Friday - January 29, 2016

What Color is Your Door ?

Filed in: Color, Doors

What color is yours ?

And does it reflect your personality ? Or what you want your guests to feel ?



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Sunday - September 13, 2015

Decorate by Numb#rs

My sister just moved to a new house in LA. Two months ago (and counting), we’ve been on the phone with me answering her questions that entailed numerical answers: measurements to be more exact. I get these all the time from friends and family. I am happy to help but sometimes there are issues that prevent a straight answer and are to be dealt with on a case to case basis.

Then I chanced upon this article from In Style magazine’s September 2015 issue. I was surprised to see something I expect from a Time-Saver Standards book in a fashion magazine. There is a lot of cross referencing in home design and fashion (always a woman’s turf). So instead of reading about the perfect knee length for an A-line skirt or the perfect heel height for the maxi dress, there it was-  three pages of basic information. What is the height that shows off your painting for better appreciation and what height is best for light sconces to be at to accentuate your facial features ?

It’s a cheat sheet to those how far, how high and how much questions in basic design speak. And  for those situations that are not the norm, well.. . you know how to reach me.


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Article from In Style magazine, September 2015 issue.

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Wednesday - May 27, 2015

Giorgio Armani’s Saint-Tropez Paradise


Blame it on a lazy Sunday, grey and cloudy morning that I would connect “blind contour drawing” to the talent of designer par excellence Giorgio Armani.

An article in Sunday’s New York Times, defines it as a technique, intro-­to-­art exercise – “blind contour drawing.” Freshmen at art school are forced to draw blindly for hours. It’s the fastest way to break them out of old bad habits, to make them unlearn lifeless conventions. The goal of blind drawing is to really see the thing you’re looking at, to almost spiritually merge with it, rather than retreat into your mental image of it. Our brains are designed to simplify — to reduce the tumult of the world into order. Blind drawing trains us to stare at the chaos, to honor it. It is an act of meditation, as much as it is an artistic practice — a gateway to pure being. It forces us to study the world as it actually is.

Part of the magic of blind drawing is the impossibility of doing it wrong. This makes it the perfect antidote to perfectionism, because its first and only step is to abandon any hope of perfection. But inevitably, almost by accident, your hand will produce little slivers of excellence — a nose that looks exactly right, an inscrutable expression on someone’s face, the dip and curve of a dog’s back — but then these will be obliterated, immediately, by the subsequent maelstrom of lines. I have learned to enjoy the feeling of swimming in sensory ignorance, to appreciate the vast distance between one’s hand and the reality it tries to trace.

This is exactly what helps me understand the creative prowess of Giorgio Armani. His work is unmistakably recognizable; always on trend yet timeless. It comes naturally in a context that addresses a challenge but at the same time, the simplest solution to it.

Like blind counter drawing that is joyful and meditative, one of the fastest escape routes from the prison of consciousness that can ever be found- a Giorgio Armani design is just that. A contour drawn with the least amount of effort but with maximum satisfaction. A Giorgio Armani project can flip you, like a switch, from absence to presence. Just like the natural magic that evolves from an exercise of blind contour drawing.






Photographs by Richard Powers

Article “A Place in the Sun” from Architectural Digest, June 2015, pages 103-111

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Tuesday - May 12, 2015

A Friend as a Client : The Buddy System


The first time I contemplated doing a project for a friend, I received a dose of well meant warnings: “Don’t do it – whatever you gain won’t be worth it when you lose a friend.” This applies to any industry – be it design, finance or real estate. “You need to draw a line”. Work and friendship just don’t mix. And when they do, they just don’t end as happily as we dream they would.

But how do you really turn your back from a friend ? When the main reason they run to you is precisely because you, as a friend, know them, understand them and will dole out more patience and flexibility more than any other professional would.

There is some truth to the warning. There have been projects that challenged dear friendships but there have also been projects that did just the opposite. Most of them deepened and inspired me to the core. Most clients do. But when you work with somebody whose daughter is your godchild, whose mobile number is in the top 5 of in your phone’s Favorites and you actually know by memory because you’ve gone way long before the iPhone generation, it is an intense commitment. Because, in a sense, you never walk away from the project. You will visit it, see it, hear of it all the time, and who knows, tear it down and start all over again in a few years.

This article from the May 2015 issue of Elle Decor reminds me of the good experiences I have had working with a friend and client. When Jason Rand asks his best friend from his teenage years to work on his Manhattan apartment it was a way to rediscover each other, after the many years and distance when Alexandra Loew, his designer friend moved to L.A..


The result is an amalgam of Jason’s treasured collection: things that were all disparate were united in a space that reflected his travels and his passion, in the limited Manhattan apartment that had no wall or floor space spared. But with every thing in a place where it “glittered”. Some people do not have an appreciation for collected objects. There are those who subscribe to the minimal. There are some who prefer the DIY look. I appreciate Jason Rand’s approach to design as everything he brings into his space has meaning and a story. Not everyone recognizes this as smart: I know because my home was recently featured in Curbed’s website and I have read comments that express that.

