You need to go around Fashion Interiors at least twice to fully grasp and appreciate the vastness and content of this two-floor, 2,000-square-meter furniture and home accessories store on Chino Roces Extension, Makati.
The maze-like showroom segues from one distinctly different living room and dining room setup to another.
Dutch proprietor Paul Cornelissen calls them atmospheres, and with names like Carara, Imperial, Eternity, Ebony and Versence, each one is an overwhelming visual spectacle of couches, chairs, living and dining area tables, lighting fixtures, artwork and other accents of a well-appointed home.
It helps when Cornelissen gives you the guided tour. Unlike traditional furniture stores, which maintain their collections for long periods, Fashion Interiors, he explains, changes its collections regularly, much like fashion houses do every season.
As such, the store he runs with his wife Gela has been known to apply some of the hottest trends in fashion on its furniture. When Cornelissen spotted palm-tree-printed textiles in Dolce & Gabbana and Prada’s 2016 collections, he figured the fabric would work just as well on dining room chairs.
But fashion isn’t his only inspiration. Cornelissen—who conceptualizes the furniture with his son and namesake, Paul, and then has them made in their factory in Pampanga—travels with his team as often as six months a year to soak up the sights of international fabric fairs, retail shops, hotels and restaurants.
“From the smell of a shirt to a setup in a movie,” he says, when asked where he gets his ideas. “You just have to open your eyes.”
Impeccable taste, attention to detail, and a knack for mixing materials sourced from all over the world are also his strong suits.
A coffee table made with wood from railroad tracks is given an old white finish and fitted with a stainless steel base and glass top, while a dining table has cut rosewood discs inlaid in double glass and fitted with a stainless steel border and base.
Even the classic cushiony sofa becomes more interesting when it’s upholstered with hand-loomed, cream-colored cotton that still bears its rough-hewn knots.
“The contradictions are always nice,” he points out. “Sometimes we look for designs that are a hundred years old, like a hand-carved chair. Then we upholster it with a modern fabric to get that contradiction of old and new.”
Exported to the US, Europe and Australia (shops go as far as purchasing entire setups and displaying them in showrooms, as is), the niche furniture has also found its way into high-profile local establishments and the homes of celebrities and the well-to-do.
Despite their enormous proportions, these pieces can be built according to a client’s specifications, making them attractive conversation pieces in today’s more compact condominium units.
Cornelissen approves of the Pinoy’s shopping style—taking a dining table from one setup and a sofa from another, to make a look entirely their own. “So you have a bit of classic, modern, romantic and ethnic,” he says. “You can play with your interiors.”
It’s a far cry from the way Filipinos used to decorate their homes, when Cornelissen first arrived in the Philippines in 1978. “Most of the ones I visited were dark and depressing,” he recalls. “Now people are more open to having light and color in their homes. Worldwide, the trend is more about going green and recycling. In the coming years, I think you’ll see a bit of a change toward the modern. But recycling and going green will always stay. I think we are aware that we are doing good things when we are good to nature.”
It was also in the late ’70s when the former importer of furniture from Eastern European countries discovered the impressive skills and craftsmanship of local furniture makers.
“I’ve been around a lot in the last 40 years, and in Asia, the Philippines is the only country that can do this,” says Cornelissen, referring to the exceptional handiwork of the furniture in his showroom. “Filipinos are the Italians of the Far East!”
Designing furniture for export under the company Far East Furniture, he put up Fashion Interiors three years ago to tap the local market. Since then, the showroom has kept Cornelissen busy. He and his son are already conceptualizing three new atmospheres for March and seven for September 2018.
When he isn’t in the shop (which now includes Fashion Bar, a place to unwind with a drink after shopping, or host special events), Cornelissen relaxes at home, where the interiors are surprisingly stark next to his usual layouts. Bearing subtle shades of white, beige and taupe, his large living room features a grand piano, two sofas and two club chairs. Still, like the setups in his showroom, his residence is a work in progress.
“I love minimalism,” he says. “But after two to three years, I could say, ‘Okay, let’s do something crazy this time.’” —CONTRIBUTED
Fashion Interiors by Paul Cornelissen, 2307 Chino Roces Ave. Ext., Makati; tel. 6620391; visit www.fashioninteriors.ph