Maria Melissa Francisco Prieto—Ria to friends and followers—describes herself as a stylist whose range extends from fashion to decor projects.
In her latest venture, a home exhibit titled “Casa: Living in Layers,” she shows her flair for choosing furniture and accessories that harmonize in a room. These individual pieces or corner vignettes make a powerful impression.
This method of pulling together diverse decorative elements to add visual texture and dimension is called layering, a formula that makes a space special.
It is her inspiration for “Casa: Living in Layers” at Shangri-La Plaza Atrium. Prieto is guest curator.
“I’m inclined to design. I grew up on a pattern-making table,” she says.
Her mother, Eloisa Francisco, was the founder of Golden Hands Fashion School, and once a member of the Filipinescas Dance Company.
“We weren’t allowed to watch TV, but we were exposed to the arts,” recalls Prieto.
The late National Artist for Dance Leonor Orosa Goquingco, as well as the eminent art critic Rosalinda Orosa, are grandaunts.
Prieto studied industrial design at the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, but shifted to human resource management to avoid computer-aided design and drafting subjects.
She worked for Summit publications for five years as fashion and beauty editor for Candy, styled covers for Seventeen, Cosmopolitan, T3 and even FHM.
Today, she is contributing editor of Preen.
Her polished look must be the result of such a culture and style background. She is unapologetic about frequently wearing a tan tailored suit by designer Gian Romano, whom she once collaborated with for a trunk show.
The neutral color scheme has a color punch—a pair of leopard-print Manolo Blahnik pumps.
Prieto looks younger than her 41 years. Her beauty secrets are shared by followers of Lifestyle’s Ria Recommends column.
“A woman evolves. I was into beauty and fashion. When I got married, I loved fixing the home,” she says.
Once, she ran out of paper placemats which the maids liked because they were disposable. Out of necessity, she produced her own paper placemats.
Guests were impressed with her panache for decorating her home. Eventually, they requested her to style their nests.
“If they need something for their home, I put it together,” she says.
“I’m visual. As an editor, I work with photos a lot. When I see something, I imagine how it would look within a frame—like how it will appear on the page in terms of composition and balance.
“As a person evolves, you add stuff to your home, and the look changes. Your home should reflect your personality,” she says.
The home vignettes, inspired by the mid-century modern look, are characterized by bold colors set against neutrals, the graphic use of black and white, the geometric and curvilinear forms, a motley of natural and manmade materials, and eclectic accessories.
Yet, the spaces exude a timeless, instead of a vintage, feel.
Marigold and Cavalli
For the living room, a study in layering, Prieto has a triad of rugs, one patterned and two textured, for visual interest.
The key pieces are a vibrant, jungle-print tuxedo sofa, its arms of the same height as the back, and a contrasting boxy chrome-and-glass coffee table.
She adds smaller pieces for comfort, such as Cogswell chairs with angled legs and armrests and tub chairs with slim legs.
Light and airy side tables lend the mid-century feel.
The walls display abstract paintings. The foil to the modern feel is the pair of tribal rice granary gods.
“Buy elements because you love them,” she advises.
Books are important in her tablescapes. Prieto believes they add height and keep the composition from looking too uniform.
Her favorite vignette is the den, the walls of which are painted in marigold. The key piece is a modern, marigold Lawson sofa, characterized by low armrests and back pillows.
For accents, she put geometric bowls on the round side table, an abstract cactus décor and a black-and-white diamond-pattern wool rug. The cube patterns on the club chairs echo the geometry of the hexagon mirrors on the wall.
“The den is a place where you relax. It’s more colorful but straightforward. The mirrors add a fun element. In a home, I don’t believe that a setting should look studied. Just have fun with the space. It’s important, as it’s yours,” she says.
The master bedroom, in cool blue, is more than a sanctuary. “When you’re married, it’s one of the rooms where you have to be considerate of your partner. Although I decorate the home, I have to put some masculine touches,” she says.
The room looks dynamic with Roberto Cavalli sheets in tropical prints and complementary blue and green pillows. As mid-century touch, a floor lamp with a beveled shade is paired with a round side table inspired by bamboo nodes.
For the man, a mid-century-inspired corner has a lean study desk with splayed legs and chair with grid chrome-plated wire frame.
“My elements are a mix of everything. I don’t like matching a lot of styles,” she says.
Although Prieto favors clean lines, she batted for a heavy dining table with cabriole legs, sculpted like giant acanthus leaves, and a black bevel-edged glass top. The table is set with Spode blue china plates, antique blue-and-white Chinese vases and clear candelabras. She uses dried vines instead of flowers.
“They last longer. I freeze them instead of buying fresh flowers,” she says.
Prieto maintains that one doesn’t always have to take things too seriously in home décor.
“Have fun. People shouldn’t be concerned about what others think is correct. The person you should please the most is yourself.” —CONTRIBUTED