Our homes are personal areas –  our cocoons that provide us a sense of safety and satisfaction. To say that a design aspect works or is a mistake is not anyone’s right but the homeowner’s. Design is a tool for better living. And only the homeowner makes that judgment.


I have a 100% commitment to all my clients but to have a friend come to me as a design professional, that trust and respect is worth protecting and with mutual trust and respect, great expectations are met that forge deeper friendships.


From “The Buddy System”, Elle Decor, May 2015, pages 190-195

Photography by Simon Upton

Produced by Robert Rufino

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Wednesday - April 8, 2015

Potrero Home with a Hidden Speakeasy is the Ultimate Party Pad

My husband Richard has this TV habit – the minute he steps in the house, he reaches for the TV remote, even if he gave it a mere 3 minutes of his attention for the hour or two it is on. He is playing his guitar, blowing into his harmonica or eating his dinner while checking his email as he returns missed calls. Sometimes I think he thinks it’s the secret to effectively multi-task. I still can’t get it: the first thing he does to settle down is to grab the remote to turn on the TV.

Yesterday, in one of his TV – guitar – harmonica – dinner – email checking sessions, the show of the moment was “Outlander”. He tries to get me to watch it and tells me it is a story of a nurse who time travels to 18th century Scotland. My timer went off telling me that the pizza from Precita Park was done. As I pulled out dinner, this line from the series grabbed me.

“And one day I turned around and looked back and saw that each step I’d taken was a choice. Every day: every man has a choice, between right and wrong, between love and hate, sometimes between life and death. And the sum of those choices becomes your life. ”

It was an ordinary TV occurrence but yesterday was no ordinary day. This was the day our home of 8 years was featured on SF Curbed feed. See article here. It was a day when we got calls and emails and SMS’s from friends and colleagues who read the story online. It is a happy day when your life’s work (and in our case, our personal abode) is given this much attention.

There are three things that surprised me most :

(1) the title the editor, Lamar Anderson gave it: ” Potrero Home with a Hidden Speakeasy is the Ultimate Party Pad”. Richard and I are very private individuals and he is happiest downstairs playing one of his guitars while I am reveling with either a book or audiobook, the New York Times, the Bonhams catalogues or going through my accumulated reading lists of favorite blogs (usually design oriented) or listening to TED Podcasts. It would paint a truer picture if the heading went on to say the Ultimate Party Pad … for 2 Seniors and ;

(2) that the room I least spend time in (the speakeasy) would be the key feature of my home (it is subterranean and that is tantamount to Superman’s Kryptonite for me who was born and raised in humid Manila clime) and ;

(3) that Curbed’s audience would appreciate a home that is described as “eclectic”.

Eclectic by definition is “a style or taste from a broad and diverse range of sources or a person who derives ideas, style, or taste from a broad and diverse range of sources.” 

Richard and I never really intended to be defined as having an eclectic style. Our home is eclectic because we designed a stage that could hold and display all the items, trinkets, furniture and tchotchkes in a way that pleased both our eyes and our souls.

That it turned out to be what it is – is a statement. We chose every item because it meant something to us. We placed these items where they are because it is how it works with the way we live. 

In a way, even the TV shows we watch get woven into our lives. I didn’t mean to hear that line from the Outlander as I was reheating dinner the other night-  but now, as I contemplate how my / our design aesthetic is defined, it is true that the sum of our life choices does become our life.

Photography from the shoot by Patricia Chang.

Feature by Lamar Anderson, Curbed SF Editor.















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Tuesday - February 10, 2015

Fifty Shades of Green

Anything by designer Christian Liaigre deserves a few hours of my time.

His new vintage furniture gallery in the heart of the 7th Arrondisement in Paris, is designed in collaboration with antiques dealer Florence Lopez.

In San Francisco, where we have had a few rare 3 straight days of rain, the sun came out in shining glory yesterday. So the green walls in Liaigre’s gallery resonates. Green, the color of nature, the color of growth and the shade of abundance.

After all the hoopla we have been seeing on the number of shades of gray …

It’s time to bring in GREEN.






Photography by Phillippe Garcia

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Wednesday - January 21, 2015

How do you feel about Graffiti ?



I was walking home from my Yoga class last Wednesday and was drawn to something I pass every single day. Graffiti on the structural columns that support I-280 in San Francisco. I took a brave move by standing on the Caltrain tracks (no, no trains were coming) to appreciate them for a few minutes.

Graffiti, by definition, means illustrations (drawings) or texts (painted words) in public property. Without the owner’s consent (I am assuming the nature of the “art” I observed was made without a permit from the City) they classify as vandalism which is a punishable crime.

Although I do not by any means promote vandalism or any liberties on property that do not belong to me, I actually think that these structural support would look less interesting, less urban and just plain industrial without these. Definitely not depicting the San Francisco vibe and attitude of freedom of expression I am used to. I would definitely be less happy walking home by these columns if they were stripped clean. Imagine them without.

But with a permit from the city, the painted pictures and or words lose their “graffiti” oomph and just become another ubiquitous and approved “billboard”.

Is there a (legal yet visually appealing) middle ground ?

How do you feel about graffiti ?

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