November 27, 2014
Written by Cat Arambulo-Antonio
Categories: Interiors


Every PSID (Philippine School of Interior Design) student knows that their only rite to passage to graduate is the exhibit, hotel plate (25 plates) with defense and a gazillion other requirements of hardcore intensive training for 2.5 years of a interior designer’s student life. In my case I would eat, sleep, breathe and dream about PSID. (Check out my previous post on PSID’s Interior Design Exhibit -GLOBALSCAPES: WORLD DESIGNS REIMAGINED)


Aaaahhhhhhh… Booth #2 KENYA! No one from my group has been to Kenya so when we were randomly assigned to design a living room space inspired by Kenya.. this is what we came up with. After a couple weeks of research and planning, our group decided to get our inspiration from one of the biggest and the most popular tribe in Kenya called the Maasai Tribe.


Fortunately, I have a few friends that went there. Unfortunately, their trip was AFTER our exhibit. I was so happy when Tim Yap sent me these photos. I couldn’t help it so I shared it with my whole batch, some guests that visited our exhibit and now you! Not only was our design on track but mostly because I was ecstatic to see my friends with the Maasai Tribe… in the flesh. I was living vicariously through their photos and by the stories that Tim told me that I felt that I was there with the Maasai tribe too. I was in awe.. I still am. Honestly, I felt like a child reading a fairy tale book and Cinderella pops out from it with my friends! SO SURREAL!!!


Our booth took 30 days of construction to be completed. During our planning process, Tito Richie Cuerva (our contractor) told us 2 things: (1) Our design was very complicated (too many curves), the time table was tight and we just had too many details which they have never done before – it was too risky! There was not enough lead time to change our design if the actual construction didn’t look according to what we had planned. In his words, “Mga sira-ulo kayo!” (You guys are crazy!!!). (2) Take the risk and build as planned in which Tito Richie said, “If you guys pull this off: You’re geniuses! Ang galeng niyo!!! (You guys are good!!!).


Of course we were the crazy ones and took that risk! It was a design course and we worked so hard to get here. Our space was designed to pay tribute to the Maasai Tribe by infusing a little glamour to their home which is called the Kenyan Kraal (it’s like the Philippines traditional nipa hut). We modernized it by adding leather strips on the beams to give it a more luxurious touch. The ropes wrapped around the columns represent the traditional necklaces worn by both men and women of the Maasai Tribe that signifies their social status, beauty and strength.

Now-a-days spaces are so small. Condominium spaces are getting smaller and smaller. So as designers, we wanted to create a smart space: multi-functional and very versatile. That is why we created an entertainment area that can be converted into a display case. It gives the space a formal feel when the panels are closed and informal when its open so you can kick back, relax and watch television or bust out your Playstation/X-Box.

It’s difficult to describe on text but for those who were able to drop by and get a tour of our booth knows that our living room space transforms depending on the location that you’re standing in. Our special design feature: the black panels a.k.a. accent wall was created to give the space an illusion of depth, it also served as a way to divide the bar/living room space without having to put an actual wall -buuuuuuut- it’s NOT just any kind of accent wall.. it’s actually very functional… from another angle you only see the reflections of various bottles, so depending on the size and color of the bottles, that’s exactly what will reflect onto the panelled surface AND once you walk onto the black step leading to the bar, that is when you see it’s actual contents. It’s like having a secret stash of alcohol that only the people at the bar area can see. (wink*wink)


We wanted to avoid taking the whole minimalist and linear approach because we didn’t want it to be so boxy. So instead, we decided to making everything curvy and bring sexy back! To be consistent with our design, we had all of our furniture custom made. Our sofa, accent chair, bar stools and all our furniture pieces were meticulous curated by our group and with the generous sponsorship of my go-to furniture maker,  we were able to come up with some really unique designs.

Staying true to Kenyan culture, my friend Anton Barretto lent us his authentic African throw pillows and masks. Mixing the old accessories with the new, we added a little glamour into our design by incorporating touches of gold. I even included my first ever home accessory mirror called Gold Rush that I designed specifically for our Kenya booth to give it some sparkle.


FLASHBACK. Here’s our space at 6am on the very first day of construction. Hat’s off to our amazing team from Century Properties especially Eng.Bert Sarmiento!


Whoever said interior design is a glamorous job doesn’t know what he’s talking about. haha! Be prepared to get down and dirty. It’s A LOT of work and clearly a labor of love.


