LA Asks Filipino Furniture Designers About Their Design Process

Filipino furniture designers Ito Kish, Nix Alañon, and Kenneth Cobonpue share what motivates them to create, how they balance functionality with aesthetics, and more.

A home’s aesthetic appeal partly relies on its furnishings, which create a cohesive and inviting atmosphere that reflects a homeowner’s personal style. Lifestyle Asia had the privilege of talking to three Filipino furniture designers who uncovered their unique motivations and inspirations that drive them to sprinkle every ounce of brilliance so they can enrich homes. They discuss personal experiences, trends, design complexities, and sustainability as they push the boundaries of traditional furniture designs. 

Everything they create results in sophisticated works that inspire, elevate, and surpass the expectations of modern living.

READ ALSO: Shaping Spaces, Surpassing Stereotypes: Inspiring Stories From 3 Brilliant Filipina Furniture Designers

Ito Kish

How long have you been crafting furniture?

“I have been crafting for the last 12 years,” a proud Ito Kish said. He launched his brand, ITO KISH DESIGN, in 2012.

Where do you get your inspiration when you create?

The furniture designer affirmed that he draws inspiration from the rich tapestry of Filipino heritage and culture. 

“The vibrant colors, intricate patterns, and unique materials of my homeland serve as a constant wellspring of stimulation for my creations,” he chronicled.

How do you balance functionality with aesthetics in your designs?

For the esteemed creator, functionality and aesthetics are not just a balance, but also a harmonious fusion. “I firmly believe that a piece of furniture should not only be visually appealing, but also serve its purpose, creating a symmetry between form and function.”

What do you hope people feel or experience when they interact with your furniture pieces?

“A few of my pieces have become iconic, especially the Gregoria collection,” he mused. “People have an immediate connection with my creations as it gives them a profound sense of pride as Filipinos. My designs are deeply rooted in our culture. The Baluster, for example, is a distinct architectural detail of Filipino houses during the Spanish times, an influence that has been handed down to us historically. It gives the younger generation a window to appreciate our past.”

A balustrade, a structural and decorative element in colonial Hispanic architecture, inspired Ito’s Baluster collection
A balustrade, a structural and decorative element in colonial Hispanic architecture, inspired Ito’s Baluster collection/Photo from Ito Kish’s website

Nix Alañon

When did you start your journey in furniture making?

Nix Alañon started his design company, Phoenix Home, in 2011. “I’ve spent 13 years total [in the industry],” he answered.

What are the primary sources of your design inspiration?

Nix said he gets a lot of inspiration from the mid-century design era. “I love the shapes, the fluidity, and the timelessness. I also get inspired from my travels.”

What is your approach to integrating practicality with beauty in your furniture?

Form should always follow function in every aspect of design,” he explained. “I always think of the end user, so it has to be comfortable–that’s number one–and then it should suit their lifestyle.”

What emotions or experiences do you aim to evoke through your furniture?

“I hope they get the idea why certain pieces are designed the way they are,” Nix professed. “And hopefully, our patrons would continuously appreciate our creations.”

Kevin Cobonpue

How many years have you rendered in the furniture industry?

Industrial designer Kenneth Cobonpue has been creating furniture for more than four decades. “I established the Kenneth Cobonpue brand in 1998,” he elaborated. “I designed my first piece called ‘Yin and Yang,’ which drew inspiration from the philosophy of all things existing as inseparable and contradictory opposites. These are open-woven chairs which have cemented my proposal of translucent designs in Philippine furniture.”

Kenneth had crafted furniture for royalties like Queen Sofía of Spain, Queen Rania of Jordan, former couple Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, and even Lucy Liu. Movies like the Ocean’s 11 franchise, which starred Pitt, George Clooney, and Julia Roberts, also used some of his designs, reports Sydney Morning Herald.

Where do you draw your creative ideas from?

“It was my mother who ingrained a sense of wonder into my mind through telling me stories of mystical beings and faraway lands,” he explained. “So I grew up connecting with everything around me, such as nature and what it provides mankind, and how we respond to it. These basically shape my designs. Culture and people and our diversity also drives my motivation. I create beautiful metaphors to regain our connection with the earth, connect with people, and our cultural experiences in the everyday.” 

Kenneth’s mom, Betty, was an innovative designer who made furniture at the back of our house with a few carpenters. She was renowned for her technique of laminating rattan vines, creating organic and free-flowing forms in furniture.

Kenneth’s Yin and Yang collection
Kenneth’s Yin and Yang collection/Photo from Kenneth Cobonpue

How do you ensure that your designs are both functional and visually appealing?

Kenneth said that good design is a synergy between form and function. “Design fulfills a purpose,” he continued. “An industrial designer is part engineer and half artist, always seeking to invent things that enrich people’s lives. So, as focused as I always am on creating something beautiful, for me, functionality is a primary goal. If my products are not comfortable, no matter how aesthetically pleasing they are, then I will have failed as a designer.”

How do you want people to perceive and engage with your creations?

“My designs are emotive,” Kenneth expressed. “For every object I create, I hope it ignites an unforgettable experience. Or, I pray that it triggers a beautiful childhood memory that touches people in the most meaningful way.”

Banner photo from KCurated by Kenneth Cobonpue.

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