Shopping for baby stuff in Manila has gotten better. The number of items on the market now has increased, compared to two and a half years ago, when I was shopping for my son. However, I found myself with a new challenge—fixing my toddler’s room.
Creating my son’s nursery was like building a dreamland. I am very blessed to have such a creative mother, who created a baby wonderland in my son’s room with her hand-painted and lovingly created murals. We also decided to keep the nursery gender neutral, given the almost four months it took my mom to finish every detail in the room.
I knew that I could count on her to do the same for his new room, where she showed off her newly learned skills from a 4-month-long study tour of Italy. The only problem now was finding the right furniture for a growing boy.
I had decided that I didn’t want to get a toddler bed because my son is tall for his age, and I knew he’d outgrow the bed in a year. My husband and I decided to get him a real bed—one that he could grow into.
I scoured the stores and didn’t find anything I liked. I wanted something that would never go out of style, but which still had a design element to it.
My search ended with Gabby Lichauco and his brands of furniture, Openstudio and EMI Handmade. Gabby, with his partner Lynn Duarte, recently opened their showroom in Malate, and together breathe fresh ideas into furniture design.
Gabby holds a master’s degree from Scuola Politecnica di Design in Milan, where he joined projects for Artimide, Microsoft Italy, Piquadr and Israp. He founded Openstudio in 2005 and EMIin 2010.
Lynn has worked as interior designer and creative and visual merchandiser in Manila, New York, and Singapore. EMI Handmade is their line of children’s furniture that combines whimsical elements with modern design.
Wood from tree farms
EMI is committed to environmental sustainability; all their wood comes from certified tree farms, while all their paints are lead-free. The pieces are inspired by things children can relate to, but interpreted in an abstract way. The Hippo set of drawers, for example, gives the semblance of a cuddly hippo, but with the animal’s sturdy build, short legs, and a big belly.
The Scribble table is half chalk board, half proper desk, to encourage drawing and scribbling without wasting paper. The Frank chair is meant to inspire little creators, taking its name from Frankenstein, the experimental monster.
Emi’s Stump table and stool look like tree stumps that encourage children to do their work, while sitting on their little stools that could have come out of an enchanted forest.
The furniture is designed to fit the world of adults while remaining attractive to children. EMI’s pieces can sit proudly next to the your Philippe Starck chairs in the living room and hold their own.
When we came to Gabby to design our son’s bed, we told him our specific needs. Gabby patiently obliged over the course of a few months, while my pregnant brain had me changing my mind almost every other week.
I also took the “nesting syndrome” into overdrive, deciding to renovate the kitchen and other parts of our home, adding to the delay in the bed’s creation.
When the dust settled, Gabby came over to look at the space and we discussed all the options we had with the bed. The result is a beautiful bed that my son can use for years to come. I had worried that my son would have a problem settling into his new room and new bed, but as soon as he saw it, I heard him say, “Wow, mama, look at my bed—wooooooow”—and all my anxiety melted away.
As my son’s furniture needs grow, I am sure to call Gabby and EMI Handmade again to help turn his room into a creative and design-driven space.
Openstudio and EMI Handmade showroom are at 4/F, 999 Stanisco Tower, Pedro Gil st. cor Agoncillo St., Malate, Manila. It is open Monday and Wednesday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., and Saturday 11 a.m.-3 p.m. or by appointment. Call 0917-5302883.