Since SM North Edsa was too far for me to go home, I spent my down time in the mall eating pizza & getting a free massage. Oh and sleeping on the job too! hahaha! Just kidding.


WHERE IT ALL BEGAN. People don’t understand the struggles, challenges and the amount of work an interior designer has to go through to make a space beautiful, liveable and SAFE!


We spent long hours, days, weeks, months and 2.5 years of brainstorming, conceptualizing, planning, building scale models, doing plates & projects and studying for tests – and still we don’t know everything. But we did spent a lot of time in our group’s Head Quarters, Casa Antonio.


I will never forget the amount of blood, sweat and tears we had to pour into finishing our Hotel Plate that consisted of 25 plates and a panel defense. We were doing it simultaneously with planning for our batch’s exhibit (In my group: Myrrh was the President of PSID 2014, I was Vice President and my other group mate Kim was the head of the Solicitations Committee) WHILE we were doing our researching and planning our KENYA space… PLUS I had other responsibilities of attending to my family, especially since before anything else, I was a wife & a mommy. I was running around like a headless chicken!!! At this point, I was too deep into the program and so close to the finish line that I didn’t have time to even stop or breathe. I just had to suck it all in, one day at a time and roll with the punches. OH MY GOOOOOOSSSSH!!!

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Another tedious project that we did was designing the Christmas tree for MegaWorld’s Venice Piazza. Being the perfectionists we were, we decided to make our own scaled model for MegaWorld to fully appreciate our design. It was fun because we made a trip to divisoria to source for the crystals, ribbons and a lot of other things. But stressful because we didn’t realize that it was so difficult to make a scaled model of our design. We had to string each crystal individually! BUT then again, to see our design up and running was PRICELESS!


Other memorable projects included our Research & Development project on the use of Knife Fish & our first vignette for SM’s Interior Design Zone.

Knife Fish is a carnivorous fish that is affecting the livelihood of the fishing industry in Laguna de Bay. The government and other locals are finding ways to eradicate these pests by processing its flesh into various types of food (Knife Fish eat other fish and have teeth! EEEEK!). My group decided to find a sustainable way to make use of the discarded Knife Fish skin by converting it into a leather that can be used as a decorative pillow and possibly a new material for interior design. To complete this project, I had to rough it out in Laguna de Bay with the fishermen and my group and I worked closely with BAI (Bureau of Animal Industry) to be able to turn the discarded Knife Skin into leather. YEEEES.. again we got our hands dirty and went through the whole process of making leather. And for the final stage, we worked with my friend Maco Custodio to create a decorative throw pillow. I learned so much and made new friends! :)


A lot of people have asked me (1) What happened to me? It’s like I disappeared into thin air! (Especially since I cut off if not all.. but MOST of our social activities.. my time out was like an apparition. haha!) (2) How did I manage to finish the course, on schedule and with honors?! (3) Do I recommend people to take interior design? And would I do it again if I had another life to live.

Here are my answers:

1. I had to prioritize my children’s future and secure my own. I love to work and earn my own money. Not working was NOT an option for me and since my other jobs as a stylist and PR didn’t sit well with my husband, I had to find something that I was interested in doing but would still allow me to fulfil my roles as a mother and wife. Let’s just say I had to temporarily disconnect myself for 2.5 years to improve myself and create a new career and start a new life! Time goes by so fast. Look, I’m back and better than ever!!! :)

2) Patience, perseverance, determination and HARD WORK! Not a lot of my friends know this but I started my Interior Design course while I was pregnant with Asher. I had a very difficult pregnancy that required me to be bed rest on some months and on a wheel chair for most of my pregnancy (7 out of 9 months) because I had a low cervix. I brought a trolley bag to school since I couldn’t lift anything heavy.

I was determined to finish on schedule so I took a full load every term: 3 hours per class, 3-4x a week. The classes were easy since it was just 3 hours… it was the amount of homework I had to do plus all of my other obligations that was the killer!

On trips. I would stay in the hotel room to study and finish my plates. So if ever you saw a pregnant woman on a wheelchair lugging around giant T-square, that was probably ME! haha! (By the way, the full size T-square doesn’t fit in any luggage. I’ve tried! It has to be hand carried.)  If I were to miss a class, I would ask someone to video tape and record EVERYTHING so that I didn’t miss out on anything. No matter how late my flight arrived in Manila, if I had an early morning class the next day & homework to submit, I would still be there… always 15-30 minutes before schedule, sitting on my usual spot with my homework ready for submission as if I never left.

