthetic Meets Functionality 

Good interior design equates to achieving a balance between form and function. No matter how gorgeous a space is, it wouldn’t be complete without having enough functionality. In spite of the fact that aesthetics is a major aspect of interior design, it’s not the core of the field. 

Ease and Ergonomics 

In order to maximize comfort in any way possible, we need to consider the dimensions of the human body in various movements and positions. This is where the concept of ergonomics comes in. For instance, when you’re sitting on a chair while working on a table, having proper ergonomics can minimize or eliminate any form of discomfort such as back pain, wrist strain, and fatigue. 

Flows and Directions 

For emergencies, daily tasks, and routines, it’s crucial to create pathways that would keep movements flowing smoothly. Minimizing possible hindrances and unwanted friction does wonders for any space. Health is also an important factor. This includes having enough natural light, ventilation, airflow, and proper temperature. 

Scenarios and Lifestyle 

To make sure all needs are met and the space can be used in the most optimum way, there are many decisions that will be made. Interior designers carefully study how to make every space a perfect fit for their clients. The factors to consider include the types of furniture, placement planning, and the specific functions of every space. 

Emotions and Expression 

Interior design is not only physical, but also psychological. Spaces have a significant effect on how we feel, act, and connect. Using the right visual elements can bring about a desired emotion or certain vibe, may it be optimism, relaxation, energy, or sentimentality. 

Supported by Science 

Did you know that you can actually heal by just staying within the confines of your own home? According to theorist and psychiatrist Carl Jung, our homes are powerfully symbolic as much as they are psychologically significant. 

A house is far more than just shelter from the outside world, but also a reflection of who we are as human beings. A substantial part of modern research supports the idea that a mental state of mind depends on how an environment is constructed. 

Final Thoughts 

There are two things that make a room timeless:  a sense of history and a piece of the future.

Charlotte Moss, award-winning interior designer

Despite the numerous lockdown implementations brought about by the pandemic, Filipinos still managed to keep both their happiness and sanity intact. One of the reasons is because their homes mainly served as a sanctuary instead of a virtual jail.  

That is why if you are planning to buy or improve your home, make sure that it would truly satisfy your needs as well as wants. Filipino interior design provides a wide range of choices that showcase our rich history and promising future. 

For more valuable resources and “life hacks” that will help you achieve your ideal home, stay updated and in the know by visiting

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