Giving birth. A day after my c-section, I was in the hospital watching the lecture I missed the day before and was working on my assignments. As soon as I was out of the hospital, I went to class and did what I had to do. haha! All my teachers and classmates can attest to that. If the mind is willing, the body doesn’t feel it so much and works with it. Power of the mind!!!

Asher & breastfeeding. Caring for Asher as a newborn was actually very easy since at that stage he spends most of his time sleeping. What I had difficulty with was breastfeeding and running on sometimes very little or no sleep. I breastfed Asher for 1 year, PURELY. He only took breast milk with no formula or supplements. Looking back, I can laugh and pat myself on the back -BUUUUUT- honestly, to finish the one year of purely breastfeeding was craaaaaaazy! On it’s own I say is tough, but being an interior design student while breastfeeding, OOOOOMMMMMGGGGGG!!!

ASHER. It’s true what they say, breastfed babies are really soooo attached to their mothers. I never realized how crazy Asher & I looked until Carlo took a candid photos and pointed it out. TWICE! The photos above is what I look like when I am multi-tasking. LITERALLY! In the photo, I’m drafting a floor plan, answering calls/texting/emailing (phone and iPad is on the lower table which can’t be seen in the pic) while I’m listening to whatever Asher’s watching and talking to him at the same time PLUS balancing him on my lap as he demands to stay not only with me – BUT- on me! And most often than not, I’m eating and talking to Carlo, Danielle & staff all at the same time. CHAOTIC but manageable.

Breastfeeding in School. During the days I had class for 3 hours was no problem since I breastfeed before I leave then pump or breastfeed immediately when I get home. It’s during the times that I have two classes in a day. I had to make sure that I had enough stored milk to last for 7 hours and pump in between my school break, in the car!!! Yikes.

Breastfeeding at Home. I wouldn’t say it was easy but I would consider it to be workable. It was challenging when I would be doing my plates and get interrupted. I  would have to take a break in between to feed or pump and it would take me a while to get my trail of though back on track. When Asher was a bit older, I found a position that allowed me to feed & pump while I was working on my drafting table. Nights were tough not only because I had to feed Asher every 2-3 hours, but because I would spend all night working on plates or studying for my exams that I didn’t get much rest or sleep.. FOR OVER A YEAR. EEEEEEEP!

3) Interior Design is VERY tough not only as a student but more when you practice. You either love it or you don’t. It’s time consuming, meticulous and extremely personal. In school you just deal with designing, safety and making the space look good. In practice you have to do all that PLUS deal with the construction, carpenters, contractors, suppliers, sourcing and everything the client needs within their specific time table and budget! If you love it, go for it.

Would I do it again?? Honestly… under the same circumstances, NO WAY. But if I were younger without all the responsibilities and obligations that I had when I was doing it, of course. In fact, I should have done it earlier!


But then again, now that I’ve made it, I wouldn’t have done it any other way. There’s no happier moment than my daughter Danielle walking on stage with me and putting my Agustin Cancio Award (it’s like graduating Magna Cum Laude in PSID) and having my husband Carlo witness and capture this moment. Hopefully, I’ve set a good example and one day, I too can walk her up on stage and place her medal.

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The night was ours (or at least we thought so, haha!) as we received 2 out of the 3 awards given for the exhibit. Our exhibit booth KENYA received awards for Best Booth & Alumni’s Choice.


The earth movers and shakers in PSID.  My fellow board members with the prestigious PSID faculty and staff, and of course, PSID President and owner Mrs. Charo Cancio-Yujuico.


And my mentors and support group who I owe my PSID life and future career to.


I’m thrilled to announce that every single person in our group graduated with honors. YAY!!! I can proudly say that I was trained by the best, worked with best and I made friendships that will last me a lifetime!!! Thank you Myrrh, Kady, Sha, Kim and Janis for making my PSID Life fun and memorable. I love you girls!!!


I finished 5th in the class out of 107 students, received the Agustin Cancio Award, and our exhibit booth Kenya got awards for Best Booth and Alumni’s choice. My running joke with Carlo, “Babe, now you can call me your trophy wife! LITERALLY!” hahahahahahahahahaha!! :)

Lessons learned: Dream big and work even harder. If I can do it, you can too. Just give it your mind, heart and A LOT of soul!

Exhibit photos by William Ong | Styling and Art Direction by IDr. Poj Pambid | Maasai Tribe Photos by Tim Yap & Nix Alañon

- Cat Arambulo-Antonio


Categories: Interiors
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